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Trump Would Tie Aid to Action on Sanctuary Cities
China’s Factories Are Back, But Not Consumers

The Art of the Misdeal

As the COVID-19 crisis lingers, there is going to be a lot of attention paid to how this happened, and to everyone who dropped the ball. When it comes to the man at the very top, however, a clear picture is already coming into focus, aided by additional reporting from The Washington Post on Monday.

We are going to organize Donald Trump's missteps here by general timeframe:

  • 2017-19: It is pretty well known, at this point, that the President and his administration were guilty of errors of both omission and commission when it came to leaving the United States under-prepared for the pandemic. The most notable misstep in the former category was leaving the Strategic National Stockpile depleted. It is true that supplies were at reduced levels when Barack Obama left office, due to the outbreaks of disease that took place while #44 was in office (Ebola and H1N1). It is also true, however, that on its way out the door in 2017, the Obama administration provided a 69-page "playbook" for pandemics that, among other things, urged the incoming Trump administration to make sure the stockpile was replenished and maintained. Team Trump brushed aside that document.

    Moving on to errors of commission, Trump tried (and failed) to cut funding for the CDC. He also tried (and succeeded) to dismantle the pandemic-monitoring apparatus at the NSC that was set up by Obama. Was this done as part of the President's general desire to overturn as much Obama-related stuff as is possible? Or as an aspect of his penny-wise-but-pound-foolish program of government austerity? Maybe both?

  • 2-3 Months Ago: This is where the new reporting from The Post comes in. Donald Trump has tried to blame just about everyone, from Obama, to the Democrats who impeached him, to the CDC, to the WHO, to China for the fact that he and his administration were caught flat-footed. As it turns out, the President's Daily Briefings in January and February included more than a dozen warnings about the imminent threat posed by COVID-19, and Trump ignored them all. Was this like the monkey who sticks his fingers into his ears because he wants to "hear no evil"? Or was it because the President simply doesn't pay attention during the daily briefings? Was it like the "Bin Laden determined to strike in US" briefing that George W. Bush ignored? After all, it was written by the deep state, and what do they know? We may never know everything Trump knew (or should have known) and when he knew it, but we're getting to the point that this is not a "Trump administration" failure so much as it is a "Trump and only Trump" failure.

  • 1 Month Ago: It was at this point that the President's failures ceased to be behind closed doors, and moved out into the open for all to see. Although it seems like much longer than a month ago, it was around March 20 that he was aggressively downplaying the seriousness of the crisis, refusing to lead from ahead (or even behind), and calling for a prompt end to any COVID-19-related restrictions imposed by state governments (as late as Mar. 24, he insisted that life would be back to normal within just a few days).

  • Now: Though the President has been forced to bow to certain realities, the tragicomedy continues. If anything, it's both more tragic and more comic than it was a month ago. Trump spends most of his time these days alternating among several behaviors: (1) congratulating himself on what a great job he's doing, (2) desperately trying to find a non-Trump scapegoat for this whole mess, (3) lashing out at anyone and everyone who displeases him, and (4) peddling magical (and often dangerous) thinking about COVID-19, how it can be treated, and how quickly it will recede. Consistent with #1, the President on Monday responded to the news that the death toll (56,521) is about to surpass his initial estimate of 50,000-60,000 by giving a new estimate of 70,000, and patting himself on the back for keeping the tally below 1 million.

Trump is not entirely to blame for the U.S. getting caught with its pants down; Politico has a pretty good long read about how the current pandemic was two decades in the making. However, it is the case that he deserves an awful lot of the blame, and that his handling of the whole mess has been about as bad as is humanly possible. If this was a Hollywood screenplay, it would be rejected for having made the lead character too buffoonish. What still remains to be seen is whether or not this is the event that finally shakes the support of the base. Our best guess is that it won't have a major effect because what the base loves about him is how he makes liberals' blood boil, and his behavior continues to do that. (Z)

What Is the White House's Current Media Strategy? Your Guess Is as Good as Theirs

Continuing with the theme from the previous item, and focusing in particular on the "now" category from above, Donald Trump's daily briefings are an absolute disaster, farce, and train wreck. Feel free to choose your own descriptor if you don't like our three. He spends so much of his time working out his personal demons, it's almost sad to watch. More worrisome, however, is his habit of distributing inexpert and unproven medical advice. He crossed a particular line last week, when he toyed with the idea that injecting disinfectant might be a curative. The problem here is that it's not only not curative, it's dangerous (and possibly lethal). Further, in contrast to hydroxychloroquine, just about anyone can get their hands on disinfectant. And so, the President's bad advice potentially put hundreds (thousands? tens of thousands?) of lives at risk.

