• Senate COVID-19 Bill Dies a Quick Death
• The August Fundraising Numbers Are In
• Whistleblower: I Was Told to Ignore Russia
• Trump Renews His Nobel Peace Prize Push
• Trump Bans Drilling off the Coast of Southern States
• COVID-19 Diaries: Do or Die
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
We flatter ourselves that we're pretty good at separating the things that might actually hurt Donald Trump (say, the article in The Atlantic) from those that probably won't (say, the new Michael Cohen book). But you know who is even better than we are? Donald Trump. And the fact that he spent Thursday spinning like a 1903 phonograph (78 RPM!) tells you he's scared to death over Bob Woodward's new book Rage.
There are a number of revelations from the book that have already become public, like new reporting on the depth and the strangeness of Trump's relationship with Kim Jong-Un, or Trump's bragging about the existence of a top secret weapons system that Woodward did not have the clearance to hear about. But all the attention, of course, is being paid to the fact that Trump admitted, on tape, to knowingly and aggressively downplaying the virulence and seriousness of COVID-19. If you haven't heard the recordings, and you would like to, the two biggies are included in this video, along with some context (or, if you prefer, skip ahead to 0:52 for the "smoking gun"):
The two very damning clips total about 10 seconds. A television commercial runs 30 seconds. Hmmmm....
In trying to push back against the news, Trump took three approaches on Thursday. He started with the tried and true technique of denying everything, insisting that he never once lied to or misled the American people. The problem with this explanation is that, well, he's on tape admitting the exact opposite.
With not the slightest bit of shame, Trump also took the polar opposite approach of the first, and explained that of course he lied about and downplayed COVID-19, but he did it for the good of the American people, in order to keep them calm and collected. Or maybe it's fat, dumb, and happy. The President compared himself, in this regard, to Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. That's a pretty bold comparison for any leader to make under any circumstance, but in this case it's particularly inapt, and reflects (once again) Trump's historical illiteracy. Roosevelt and Churchill kept strategic plans and new weapons programs to themselves, it is true (ahem), but they were consistently frank with their citizenry about the challenges posed by the Axis Powers (see, for example, Churchill's famous "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech). Beyond that, anyone who thinks that Trump is unwilling to encourage panic among the citizenry has apparently missed the roughly 800 times he's railed about immigrant caravans, MS-13, BLM, rioters in the streets, Muslim terrorists, and all the other bugaboos that are coming to get you, particularly if you are a suburban housewife.
The President's third approach, as he threw things at the wall to see what would stick, was to declare that if his remarks truly were dangerous, Woodward would have gone public with them immediately rather than waiting until the publication of his book. This is the most valid line of attack Trump put forward, if only because the other two are so clearly absurd. However, it's also a red herring, and a classic case of blaming the messenger. Whether or not Woodward should have come forward, it does not change what Trump said, and thus whatever culpability he has for the damage wrought by the pandemic.
When it comes to the question of whether Woodward should have spoken up, public opinion is divided on that point, and there's no shortage of "Woodward put book sales ahead of his duties as a journalist" commentary on social media. However, the defense made by Woodward himself, and echoed by many other journalists (see here for one example) is pretty persuasive. In short, they observe that when Trump first made the recorded remarks, the damaging nature of his lies was not entirely clear. If Woodward had come forward then, Trump and his team would have dismissed the comments (as they did with many other things the President said on camera at that time), and would have continued along their same course. By taking the approach he did, Woodward was able to piece together an overall picture that is much more airtight and much more compelling. Put another way, there is nothing the reporter could have done to save the more than 185,000 dead, but there was something he could do to help the American people decide if this is the man they want running the country for the next four years.
Incidentally, it's not just Trump who freaked out on Thursday. Pretty much the entire White House staff scurried around like ants searching for cover. After all, when things go south, it's never the President who takes the blame. Many of them pointed fingers at anyone and everyone, trying to deflect any responsibility away from themselves. Others went with the dismissive approach, sniffing "everyone has a book." There may be some truth to that, but not everyone has recordings of the President himself admitting to malfeasance, and not everyone is the dean of American political reporters who made their bones by taking down another president whose administration was rife with corrupt behavior.
