Memo to GOP: Shit Is Now Real. Adjust.

Not to alarm you or anything, but Dr. Anthony Fauci testified to a Senate committee today and said we’re in big trouble.

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert, gave a dire warning Tuesday in a Senate committee hearing held as coronavirus infections surge in many parts of the United States.

We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around. And so I am very concerned,” Fauci said in response to questioning from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on what the overall U.S. death toll is likely to be.

It’s official now; Americans are barred from Europe. Not that I was planning to go anywhere this year, but still, this ought to bother people. Just about everybody else can go to Europe, including very likely the Chinese.

Here is why we’re banned from Europe:

From CNN as of 6/30/2020. Source for data: Johns Hopkins University

A lot of beaches and other summer attractions that might have been opened by July 4 are now going to be closed, because governors opened their states way too soon; and because selfish, entitled Americans can’t be bothered to wear masks or maintain distance or even just bleeping stay home; and because Donald Trump is president. That last reason is the main one. (See David Frum at The Atlantic, “This Is Trump’s Plague Now.”) And I am truly sad for business owners who will lose a major part of their annual revenue because of pandemic closings. But, damn. It didn’t have to be this way. I don’t know what it’s going to take to get people to take this disease seriously.

See also James Fallows, “The 3 Weeks That Changed Everything,” also at The Atlantic, about the utterly catastrophic failure of the Trump Administration to respond to the pandemic. Note that it is still failing. It isn’t even trying now.

There have been several new developments in the Russian bounty scandal, including a new story from the New York Times about money transfers between Russia and the Taliban. The evidence for the bounty on U.S. soldiers may be circumstantial, but there’s a lot of it, and it appears that portions of the military and intelligence communities are taking this accusation seriously. Is it possible they are mistaken? Yes, but we don’t know that.

What is beyond dispute at this point is that (1) there is a credible accusation that Putin offered bounties to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, (2) that the White House was told about this months ago, and (3) the Trump Administration has made no response whatsoever except to deny that Trump knew about it. Today Trump has been frantically retweeting statements from John Ratcliffe — Director of National Intelligence and a former right-wing Republican wackjob congressman from Texas — declaring that Trump didn’t know about the Russian bounty story. Well, he knows now. Is he doing anything yet? Not so far.

See also Ben Mathis-Lilly at Slate — Trump Spent the Day He Was Supposed to Have Learned About Russian Bounties Praising His Own Response to the Coronavirus.

What was Trump doing on Feb. 27 instead of reading the brief? According to the transcript of a White House Black History Month event held that Thursday, his attention was mainly occupied by the idea that he hadn’t gotten enough credit for preventing a coronavirus outbreak in the United States. “We have a situation with the virus. We’ve done a great job. The press won’t give us credit for it,” he said, describing the United States’ response to the threat as an “incredible achievement” on which his administration was “doing incredibly,” “doing great,” had done an “incredible job” and a “fantastic job,” and was “prepared like we never have been prepared.” At the time, there were 15 known cases of the virus in the country, a number he predicted “will soon be down to three or four.” (There have been an additional 2.59 million COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. since this prediction.) Said Trump: “It’s going to disappear. One day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.”

That’s what. In the meantime, Trump has stirred up some mini-scandals by retweeting videos with white supremacist messages. Like he doesn’t have anything else to do.

Yesterday Greg Sargent wrote a column describing what Trump’s allies think should be done to re-energize Trump’s campaign for re-election.

Trump and his top officials have sought to cast civil unrest as fundamentally left-wing in origin, badly distorting the true nature of the protests, and playing down the role of domestic right wing extremism in the disorder.

As one Trump ally suggests to Politico, things will improve once Republicans “start defining Biden” with “resources” and “consistent messaging.”

But note the underlying premise here: that the Trump campaign has not adequately communicated to voters that Biden would be too weak to control a country that’s spiraling out of control.

Throughout, the theme is that if the Right can just amp up the messaging to make Joe Biden look weak and demonize Black Lives Matter as leftist terrorists, then Trump can cruise to victory in November. Tucker Carlson, for example, is quoted as saying that the pandemic should be helping Trump’s re-election by showing the public that he was right about China. If it’s not helping Trump then the message needs to be clarified. Just the message. Not much we can do about that pandemic, I guess.

So my memo to the GOP is: Shit is now real. People can see that for themselves. You can’t bullshit it away.

Stuff to Read

Be sure to read Carl Bernstein’s From pandering to Putin to abusing allies and ignoring his own advisers, Trump’s phone calls alarm US officials. It begins:

In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Donald Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America’s principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials — including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff — that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations.

The calls caused former top Trump deputies — including national security advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and White House chief of staff John Kelly, as well as intelligence officials — to conclude that the President was often “delusional,” as two sources put it, in his dealings with foreign leaders. The sources said there was little evidence that the President became more skillful or competent in his telephone conversations with most heads of state over time. Rather, he continued to believe that he could either charm, jawbone or bully almost any foreign leader into capitulating to his will, and often pursued goals more attuned to his own agenda than what many of his senior advisers considered the national interest.

This is fascinating. For a long time it seems Recep Erdogan had Trump on speed dial, calling him twice a week for long chats. Trump was abusive to allies, particularly women leaders such as Angela Merkel and Theresa May.

Here’s a fun read — Who’s the most galling, captivating character on our screens this summer? It’s Karen — and she’s everywhere.

Greg Sargent, Why Fox News thinks the ‘cognitive decline’ attack on Biden will work

Fox News has been relentlessly pushing the line that Joe Biden might be suffering from dementia. … So why does Fox News think this contrast will play well for Trump?

You don’t have to look far for the answer to this. It came at the Tuesday briefing, from White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Under questioning about whether Trump had read briefing papers reporting on intelligence concerns about Russia allegedly paying bounties to Taliban-linked militias, McEnany actually said this:


The very act of saying something so preposterous suggests high confidence that it will be widely believed by Trump supporters. If large swaths of the Trump-supporting Fox News audience are prepared to believe this, of all things, then there’s pretty much no chance that they’ll see the monumental flaws in Trump’s temperament that much of the rest of the country sees.

Trump’s approval/disapproval numbers keep getting worse for Trump, in spite of White House press secretary Barbie’s best efforts.