From The Archives -- What Would Abbie Hoffman Have Thought Of The Flag Lapel Pin Debate?

[ Posted Friday, July 3rd, 2020 – 15:25 UTC ]

Happy Almost Independence Day! (Or whatever we are supposed to call "the federal holiday before the actual holiday's date.")

Because it is a holiday, though, there will be no usual Friday Talking Points column, sorry. I really should have warned everyone about this last week, but somehow didn't notice the calendar. As someone recently put it, "everyday is Tuesday now...." Time seems to blend into itself as we all adapt to the new pandemic reality.

Instead, please enjoy the following column, which ran on the Fourth of July, 2008. Just to remind everyone, at that particular point in time Barack Obama had secured the Democratic presidential nomination, but the general election was still months away.

Looking back on it now should remind everyone of how inane and downright stupid the political arguments of the day were. Back then, the huge, enormous, world-shaking debate was about politicians wearing flag pins. Seriously, that's all we had to argue about in those days of yore.

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The World's Best Bad Example

[ Posted Thursday, July 2nd, 2020 – 17:07 UTC ]

In the best of times, Americans like to call our president by a rather grandiose title: "the leader of the free world." This is a holdover from the 1940s post-war era as well as the dichotomy of the Cold War era which followed it. Back then, we were indeed leading the free world -- in direct opposition to the Soviet Union's leadership of the communist world. Since America had not been directly devastated by the ravages of World War II, our economy bounced right back and we were able to get Europe and Japan back on their feet again with generous policies such as the Marshall Plan. From the 1950s through (arguably) the end of the century, American manufacturing dominated most industries. So our political leader was not just the de jure leader of the United States but, by extension, the de facto leader of the free world as well. But Donald Trump has now left this reputation in tatters. The only superlative left to call ourselves is now "the world's best bad example."

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Dereliction Of Duty

[ Posted Wednesday, July 1st, 2020 – 16:43 UTC ]

The more time goes on, the more evidence stacks up that Donald Trump is simply incapable of performing the basic duties of a United States president. What is the president's job, boiled down? To process incoming problems and information, make policy decisions, and then implement those decisions. Trump fails spectacularly on all three legs of this stool on a regular basis. But this week has been really notable, due to Trump's utter failure to defend the Constitution of the United States (and the country at large, of course) against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

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Colorado, Utah Show How Mail-In Voting Can Work

[ Posted Tuesday, June 30th, 2020 – 16:00 UTC ]

Every so often I like to tempt fate by writing an article which could easily (and monumentally) be proven wrong within mere hours. Today is one of those days, because I feel pretty confident in predicting that Colorado and Utah will essentially show the rest of the country how a mail-in election should be done. I seriously doubt we'll see scenes of frustrated voters not being able to cast their ballots in a timely way, because with universal mail-in voting, that's not really a problem. No long lines, no machines that don't work right, no poll workers who don't know how to operate the machines, no voter-suppression efforts (both overt and covert) at all. And while Colorado is at the end of a long journey from being a purple state to a very blue one, Utah is still about as staunchly Republican as it gets -- proving that mail-in voting is not a partisan issue at all. Or it shouldn't be, at the very least.

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P.D.B. Answers Needed P.D.Q.

[ Posted Monday, June 29th, 2020 – 17:12 UTC ]

With President Donald Trump at the reins, Americans are always facing new and ever-more-frightening questions about how his administration works (as opposed to the way the federal government is supposed to work, of course). With the new reports of the Russians paying the Taliban bounties to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, we are all now faced with another such question. Was the president briefed about this situation and then refused to do anything about it, was the president not briefed about a situation involving Russia paying for American soldiers' deaths, or was the president briefed on paper -- but just never read it? None of those answers is very comforting, for different (but equally frightening) reasons.

The New York Times, who broke the story, says Trump was indeed briefed. So far, both Trump and his intelligence services are saying he was not personally briefed. But there's a strong likelihood somewhere in between that may turn out to be what really happened: Trump was provided the information in his "Presidential Daily Brief," but just never read it. This is quite likely because of something which would have been scandalous in the extreme for any other president but which, under Trump, has sadly become normalized -- Trump just refuses to "do his homework," on just about anything.

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Friday Talking Points -- The Reclosing Begins

[ Posted Friday, June 26th, 2020 – 17:29 UTC ]

America, led by President Donald Trump and (mostly) Republican governors across the country, launched a grand experiment a few months back. Rather than following guidelines and milestones recommended by top epidemiologists, each state would reopen its economy as it saw fit. If your governor felt comfortable enough with the state of things, then the doors would be thrown open. This all started just before Memorial Day weekend, when Trump decided he was bored with the pandemic. And now it's becoming pretty obvious that this experiment has failed, and failed badly. And tens of thousands of Americans are paying a very steep price for this exercise in unfounded optimism.