And that leaves us with one last question that is on everyone's mind: What on earth was Donald Trump thinking, agreeing to sit for 18 interviews, on the record and on tape, with Bob freaking Woodward? And the answer, in short, is pure hubris. Like being Time's "Person of the Year," the President saw a "partnership" with Woodward as a validation of himself and his presidency. Trump recognized how badly he came off in the reporter's previous book (Fear: Trump in the White House), and thought he could sweet-talk his way into a much more flattering portrayal. That's like saying "I just won an easy $20 from that guy with the custom pool cue, and the $200 we've bet on the second game is going to be even easier money!" or "This bank looks to have no security at all, guys—this is gonna be a breeze!" Anyone who thinks they can finesse a flattering book out of a battle-hardened reporter like Woodward, who has gone 14-for-14 on decidedly not flattering presidential books, clearly doesn't read. And all of a sudden, everything begins to make sense... (Z)
Donald Trump wasn't the only Republican to have a less-than-delightful day on Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) brought his COVID-19 relief frankenbill up for a vote. And, predictably, it failed to attract the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster. The final vote was entirely along party lines, except that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) voted with the Democrats and independents.
Does this give the Sens. Susan Collinses (R-ME) and Thom Tillises (R-NC) of the world something to take home to voters, to claim that at least they tried? Doubtful. The Senate didn't actually pass anything, and explaining what did happen is pretty inside baseball, especially when the other side can take Paul's vote and say: "Senators from both parties opposed the bill as completely inadequate." Further, when it comes to close-but-no-cigar measures, House Democrats got more done than Senate Republicans did. Finally, and surely most importantly, voters don't generally care what you tried to do, they care about what you did do. And for every single member of Congress, for the last three months of the pandemic, what they did was a big, fat nothing. That's likely to work to the detriment of vulnerable members on both sides of the aisle, something that should have Collins, Tillis, et al. nervous about their futures, and something that definitely has House Democrats in swingy districts nervous about theirs. (Z)
One good thing about the Bob Woodward revelations, from the perspective of Team Trump, is that they allow other bad news to be snuck in under the radar. Everyone already knew that Joe Biden's campaign raised a staggering (and record-breaking) $364.5 million in August. The Trump campaign took Thursday as an opportunity to release their take for the month. It's $210 million, which is about par for the course for a presidential campaign hitting the home stretch. According to our staff mathematicians, it's also nearly $155 million less than Biden took in.
Many Republicans are deeply concerned that Donald Trump has nearly abandoned TV advertising; they fear that he will lose ground to Biden, and that downballot Republicans will be hurt as well. The Trump campaign is plowing most of the money it does have into online advertising, where it is still outspending the Biden campaign by a margin of about 1.5-to-1 ($59 million vs. $43.3 million in the last month). We were prepared to applaud the Trump campaign for this tactical choice, since we—and particularly (Z)—are skeptical of the efficacy and the cost efficiency of TV advertising in 2020. However, it turns out that most of the Trump campaign's online spending is targeted at non-swing states like California and New York, which means that it is not wisely trying to get the most voting bang for its advertising buck, it's trying desperately to raise more cash to make up that $155 million gap.
If the President would like TV all to himself for a day, today is his chance. To honor the people who died in the attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001, Joe Biden pulled all of his advertising until tomorrow. It's a pretty shrewd move—a respectful gesture, a cost savings, and a dare to the President to gauchely take advantage of the opportunity. That's three for the price of one. Watch your TV today (perhaps tuning into Fox News on occasion) to see how Team Trump plays it. (Z)
This is flying almost completely under the radar, given the myriad other controversies that the Trump administration is mired in at the moment. However, earlier this week, Brian Murphy—who, until July, ran the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (OIA) at DHS—filed a whistleblower complaint in which he says he was told to stop reporting on Russian threats to the election because doing so "made President Trump look bad."
