By Robert A. Vella
If this was a boxing match, the tale of the tape would be ridiculously one-sided. The champion stands 6′ 2″ tall and weighs-in at a bloated 240 lbs. The challenger is just 120 nanometers in size, about 70 times smaller than a human red blood cell. In a contest between these two combatants, the outcome would seem obvious. The Giant would simply squash the Lilliputian like a bug on a rug. But, the mini-might has one big potential advantage – overconfidence, carelessness, and stupidity on the part of its adversary. If the undefeated champion sees no threat, the upstart challenger can land a lucky knockout punch.
Such is the fight today between President Trump and COVID-19. Trump has withstood all challenges. He defeated the legal system when he won a split-decision over the timid Mueller investigation. He defeated the judicial system when he appointed his own seconds as judges. He defeated the political system when he controversially rigged the match against impeachment. In none of these contests did Trump win fairly and through his own merits. His ego-boosting victories did, however, leave him vulnerable to a much more formidable opponent – a miniscule adversary who is completely immune from his shady tactics, and who has absolutely no respect whatsoever for Donald Trump.
COVID-19 began the fight by landing a barrage of tiny body-blows to Trump’s backside while he was distracted by impeachment. The coronavirus grew confident as it spread out from China and across the world causing panic and slowing down the global economy which it knew would soon hurt Trump’s America. Seizing the opportunity, COVID-19 spun Trump around and started punching him hard in the breadbasket causing the shaken champion to stagger and cough-up blood. As coronavirus rampaged across the country, Americans went into hiding, markets crashed, and even Trump’s chief sponsor – Russia’s Vladimir Putin – sucker-punched him with an overhand-right smack into Trump’s petroleum-filled head.
There’s still a few rounds to go in this match, but COVID-19 looks strong and in command. Trump looks very weak and confused. Will the champion finally fall?
I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I enjoyed writing it! But, seriously, the coronavirus pandemic really is bad news for President Trump ahead of the November election. On top of his constant and futile attempts to conceal and downplay the severity of this infectious disease outbreak, yesterday’s tax cut proposal was widely panned as desperate and ineffectual. The U.S. economy is so heavily dependent upon consumer spending, and consumer spending is being so negatively affected by the pandemic, that a even payroll tax cut is unlikely to have any tangible effect for at least the duration of the health crisis.
Trump’s appointment of Vice President Mike Pence as the point-person for his administration’s coronavirus response is also backfiring on him. If he presumed that Pence would loyally repeat his pandemic-denial rhetoric and be the fall-guy, he was quite mistaken. Pence’s performance so far in that role has been pretty solid, and it has only cast more negative light on Trump. Opinion polls bear this out. After a slight improvement following his impeachment acquittal in the U.S. Senate, Trump’s presidential approval ratings have dropped once again to 53% disapprove versus 42.8% approve (as aggregated by Nate Silver’s 538 blog).
Another bit of irony, or perhaps poetic justice, is the fallout from last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in which members railed against the coronavirus “hoax” as a “conspiracy” between Democrats and the news media designed to defeat Trump in the 2020 election. Afterwards, one of its members – who had person-to-person contact with several Republican politicians at the convention – tested positive for COVID-19. Some of those politicians have subsequently also had personal contact with President Trump.
By the way, the entire nation of Italy is now in a mandatory lockdown intended to stop the spread of the disease. I’ll cover today’s Democratic primary results tomorrow. Here’s the news:
ROME (Reuters) – Italy faced an unprecedented lockdown on Tuesday that left streets in the capital Rome and other cities deserted after the government extended a clampdown across the entire country in a bid to slow Europe’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus.
The measures, announced late on Monday by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, widen steps already taken in the rich northern region of Lombardy and parts of neighboring provinces, restricting movement and banning public gatherings.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) became the latest member of Congress to announce that he will self-quarantine as a precautionary measure after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
The congressman last week tweeted a picture of himself wearing a gas mask on the House floor, which the House sergeant-at-arms asked him to remove in the chamber.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) returned to Congress on Monday, despite potentially being exposed to the coronavirus, saying he was advised by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) physician that going into self-quarantine isn’t necessary.
GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Doug Collins (Ga.) and Paul Gosar (Ariz.) have decided to self-quarantine after interacting with an individual who attended CPAC and later tested positive for the virus.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also had contact with the individual who attended CPAC and went into self-quarantine Sunday.
Democratic Rep. Julia Brownley (Calif.) also announced she will self-quarantine Monday after possibly coming in contact with the virus.
Georgia Rep. Doug Collins announced he’d been informed there’s a photo of him with the Conservative Political Action Conference attendee who tested positive for the virus. He shook hands with Trump on the tarmac at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia, Friday and then joined the president on a tour of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The second congressman, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz was spotted Saturday night at Mar-a-Lago where Trump hosted a dinner for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Gaetz also rode with Trump in the president’s armored limousine — nicknamed “The Beast” — to the Orlando, Florida, airport Monday and then flew back to Washington with him on Air Force One.
With Tuesday’s Democratic primaries hours away, former Vice President Joe Biden has found an unexpected supporter in Sterling Heights, Michigan Mayor Michael Taylor, a Republican.
“Since announcing my endorsement of Joe Biden I have received an outpouring of encouraging messages and believe even more strongly that Joe Biden is the candidate who can defeat Donald Trump in Macomb County and the State of Michigan,” Taylor said in a statement to Newsweek on Monday.
While Taylor, a life-long Republican, voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, he said he would cast his ballot for Biden this year because Trump is “deranged.”
“I think Joe Biden is the candidate who can unify all of the Democrats and he’s the candidate who can appeal to moderates and Republicans like me who don’t want to see four more years of President Trump,” Taylor said, according to the Chicago Tribune on Monday.
“I remember thinking this Trump thing is insane, but when it was down to him and Hillary, I kind of said, ‘Well, you are a Republican, and yeah he’s nuts, but maybe he’ll get better and you know he’s going to lower taxes,” Taylor said. “I slowly talked myself into it. ‘He can’t seriously be this deranged once he gets in there,’ and he’s even more deranged now than I thought then. So, I take the blame. I voted for him.”
For over three years, President Vladimir Putin had kept Russia inside the OPEC+ coalition, allying with Saudi Arabia and the other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to curb oil production and support prices. On top of helping Russia’s treasury – energy exports are the largest source of state revenue – the alliance brought foreign policy gains, creating a bond with Saudi Arabia’s new leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
But the OPEC+ deal also aided America’s shale industry and Russia was increasingly angry with the Trump administration’s willingness to employ energy as a political and economic tool. It was especially irked by the U.S.’s use of sanctions to prevent the completion of a pipeline linking Siberia’s gas fields with Germany, known as Nord Stream 2. The White House has also targeted the Venezuelan business of Russia’s state-oil producer Rosneft.
“The Kremlin has decided to sacrifice OPEC+ to stop U.S. shale producers and punish the U.S. for messing with Nord Stream 2,” said Alexander Dynkin, president of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow, a state-run think tank. “Of course, to upset Saudi Arabia could be a risky thing, but this is Russia’s strategy at the moment – flexible geometry of interests.”