Nationally, new cases have spiked up to around 40,000 per day. That is far above where those numbers were back in February and March, the two worst months of the first wave of the pandemic. Individual states are being hit very hard, and I.C.U. hospital beds are filling up fast. It's gotten so bad that two of Trump's staunchest GOP governor buddies have now gone beyond just "pausing" the reopening schedule and are now moving backwards:

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The Second Wave's Political Effects

[ Posted Thursday, June 25th, 2020 – 16:48 UTC ]

What is the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic going to do right in the midst of an election season? That may sound like a rather crass question to be asking right now, so let me clearly state that this is undoubtedly going to involve a whole lot of deaths that probably could have been prevented -- which is an ongoing tragedy for all. We're already north of 120,000 deaths, and the total we eventually reach is going to depend in large part on how big the second wave turns out to be. That represents widespread human suffering on a massive scale. But it's also going to affect the politics of the 2020 election, one way or another, which is what I'm choosing to focus on today.

Many are now quibbling over the terminology, which is kind of pointless. Is it a truly a second wave or merely a second part of the first? Is it "Wave 1.5" or "Wave 2.0," in other words? My answer is a resounding: "Who cares what you call it -- just acknowledge that it exists!" Epidemiologists can split these hairs later, when they look back at all the data. For now, it's obviously a second spike in the caseload no matter what you ultimately decide it should be called. So for simplicity's sake, as far as I'm concerned, it is a second wave plain and simple.

Looking at the seven-day average for the number of new cases reported each day shows this second wave developing in the past week or so. When the pandemic started, we saw a sharp spike up to over 30,000 new cases per day, in February and March. Eventually this started slowly shrinking, until it reached a plateau of around 20,000 cases per day last month. But last month is when many governors decided to reopen their economies. What we're seeing now is -- after accounting for the built-in lag time -- a direct result of all this reopening in May. The problem with that built-in lag time, though, is that we're really only measuring the spread of the virus roughly three weeks ago. And those three weeks have already happened -- meaning nothing anybody does now will have the slightest effect on the numbers for the next two or three weeks. The likelihood is that the spike we're currently experiencing -- as cases rise beyond 30,000 per day once again -- will get even worse for the foreseeable future. And nobody knows where it'll top out. It could just stay where it is now, or it could climb to 35,000 or even 40,000 new cases per day. Nobody really knows.

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Program Note

[ Posted Wednesday, June 24th, 2020 – 17:19 UTC ]

There will be no column today, sorry. Outside life (car repairs) took up all my time today, so I didn't have time to keep up on the news or write. I did see that progressives are doing pretty well as the primary votes get counted in New York and Kentucky, which is likely what I would have chosen to comment on today if I had had the time. In any case, my apologies for the lack of column today.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Trump's Laughably Thin Skin

[ Posted Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020 – 17:28 UTC ]

Have we ever had a president with a thinner skin than Donald Trump? I suppose Richard Nixon almost qualifies; but Nixon was more outright paranoid, which is somehow slightly different. Nixon did believe his enemies (most definitely including the press) were out to get him, but on a personal level he could occasionally take a joke and even be self-depreciating at times. The same simply cannot be said about Donald Trump. His go-to emotion is resentment, and his go-to reaction is to viciously lash out in all directions at the tiniest perceived slight.

Case in point, of course, was Trump's weekend Tulsa rally. He spent almost 15 whole minutes -- one out of every eight minutes he spoke, according to the Washington Post -- ranting about how he had shown quite obvious physical weakness at a speech he had given the previous weekend. He minced his way down a ramp like a toddler learning to walk. He had to use two hands to drink a glass of water -- again, much like a toddler with a sippy cup. What would John Wayne have said about such a performance, one wonders?

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A Meta-Column On Pollwatching

[ Posted Monday, June 22nd, 2020 – 16:41 UTC ]

This is going to be a meta-column, just to warn everyone in advance. It's going to be a column about columns. If you think this will bore the pants off you, then now is the time to seek other content, in other words.

Behind the scenes here, I've been gearing up to kick off my election-year "Electoral Math" series once again. Throughout the campaign, we'll take a look at the polling and try to predict how each state will vote, and thus what the Electoral College vote will be after the November presidential election. These columns will run right up until the day before the election, when I'll attempt to make my final prediction. This will be the fourth run of this column series. I previously wrote these articles for the 2008, 2012, and 2016 campaigns.

This time around, however, many people (Democrats in particular) are what could only be called "twice shy," after getting so badly bitten in 2016. "Polls cannot be trusted," many now conclude, "so why even bother writing poll-watching columns?"

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