Discover more from The Bulwark
The president meets people who ask him awkward questions, the anti-anti Trump panic spreads, Charlie Kirk is exposed as (literally) a Trumpian troll, and Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin.
Here is last night's sunset in Wisconsin, filtered by smoke from the fires in the West.
My wife and I had a conversation. Here is a transcript edited for length and to make me look better:
Me: Its beautiful.
Wife: I find it kind of disturbing, because you know what's causing it.
Me: Well, I like it, because I have a thing for Apocalypses.
Wife: Is that even a word? Does it have a plural?
Me: I don't know. That's the thing about the Apocalypse. It's only supposed to happen once. And this feels like the one.
Welcome to the Daily Countdown. We have 47 days to go until election day; and then 78 days after that until Inauguration Day.
I confess that I am not normally a fan of televised townhalls where presidential candidates pretend to engage with real people. But last night's event on ABC was a revelation of sorts.
It revealed (or perhaps just reminded us) how genuinely bad Trump is at this, and how poorly his shtick plays when he's not surrounded by fawning superfans. He had no teleprompter and couldn't even use the enemy of the people as foil. He was exposed.
So we got a stream of demonstrable bullshit, like his claim that, despite his own words on tape and a voluminous public record, he had actually "up-played it." And, as the NYT noted: "Then Mr. Trump downplayed it again, insisting that the virus would disappear on its own, and contending that 'we’re rounding the corner' of a crisis that has taken more than 195,000 lives in the United States — views radically at odds with those of public health officials."
We also got this bit of presidential malapropism.
Mr. Trump also said the coronavirus “goes away” even without a vaccine.
“You’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality,” he said. “It’s going to be — it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen.”
Presumably, he meant to say herd immunity. But "herd mentality," turns out to be a useful addition to our political lexicon.
He was also exposed on health care. Take some time to read (or go and and watch) this exchange with a woman born with a disease called sarcoidosis. She asked the president about the coverage of pre-existing conditions.
BLOCK: It is great, except I still have similar healthcare problems. It costs me -- with co-pays, I'm still paying almost $7,000 a year in addition to the co-pay.
And should preexisting conditions, which ObamaCare brought into…brought to fruition be removed?
BLOCK: Please stop and let me finish my question, sir. Should that be removed? Within a 36 to 72-hour period, without my medication, I will be dead.
And I want to know what it is that you're going to do assure that people like me who work hard, we do everything we're supposed to do can stay insured.
It's not my fault that I was born with this disease. It's not my fault that I'm a black woman, and in the medical community I'm minimized and not taken seriously.
I want to know what you are going to do about that.
TRUMP: So first of all, you are taken seriously. I hope you are.
And we are not going to hurt anything having to do with preexisting conditions. We're not going to hurt preexisting conditions. And, in fact, just the opposite.
If you look at what they want to do, where they have socialized medicine, they will get rid of preexisting conditions, if they go into Medicare for All, which is socialized medicine, and you can forget about your doctors and your plans, just like you could forget under President Obama. He said, you can have your doctor. You can have your plan.
And that turned out to be a lie, and he said it 28 different times at least. We have 28 different times. You can have your doctor. You can have your plan. Well, it's not true.
But what we’re doing is, we’re going to be doing a healthcare plan – preexisting, protecting people with preexisting conditions -- as an example, yourself, it sounds like that’s exactly perfect. That’s exactly what we’re talking about. We’re going to be doing a healthcare plan very strongly and protect people with preexisting conditions.
I will say this, they will not do that, because they have socialized…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, I have to stop you there…
TRUMP: George, they have socialized…
STEPHANOPOULOS: I just have to stop you there, because it’s just on a couple of points.
Number one, Joe Biden has ran against Medicare for All in the primaries.
But much more importantly, Obamacare guaranteed people with preexisting conditions could buy insurance, guaranteed they could buy it at the same price as everyone else, guaranteed a package of essential benefits, guaranteed that insurance companies couldn’t put a lifetime limit on those benefits.