The briefings have gotten so bad that even White House insiders pleaded with the President to stop holding them. Further, Republican muckety-mucks, always keeping a close eye on the Party's messaging, circulated a memo advising GOP officeholders and candidates (especially Senate candidates) not to defend Trump, and instead to focus their rhetoric on attacking China. Trump's campaign was furious when it learned about the memo, and quashed it. Or, at very least, they think they quashed it.

Anyhow, as of this weekend, it appeared that Trump's underlings had won this particular battle, and persuaded him to forgo the daily briefings in favor of other alternatives. An announcement was made that there would be no Monday briefing, and then Trump spent the weekend sending out tweets that were pretty wild, even by his standards. Particularly popular among those who don't much care for the President was the one he sent on Sunday (since deleted), in which he called for reporters to return the Noble Prizes they won for reporting on the Ukraine Affair. Presumably, someone pointed out to him that there is no Nobel prize for journalism, and that reporters are recognized with Pulitzers. Someone may also have gently advised him that while public service may be a noble pursuit, the namesake of the prizes was (Alfred) Nobel. Maybe this explains why the President never got that Peace Prize he so wanted; all the votes for him were mailed to the Noble committee.

That said, Twitter is a fairly poor substitute for the daily press briefing, in terms of Trump's needs and wants. At best, only a fairly small percentage of voters are on that platform. Further, like the boy who cried wolf, Trump has been unhinged on Twitter so often and for so long that his engagement is way, way down. People don't read as often as they used to, and media outlets don't report on the crazy-tweet-du-jour as often as they used to. And so, the other prong of this weekend's media strategy was to plant a very Trump-friendly news story in a very Trump-friendly newspaper, namely the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post.

The piece, which ran on Sunday, was clearly the work of newly installed chief of staff Mark Meadows, who is quoted substantially within. The main point, which is mentioned six different times, is that the President is working so hard on COVID-19 that he...brace yourself...sometimes misses lunch. Given that many people right now are losing loved ones, or can't figure out how to pay the rent, or can't afford lunch (or dinner or breakfast), this comes off as just a teeny-weeny bit tone deaf.

Heading into Monday, the question was whether the "no press briefings" plan would stick (and if so, for how long). After all, Trump has a deep-seated need to vent, and to brag, and to point fingers, and the like, and tweets plus fluff pieces in the Post aren't going to satisfy those needs for long. Ultimately, the briefing that was canceled on Friday was...rescheduled for Monday. And then it was canceled again. And then it was rescheduled. Thanks to all the flipping and flopping, it did end up being later in the day than usual (5:00 ET), and it was shorter than usual. Still, the President got in his daily quota of falsehoods and blame-shifting, including a harangue about Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) "dancing in the streets in Chinatown." It is true that the Speaker did visit Chinatown on Feb. 24 to make a statement against scapegoating Chinese Americans for COVID-19. There is no evidence she danced, nor is there any obvious explanation as to why she would do so.

And as for today's daily briefing? Well, you'll know when it happens. Or doesn't. Or does. Or doesn't. (Z)

Small Business Loan Program Is an Absolute Fiasco

First, Congress set aside $350 billion for small businesses. Then, there was a run on the banks, such that the money dried up almost overnight. And then, it turned out that a lot of the money went to "small" businesses that aren't so small, like Shake Shack ($10M), Ruth's Chris ($20M), Potbelly ($10M), and AutoNation ($77M). And the latest not-so-small business to get caught with their hands in the cookie jar? It's the Los Angeles Lakers who, like the others on this list, now say they will return the money they got ($4.6 million).