Assuming Murphy is telling the truth—and there is nothing about his story that does not pass the smell test—then it reiterates three things:
- The Trump administration is desperately trying to keep Russian election interference under wraps
- The Trump administration is working very hard to politicize the intelligence establishment
- The Trump administration is happy to act punitively toward career civil servants who do not toe the party line (Murphy is not running OIA anymore because he was demoted)
Presumably the story isn't getting much attention because: (1) Bob Woodward and The Atlantic are using up all the oxygen, and (2) while venal and disappointing, if true, there's nothing here that was not already well known. (Z)
Donald Trump has, once again, been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In this case, it is for the "Abraham Accords," as they are being called, between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Within 20 minutes of the news breaking, Trump sent off a remarkable 17 tweets celebrating his great accomplishment. That was followed by a flurry of press releases like this one, talking about what a great honor it is, what a great president he is, and how the prize is surely in the bag given the historic nature of the peace deal.
Let us start by saying that we don't begrudge the campaign squeezing every bit of value out of this that they possibly can. If we were running for president, and we were way behind in the polls, and the news cycle was being dominated by negative news about us, we would squeeze the nomination for all it's worth, too. And with that said, let us now point out that there are some awards where just being nominated is a big deal (e.g., the Oscars), but the Nobel Peace Prize is not one of them. Actually winning the Peace Prize is a big deal, but there are no limits on the number of nominations each year, and the list of people allowed to make a nomination is very, very long. In fact, history professors are allowed to submit nominations. If he really wanted to, (Z) could have nominated the Angels' Mike Trout this year for his efforts to secure world peace by dominating the sport of baseball. Anyhow, in addition to Trump, there were 317 other nominees for the Peace Prize. Trump, incidentally, was nominated by Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of the Norwegian parliament. Tybring-Gjedde said that he's not even "much of a Trump fan," but the Norwegian is known for his far-right, populist, and anti-immigrant politics, so reach your own conclusions.
There is zero chance that Trump actually wins the prize. First of all, the Committee is clever enough to know that the peace deal is not so much a breakthrough as it is an explicit acknowledgment of an already existing state of affairs. Further, even if the Committee wanted to recognize the deal, they will focus on folks who had active involvement in crafting it, not those who sat 8,000 miles away and watched things unfold. Note that Calvin Coolidge did not get a piece of the Nobel awarded for the Dawes Plan, nor Herbert Hoover of the one awarded for the Kellogg-Briand Pact, nor Harry S. Truman of the one awarded for the creation of the U.N., nor Richard Nixon of the one awarded for the Paris Accords. Heck, Jimmy Carter was actually a part of the Camp David Accords (the most obvious parallel to the current situation), and he didn't get a piece of the Nobel that was awarded either (he had to wait until he was ex-president, and was recognized for his work with the Carter Center).
Before Barack Obama, the only sitting presidents to win a Nobel Peace Prize actually had to roll their sleeves up and do some serious negotiating themselves. That's Theodore Roosevelt, for helping end the Russo-Japanese War, and Woodrow Wilson, for the Treaty of Versailles. As for Obama, a person can plausibly win a Nobel with a lack of substantive diplomatic accomplishments, but only rarely, and only if the committee really, really likes that person. The Nobel committee does not really, really like Trump. So, he need not bother clearing space on his mantle, and those three Razzie Awards he's won can stay right where they are, next to the Muy Mal Award he got last year from the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association. (Z)
Franklin was not the only Roosevelt whom Donald Trump compared himself to on Thursday. The President also sees more than a little Theodore Roosevelt when he looks at himself in the mirror. The 26th president might say "Bully!" if he was still alive to hear that; our assessment would begin with the same four letters as TR's. Anyhow, the occasion for this flattering comparison was the President's announcement that he is banning offshore drilling off the coast of Southern states. Taking a victory lap, Trump declared: "Number one since Teddy Roosevelt. Who would have thought, Trump is the great environmentalist? I am, I am. I believe strongly in it."
If anyone believes that Trump is actually a great environmentalist, we have a handsome art deco bridge in San Francisco for sale at a bargain price. The drilling that he just "ended" (more likely, temporarily suspended) is drilling that his administration expanded in the first place. Further, this is also a president who denies global warming, withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, relaxed automobile emissions standards, supported the Keystone XL pipeline, encouraged renewed investment in coal, and opened up vast swaths of the West to the drilling and timber industries. A TR for the 21st century he is not, and that is before we compare the two men's military records, attitudes about big business, and views on civil rights. Further, if offshore drilling is now "bad," then why is it only bad when taking place off the coast of red states?
