March 18, 2020

Most of the things happening today did not seem to change the trajectory of the news.

There are more infections from the novel coronavirus including two members of Congress, Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and Ben McAdams (D-UT), who now have Covid-19. A report on the possible future of the pandemic, written by UK epidemiologists, has predicted 18 months of illness that will overwhelm hospitals and cause more than a million U.S. deaths. In contrast, social media is erupting in outrage at college students crowding Florida beaches. It is worth noting that the UK study is only one of many, and it has not been peer-reviewed, which such studies need to be. We. Do. Not. Know whether its scenario will come to pass. Our testing is woefully inadequate, and until it is better, and doctors know more, they cannot predict with certainty what will happen.

We do know, though, that quarantines and lockdowns are devastating for those who are experiencing domestic violence, as they are shut in with their abusers, who are already anxious from the pandemic and economic dislocation. If you are at risk, do reach out for help before a lockdown begins.

It is also worth noting that Reuters reported today that Russia is using its disinformation apparatus to sow panic in the EU and the rest of the West. It is using “contradictory, confusing and malicious reports to make it harder for the EU to communicate its response to the pandemic.” Today, Senator Angus King (I-ME) and Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI), the co-chairs of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, a bipartisan, intergovernmental agency for defending the U.S. in cyberspace, issued a statement saying they believed the U.S. is engaged in a “war” against those spreading disinformation around the pandemic. “We know that both Chinese and Russian military and intelligence operators leverage the global internet to spread mistruths and disinformation, seeking to sow uncertainty to destabilize our institutions and populace,” King and Gallagher said.

Trump made it a point to dub the coronavirus the “Chinese Virus,” trying to regain some of his lost ground by appealing to his racist base. He is allegedly furious at Jared Kushner for so mishandling the public relations part of the White House response to the crisis.

After rebounding a bit yesterday, the stock market fell again today, falling below the numbers it was at when Trump took office. Car manufacturers Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler—Detroit’s Big Three—have temporarily shuttered their North American factories because of the pandemic. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who did his best to dismiss the case against Trump in the impeachment hearings only to be revealed as a confidante of indicted political operative Lev Parnas who was implicated in the scandal, said “The media is absolutely responsible for this… 90% of them are working for the Democrats, working for the left… They’re doing dangerous things in this country by whipping everyone up in this panic. There’s no reason to be in this panic.”

The Senate passed the bill written and passed by the House of Representatives to combat the economic effects of the pandemic, and turned to develop its own bill for a massive stimulus package. The Republicans are shaping the bill without Democratic input right now, and the package currently includes $50 billion to rescue the airline industry and $150 billion for other sectors, including hotels and cruise lines. They are also talking about a direct payment of $2000 to individuals hurt by the economic downturn. This bill is not yet finalized, but at the moment the three recovery bills together add up to more than $2 trillion dollars. “People want to go big,” Trump told reporters. “Everybody seems to want to go big and they want to get to the recovery.”

These are all stories that continue those we already know: the coronavirus is a terrible threat, the Republican administration is incapable of handling it, and leadership is flailing and trying to blame their disastrous failure on someone else. The stock market is falling precipitously as the virus slows the global and the national economy, and Congress—including Republicans who have previously insisted the government had no role to play in the economy—has responded by quickly passing a giant relief package. In general, Republicans have focused on supporting business, while Democrats have worked to make sure regular Americans have money and health care to tide them through this crisis.

While these stories are all more of the same, today feels different because something else is kicking in. In the absence of federal leadership, Americans are reaching out to each other, finding ways to help each other and to socialize “distantly.” I have seen young people offering to shop for older people; business owners delivering to shut-ins; teachers tying themselves in knots to continue to deliver quality education; workers trying to learn new skills to enable them to continue to do their jobs; one of our finest writers, Rebecca Solnit, reading fairy tales to children on-line; friends having beers together on Skype; and remarkable good humor among those of us who are isolated, along with concern for all those whose health and jobs are at risk. And that’s not even touching the service workers and health care professionals who are putting their lives on the line for the rest of us every day.

Today more than 80 national security professionals broke with their tradition of non-partisanship to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden for president, saying that while they were from all parties and disagreed with each other about pretty much everything else, they had come together to stand against Trump. “Our nation’s foreign affairs are in disarray; our alliances frayed, and our national prestige declining. Our approach to both friends and enemies abroad has been chaotic and unprincipled. Our credibility as a nation has been lessened. And, perhaps most importantly, our place in the world as a source of moral leadership has nearly been lost. As a country, we are increasingly less secure and less safe.” Trump has “created an existential danger to the United States, its place in the world, and the values we share. His reelection would continue this downward spiral, and will likely have catastrophic results. Democracy is at stake.”

After more than a generation of a culture that idealized individualism and said selfish greed was good, the coronavirus is forcing us to evaluate whether that is what we want to be as a government, and as a nation.

As reader Joe McDermott summed it up today: “How we deal with it will define us forever.”

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Notes:

Nunes:

Diaz-Balart: https://thehill.com/homenews/house/488354-florida-congressman-tests-positive-for-covid-19

Treasury priorities: https://www.washingtonpost.com/context/department-of-treasury-proposal-for-coronavirus-response/6c2d2ed5-a18b-43d2-8124-28d394fa51ff/

Economic plan: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/18/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan/

Reuters story about Russians: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-disinformation/russia-deploying-coronavirus-disinformation-to-sow-panic-in-west-eu-document-says-idUSKBN21518F

CSC: https://www.lawfareblog.com/announcing-cyberspace-solarium-commission

King and Gallagher: https://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/488326-russia-using-coronavirus-fears-to-spread-misinformation-in-western

Domestic violence: https://time.com/5803887/coronavirus-domestic-violence-victims/

Kushner: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/03/trump-awakens-to-the-covid-19-danger

Partying young people:

Tim Hogan@timjhogan
Oh my god.
cbsnews.com/news/coronavir…

Big three: https://www.newsandguts.com/fearing-virus-spread-ford-gm-fiat-chrysler-will-close-north-american-factories/

Trump racist language: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/us/politics/china-virus.html

Letter endorsing Biden: https://thesteadystate.org/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/more-than-80-national-security-professionals-break-with-tradition-and-endorse-a-presidential-candidate--biden/2020/03/18/448bdde6-6943-11ea-