As bad as the other loans were, the Lakers' loan is particularly egregious. They are one of the most successful franchises in professional sports, with an estimated value of $4.4 billion and 2018-19 revenues of $434 million. Further, if they are actually in difficult financial straits (very unlikely), they have an easy source of credit, namely the NBA. The team's credit line is $1.2 billion, which means that if $4.6 million is needed (or $46 million, or $460 million), team governor Jeanie Buss could snap her fingers and have the money, at a very good interest rate, within 24 hours. Put another way, the only reason the Lakers had to get involved with the small business loan program was that they thought it would be free money that would not need to be repaid.

There are only two ways to interpret all of this. The first option is that the Trump administration, and in particular Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, utterly botched the whole program, and introduced vast loopholes into the process that allowed mega-business concerns to elbow their way in line, in front of the actual small businesses that the program was supposed to help. The second option is that this was just a cleverly disguised backdoor corporate welfare program, meant to enrich the business concerns that are the lifeblood of the Republican Party. Given that the administration (not to mention Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY) have gleefully given trillions to corporations in recent memory, and given that Trump took specific steps to derail the oversight functions built into COVID-19 relief bill v3.0 (the $2 trillion one), the GOP may not be entitled to the benefit of the doubt here.

Adding further credence to the "backdoor corporate welfare" interpretation is a new report from NBC News, wherein they examined nearly 200 companies that are known to have received funds. Although this represents only a small fraction of the total number of companies that got money (around 4,000 of them), NBC found all kinds of concerning stuff, most obviously that three different firms with ties to Trump administration officials got nearly $20 million.

The good news, for those who are not fans of graft, is that all of this "small business" money is now under a very big microscope. And so, there are undoubtedly many things that are secret right now, but that won't remain so forever. Perhaps Apple, Walmart, ExxonMobil, and AT&T were also awarded small business funds. (Z)

Overton Window on COVID-19 Relief Bill v5.0 Is Creeping Leftward

After handing out many trillions of dollars to corporations and wealthy people in the past 2 years, Mitch McConnell suddenly became a budget hawk, and said last week that he wasn't so sure that Congress needed to be spending any more of the people's money, and leaving future generations to clean up the mistakes of the current generation. Given the Majority Leader's willingness to blow up the national debt, to undermine Social Security and Medicare, and to let the planet keep warming up, his "think of the children" moment rang a tad bit false.

Whatever McConnell says, or whatever he thinks, he does have a fundamental problem. Everyone in the United States knows that Congress has spent $3 trillion in the last couple of weeks, and yet most people have seen relatively little of that money coming their way. This has made voters...cranky, shall we say. And cranky voters do not generally keep their feelings to themselves. So, they have been sharing a few choice thoughts with their elected representatives. That includes folks who are out of work, people connected to hospitals and the healthcare industry, and the vast number of small business owners who committed the cardinal sin of not winning 16 NBA championships.

Anyhow, the Majority Leader has started singing a different tune on COVID-19 Relief Bill v5.0. Whereas his question last week was if there would be another relief bill, his question now is what it will look like when it happens. McConnell's opening offer is that he's willing to give money to state and local governments (which is what the Democrats want), but he wants healthcare workers, employees, and businesses to be exempt from liability in COVID-19-related lawsuits when they reopen.

We are not particularly persuaded that McConnell has discovered a concern for employees or healthcare workers, nor that those folks are likely to be sued in the event that they happen to transmit COVID-19 in the course of their work. So, we are going to read his proposal as "I want Congress to protect businesses from being sued if they reopen early and put customers'/employees' lives in danger." Whether the Congress can actually grant such immunity, and whether the Democrats are open to playing ball on this point, is not clear to us. What is clear, however, is that the Democrats' hand here is growing stronger by the day. Exactly how aggressively will they play it? Only Nancy Pelosi knows for sure. (Z)

SCOTUS Wants More Documents in Trump Tax Case

In theory, the Supreme Court is supposed to decide fairly soon whether or not Congress can subpoena Donald Trump's tax returns. On Monday, SCOTUS tossed in a bit of a curveball, asking for additional briefings on whether or not this question is even in the purview of the judiciary.