Indeed, this is a transparent-as-it-gets effort to grab a few more votes in places like Florida and Georgia, where offshore drilling is pretty unpopular. It turns out that people do not like filthy beaches, accompanied by the occasional catastrophic oil spill. And perhaps it will work. Or maybe it won't. Other recent Hail Mary passes like this do not appear to have landed. For example, a new poll from Marquette reveals that the President's "law and order" pitch has not appreciably moved Wisconsin in his direction, or changed the number of people who oppose the protesters in Kenosha.
Similarly, a new survey paid for by the left-leaning group Vote Common Good, but conducted by academics from several different highly respected universities, as well as some from USC, reveals that for all the President's efforts to court Christian voters (Israel diplomacy, threats to defund Planned Parenthood, conservative judges, etc.), he remains on course to do about 11 points worse with them than he did in 2016. It turns out that some Christians prefer a fellow they perceive as fundamentally decent and an actual believer, even if he also believes in keeping abortion legal, as compared to a fellow they perceive as fundamentally indecent and a nonbeliever, and who they know believes in keeping in abortion legal, even if he says otherwise for political purposes.
Anyhow, keep an eye on polls of Florida and other Southern swing states to see if the new drilling policy moves the needle at all. We have our doubts. (Z)
My previous post noted that the U.S. seems to be unwilling to do what it takes to fully stop COVID-19, while Australia seems to be successful at putting the COVID-19 genie back in the bottle a second time.
Checking in again, Australia does indeed appear to be on the road toward having the virus contained after about one month of serious lockdowns. For the last week or two they have been reducing the spread more slowly, but looking at the numbers, I remain optimistic that they will again be able to effectively stop the spread of the virus.
That one month of total shutdown is required to stop COVID-19 has been clear for a while. It can take a week or two for COVID-19 symptoms to appear after exposure. Then those exposed can infect those in their households, who will not present symptoms for another week or two. If an isolated area shuts down for a month, it is contained, because that is enough time for these dominoes to fall. To stop COVID-19 requires both an "isolated area" (to prevent reinfection from travelers) and total shutdown. Australia's second outbreak is likely due to some workers not self-isolating while they waited for test results.
The rapid results (15-minute) tests for COVID-19 will make disease management easier. However, as long as there are no-mask protests in the U.S. (and similar spreader behavior), COVID-19 will not be stopped in this country. SARS-COV-2 is a very infectious virus. It is far more infectious than influenza (including H1N1), SARS, Legionnaires and Ebola. It is not as infectious as measles, but it is still pretty bad.
We can see what countries have done to successfully stop COVID-19 and we can observe that the U.S. is not even close to that level of discipline. Further, Dr. Anthony Fauci is probably right that COVID-19 will not disappear on its own. The U.S. will find some equilibrium and then will wait for a vaccine.
Vaccine development continues. I am still betting on an announcement pre-election though I stand by my opinion that it is not possible to have a vaccine that is proven safe and effective by that time. It is quite difficult to validate a SARS-COV-2 vaccine. The low mortality rate (particularly in non-at-risk populations) means that you have to test tens of thousands of people to make sure the vaccine is not worse than the virus. That much testing takes time.
Recent reports of some people being re-infected with COVID-19 have fueled the hopelessness of doing anything to try to stop the spread of the disease. Six feet of distance being "not enough," in some cases, has also promoted a "see they can't even make up their minds about that" narrative. The six-foot social distancing guideline is not a magic pill, but it does reduce the probability of infection.
We need to recognize that biology is complicated. Nothing is 100% certain. If you had COVID-19, you are less likely to get it a second time and, if you do, it will probably be less serious. But this is not known for sure. When a vaccine is available in the U.S., even if it is tested thoroughly (which is NOT likely), it will probably not provide 100% immunity. No vaccine does that. The pressure to announce or even to release a partially tested vaccine will probably prove irresistible. Wearing a mask helps. A serious N-95 or medical paper mask will reduce the spread better than a thin cloth neck warmer but something is better than nothing, in spite of the occasional naysayer. Social distancing is smart. Take more precautions indoors than outside.
