November 12, 2020
Tonight, the major networks called Arizona for Joe Biden. This means Arizona has voted for a Democrat for president for the first time since 1996, when Ross Perot’s bid for the presidency siphoned off votes from Republican candidate Bob Dole and let Democratic candidate Bill Clinton clinch the state. Before that, the last time Arizona backed a Democrat was in 1948, when it went for Harry Truman.
Since the numbers in Biden’s column now make up an insurmountable margin for Trump to overcome, the Trump campaign is now saying that the computers in certain states switched votes from him to Biden. This has been thoroughly debunked. This afternoon, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the Department of Homeland Security circulated a statement by the Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council, a group of federal, state, and local officials, declaring that the 2020 election was “the most secure in American history” and that “there is no evidence” of tampering with any voting systems.
Perhaps more to the point, Trump has been telling people that he will announce a run for the 2024 presidency as soon as the vote is certified for Biden. This would keep money flowing into his pockets, as well as keeping him in the news. Sources have told Maggie Haberman at the New York Times that the president has no grand strategy other than to keep his supporters energized to follow him into whatever he does next, including, perhaps, launching a competitor to the Fox News Channel.
Meanwhile, the president is holed up in the White House, his public schedule empty, tweeting about how he has won an election that everyone knows he lost.
One of the things he is ignoring is the devastating spread of coronavirus through this country. Today more than 153,000 new cases were reported, with 66,000 people hospitalized. More than 10.4 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus, and more than 242,000 have died.
While the White House election night watch party has turned into a superspreader event, today ensnaring former 2016 Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, most infections are now caused not by large public events but by small gatherings at home: dinner parties, carpools, playdates. These indoor events create “perfect conditions for a virus that can spread among people who are crowded into a poorly ventilated space,” write the doctors and public health officials at the PolicyLab of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Cases are not only on the rise, but also more severe. Experts remind us that we should avoid spending more than 15 minutes within six feet of anyone outside our own household in any 24-hour period, and they beg people to stay home for the holidays this year.
President-Elect Joe Biden has been out of the news, working. His new chief of staff, Ronald Klain, told reporters that he has been speaking privately to Republicans, although he has not talked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. While Republicans appear to want to keep up the public narrative that the results of the election are unclear, they are beginning to demand that Biden get access to the intelligence reports Trump is keeping from him. Shutting the president-elect out of intelligence reports hampers our national security not only with regard to foreign affairs, but also with regard to the coronavirus, leaving Biden out of the planning to roll out a vaccine, for example.
Among the phone calls Biden has had with world leaders was one today with Pope Francis. According to the call readout, the pope offered Biden blessings and congratulations; Biden thanked the pope for promoting the common bonds of humanity and said he hoped to work together on issues that touched on their shared belief “in the dignity and equality of all humankind.” He singled out “caring for the marginalized and the poor, addressing the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities"—all areas in which the pope has called on global leaders to take action, and on which the Biden administration’s policies are expected to differ from its predecessor’s. Biden will be America’s second Catholic president. (John F. Kennedy, elected in 1960, was the first.)
Biden has announced policy teams to help with the transition. They are made up largely of volunteers who will review the different government agencies and make policy recommendations. The Biden-Harris team notes that the transition will prioritize “diversity of ideology and background; talent to address society’s most complex challenges; integrity and the highest ethical standards to serve the American people and not special interests; and transparency to garner trust at every stage.” The names on the transition teams are impressive ones. Stanford Law School Professor Pamela Karlan, who testified before the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment hearings will be part of the team that reviews the Department of Justice for the transition.
Lara Seligman at Politico reported today that Biden has been reaching out to former Pentagon officials who retired or were fired in the past four years to talk about the transition and whether or not they might want to go back into the Defense Department. The Biden team is talking to former officials because the current ones are Trump loyalists and team members don’t think they will be particularly cooperative or, for that matter, very knowledgeable. Seligman says that Biden wants to create a bipartisan leadership team at the Defense Department. In a notable change from the past four years, Biden’s agency review team for the Pentagon is led by female defense policy experts.
Biden tweeted just once today, after six American National Guardsmen, along with a Czech and a French team member, died in a helicopter crash in Egypt during a peacekeeping mission. One American was wounded. While the current president apparently ignored the loss, using Twitter to spread false rumors about the election and to attack the Fox News Channel, Biden tweeted: “I extend my deep condolences to the loved ones of the peacekeepers, including 6 American service members, who died on Tiran Island, and wish a speedy recovery to the surviving American. I join all Americans in honoring their sacrifice, as I keep their loved ones in my prayers.”