As always, we point out that reading SCOTUS tea leaves is not much more revealing than reading actual tea leaves. However, this certainly looks like bad news for the President. It suggests, first of all, that the Supreme Court isn't going to try to push this until after the election, and is going to make some sort of decision this term. At the same time, it also suggests that they are thinking about punting the whole thing and declaring it to be a political question. If so, that would be a de facto loss for Trump, since he is the one asking SCOTUS to rescue him. If the Court bails out, then the subpoena stands. And while Trump is more than willing to defy a subpoena and dare Congress to do something about it, Deutsche Bank and Mazars, among others, have made clear they will comply as soon as they are confident the subpoena is valid. So, it's very possible the President's tax returns will indeed see the light of day before Nov. 3. (Z)

New York Cancels Primary

In view of the fact that it's a one-man race now, and that New York is pretty much Ground Zero for COVID-19 in America, the state canceled its Democratic primary on Monday. This means all of its delegates will be automatically awarded to Joe Biden.

In theory, this should not matter, since the nomination is a done deal. In practice, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was trying to collect as many delegates as possible, so as to maximize his influence at the convention, and over the platform. So, he and his supporters are not happy. Further adding to their irritation is that Democratic Party rules (rules that Sanders & Co. helped write) dictate that candidates no longer in the race cannot win statewide delegates (as compared to the district delegates awarded on primary/caucus days). So, Sanders' current delegate total (which is only an estimate), will actually go down once statewide delegates are awarded.

In short, the progressive-centrist fissure that reared its head in 2016 has not been smoothed over quite yet, despite all the choruses of kumbayah that everyone was singing a couple of weeks ago. The odds are that this particular dispute will eventually be resolved, however. Despite Sanders' public posture, his final delegate total is pretty close to meaningless. Anyone and everyone knows that he's the favored candidate of roughly one-third of Democratic voters, regardless of how many delegates he has. His influence is what it is, and nothing that takes place between now and the Democratic convention (if it even happens) will change that. So, the Biden campaign and the Sanders campaign are negotiating already, and undoubtedly Biden and the DNC will find a way to make sure the Senator gets enough delegates to save face and to be recognized as an important player in the Democratic Party. Of course, even if Sanders gets some platform planks he wants, such as a $15/hr minimum wage and free college for everyone except rich kids, many of his supporters may still be angry with the establishment. The only way to energize them would be for Sanders to spend the next 7 months actively praising Biden as a good first step in the right direction and constantly repeating what a menace Trump is. It's not his style, but he is also smart enough to realize what another Trump term would mean. (Z)

Ventura Says He's Considering Green Party Run

Former Minnesota governor and professional wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura made some headlines on Monday, as he announced he's "testing the waters" for a Green Party presidential bid. "If I were going to run for president, the Green Party would be my first choice," he declared on Twitter.

There is, of course, much that has to happen in between "sent a tweet" and "got the Green Party nomination." First, Ventura would have to decide it's worth the time and energy; a tough plunge to take when you know you have zero chance of actually winning. He does dislike Donald Trump, so he might be willing to make the investment if he is persuaded a bid will hurt the President. The second problem is that the leading Green Party candidate, Howie Hawkins, is a longtime member of the party who is very much in sync with the platform (as a couple of readers pointed out this weekend). Ventura is not a party member, and while he's on board with some Green priorities, he identifies as a fiscal conservative. So, it's going to be hard for him to say "let's spend a few trillion on the Green New Deal" with a straight face. Point is, the nomination is not just Ventura's for the asking, and he's likely an underdog to Hawkins if he throws his hat into the ring.