You fought to repeal Obamacare, you are arguing…
TRUMP: Well, I essentially did, because…
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re arguing the Supreme Court right now to strike it down, that would do away with preexisting conditions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve promised…
TRUMP: So that we can do new healthcare.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you’ve been promising a new healthcare plan.
We interviewed – I interviewed you in June of last year, you said the healthcare plan would come in two weeks. You could Chris Wallace that this summer it’d come in three weeks. You promised an executive order on preexisting…
TRUMP: I have it all ready. I have it all ready.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it’s…you’ve been trying to strike down preexisting conditions…
TRUMP: It doesn’t matter. I have it all ready, and it’s a much better plan for you, and it’s a much better plan.
The reviews were not good.
The anti-anti-Trump panic.
Danielle Pletka wanted some response to her tortured rationalization in the Wapo for voting for Trump. She didn't have to wait long.
Within hours Alexandra Petri provided this brutal parody:
I should also note that, much as I hold deep, principled reservations about Trump’s leadership, I just want to say that if anyone makes me feel the least bit uncomfortable about the legacy of racism in this country or urges me to learn one particle of history that I would not like to learn, I will panic, and when I panic, I vote for Trump (which is, I admit, weird given that I have ZERO desire to do so).
And in today's Bulwark, make sure you read Mona Charen's masterful counterpoint to Pletka.
If Pletka is genuinely alarmed by the extremism of the left, maybe the best solution is not to throw herself into the arms of an openly racist, authoritarian right-wing extremist who embodies every stereotype the left harbors about conservatives. If she’s upset that her children are being challenged about their whiteness, why not teach them to answer it? Yes, they can reply, American history, like all human history, has ugly aspects, racism chief among them. Not judging people by skin color is one of the lessons of that history, and that applies to everyone. But denying that history, or worse, giving aid and comfort to white nationalists is the very worst response and will only intensify the left’s reaction.
Pletka doesn’t like Manhattan-San Francisco progressivism. Neither do I, but like so many in modern America, she confuses cultural and political arguments. Choosing a president is not the answer to Berkeley’s political correctness. We don’t elect a chief executive to outlaw Drag Queen story hour.
Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin.
Why the obsession, you ask? Because I live here and because it will decide the outcome of the election.
Two polls of note: yesterday's CNN poll has Biden up by a rather stunning 10 points-- 52% to 42%. Today's Washington Post/ ABC poll shows a more modest lead: 52 percent to 46 percent for Trump among likely voters, and 50 percent to 46 percent among all registered voters.
The Post/ABC poll also shows Biden with a much wider: 57 percent to 41 percent lead among Minnesota likely voters
The olds may tip this election.
New numbers from a poll commissioned by AARP confirm the shift of older voters away from Trump.
According to the survey, Biden leads Trump among 65-plus voters in eight states: Colorado (51% to 44%), Iowa (55% to 38%), Maine (62% to 32%), Michigan (57% to 39%), Montana (50% to 45%), North Carolina (52% to 45%), Pennsylvania (53% to 42%), and Wisconsin (56% to 39%). Trump leads Biden in one state: Georgia (54% to 42%). Biden and Trump are statistically tied in two states: Arizona (49% to 47%) and Florida (49% to 48%).
Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.
The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA’s website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity.
"Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary of health for public affairs, apologized Tuesday morning to the health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, and to his staff members for a bizarre and incendiary Facebook outburst in which he accused federal government scientists working on the pandemic of “sedition” and warned of coming violence from left-wing “hit squads.”
He also suggested that he might take a medical leave. He ended the meeting "by encouraging his staff to listen to music by the Grateful Dead", which seems a curiously inappropriate choice for a man so deeply involved in downplaying the death counts of the pandemic.
The crazy spreads.
There are 47 days to go.