If Ventura does run and does get the party's nomination, it would likely work to Trump's detriment. Assuming that working-class white men can bring themselves to check the "Green" box, those folks are the former governor's base. Further, The Body would undoubtedly find ways to get under Trump's skin. As Ventura bragged: "Trump knows wrestling. He participated in two Wrestlemanias. He knows he can never out-talk a wrestler, and he knows I'm the greatest talker wrestling's ever had." If only the Democrats would move beyond this Biden-Sanders business, and nominate Mick "Mankind" Foley, then the election could be a true Royal Rumble. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

We probably don't need to tell readers of this site that no Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio. That isn't going to change if Joe Biden really does win the Buckeye State, since Trump cannot afford the loss of those electoral votes, and since Ohio would undoubtedly take neighboring Pennsylvania with it, making for a 270-268 total (and that's before we talk about Wisconsin and Michigan, which would also surely flip).

Obviously, you don't want to put too much stock into a very close poll, particularly this early in the process. And two months ago, an Ohio flip would have been close to unthinkable. But now, with citizens of Ohio getting a daily object lesson in effective COVID-19 leadership (courtesy of Gov. Mike DeWine, R, and Ohio Department of Health's Dr. Amy Acton, D) vs. ineffective COVID-19 leadership? It begins to seem possible. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
New York 65% 29% Apr 19 Apr 23 Siena Coll.
Ohio 45% 44% Apr 20 Apr 25 Baldwin Wallace U.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr27 Birx: Social Distancing Will Continue through the Summer
Apr27 Black and Progressive Activists Are Warning Biden Not to Pick Klobuchar
Apr27 Biden Thinks Trump Will Try to Delay the Election
Apr27 How Will Voting Take Place in November?
Apr27 Economy May Not Bounce Back Until Late 2021
Apr27 Deutsche Bank Won't Give Senators Information on Trump's Finances
Apr27 Straight-ticket Voting Has Implications for the Senate
Apr27 Is the Southwest Lost for the GOP?
Apr26 Sunday Mailbag
Apr25 Saturday Q&A
Apr25 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr24 Administration's COVID-19 Management Not too Bright
Apr24 Kemp Gets a View of Life from Under the Bus
Apr24 House Passes COVID-19 Relief Bill v4.0
Apr24 Trump Organization Would Like Bailout from Trump Administration
Apr24 Team Trump Flails around in Search for Biden's Achilles Heel
Apr24 About That Order to Shoot Down Iranian Gunboats...
Apr24 Lots of Bad COVID-19-related Demographic News for Trump
Apr24 It Could Be a While Before the 2020 Election Winner Is Known
Apr24 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr23 The General-Election Map Is Live Today
Apr23 The Pandemic Is Upending the November Map
Apr23 Poll: Few Americans Think the Social Distancing Has Gone Too Far
Apr23 Bomb, Bomb, Bomb...Bomb, Bomb Iran?
Apr23 Trump and Biden Will Battle over China
Apr23 A "W" Could Wipe Out Trump
Apr23 Milwaukee Will Send All Voters an Absentee Ballot Application
Apr23 Whitmer Has Not Spoken with Biden about Being His Running Mate
Apr23 McConnell Has Clear Priorities
Apr23 Postal Service Collapse Would Hit the Republican Base the Hardest
Apr23 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr22 Senate Has a Deal
Apr22 House Moves Toward Vote by Proxy
Apr22 Trump Immigration Ban Is Mostly a Paper Tiger
Apr22 Kemp Gets Much Blowback
Apr22 NFL Draft Starts Tomorrow
Apr22 Trump Lags Biden in National Polls
Apr22 Biden Campaign Arguing Over Leadership of Online Campaign
Apr21 Trump Says He Will Suspend Immigration
Apr21 Four States Get Ready to Reopen
Apr21 Incompetent or Corrupt?, Part I: Small Business Funding
Apr21 Incompetent or Corrupt?, Part II: Emergency Equipment Funding
Apr21 Oil Prices Fall Below Zero
Apr21 Trump Snubs Romney
Apr21 Democrats Are Raking It In
Apr21 Democrats Want Obama
Apr20 Biden Sweeps Wyoming Caucus
Apr20 Voters Dump Trump Bump
Apr20 Trump's New Election Strategy: Run on Dividing the Country
Apr20 Coronavirus Is Starting to Hit Red States