Keep in mind that "viral load" is the key. You need to get exposed to some amount of virus to contract COVID-19, so try to avoid significant exposure. Under the heading of "using a sophisticated model to state the totally obvious," some models are predicting a total of 300,000 dead in the U.S. by December. Given that 1,000 people a day are dying in the U.S., basic arithmetic would provide that estimate. The number of additional dead by December might be as low as 50,000 if we aggressively continue social distancing, but if more of the population rebels against social distancing, the number of dead will be much higher by the end of the year. One crystal ball went so far as to project 400,000 dead in the U.S. by year end. That would be dangerously close to the total number of American soldiers who died during the four years of World War II (405,399).
Whether the number of additional causalities is 50,000 or something much higher depends on us. Our personal actions directly affect the spread of COVID-19. Please try to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. (PD)
Dr. Paul Dorsey, Ph.D., works in medical software, providing software to support medical practices and hospitals nationwide.
A lot of polls, but from houses that barely make our cut for inclusion. Fabrizio Ward's website is actually a WordPress site, for goodness' sakes. Guess they had to move quick when GeoCities shut down last year.
Anyhow, the most interesting thing here is that the Benenson Strategy/GS Strategy partnership clearly sees a more Trump-friendly electorate than other houses, as they have Arizona and Pennsylvania (and, to a lesser extent, North Carolina) closer than just about anyone not named Rasmussen. Benenson is a Democratic firm and GS Strategy is a Republican firm, so maybe that means they've been able to find a secret sauce that has eluded others. Or, maybe it means that these sorts of partnerships are prone to wonky results. If we had to guess, we'd pick the latter, because Arizona—in particular—has been polled a lot, almost always with much more Democratic-leaning results.
|Arizona||48%||47%||Aug 28||Sep 08||Benenson Strategy/GS Strategy|
|Colorado||50%||40%||Aug 30||Sep 05||Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research|
|Florida||48%||46%||Aug 30||Sep 08||Benenson Strategy/GS Strategy|
|Georgia||47%||46%||Aug 30||Sep 05||Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research|
|Iowa||45%||47%||Aug 30||Sep 05||Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research|
|Maine||54%||40%||Aug 30||Sep 05||Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research|
|Michigan||50%||43%||Aug 28||Sep 08||Benenson Strategy/GS Strategy|
|Michigan||53%||44%||Sep 02||Sep 03||Pulse Opinion Research|
|Montana||43%||50%||Aug 30||Sep 05||Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research|
|North Carolina||48%||48%||Aug 28||Sep 08||Benenson Strategy/GS Strategy|
|Pennsylvania||49%||46%||Aug 28||Sep 08||Benenson Strategy/GS Strategy|
|Pennsylvania||51%||44%||Sep 03||Sep 06||TargetSmart|
|Wisconsin||50%||45%||Aug 28||Sep 08||Benenson Strategy/GS Strategy|
Again, a bunch of results from both sets of pollsters (Benenson/GS, Fabrizio/Hart) that are very Republican friendly relative to other pollsters. It's really something when you make Pulse look like a bunch of granola-eating, Prius-driving, pot-smoking hippies. Anyhow, we're taking these results with a few grains of salt until we hear from additional (and ideally better) pollsters, and suggest you should, too. (Z)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Arizona||Mark Kelly||48%||Martha McSally*||45%||Aug 28||Sep 08||Benenson Strategy/GS Strategy|
|Colorado||John Hickenlooper||51%||Cory Gardner*||46%||Aug 30||Sep 05||Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research|
|Georgia||Jon Ossoff||48%||David Perdue*||47%||Aug 30||Sep 05||Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research|
|Iowa||Theresa Greenfield||45%||Joni Ernst*||50%||Aug 30||Sep 05||Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research|
|Maine||Sara Gideon||48%||Susan Collins*||47%||Aug 30||Sep 05||Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research|
|Michigan||Gary Peters*||45%||John James||41%||Aug 28||Sep 08||Benenson Strategy/GS Strategy|
|Michigan||Gary Peters*||48%||John James||40%||Sep 02||Sep 03||Pulse Opinion Research|
|Montana||Steve Bullock||47%||Steve Daines*||50%||Aug 30||Sep 05||Fabrizio Ward/Hart Research|
|North Carolina||Cal Cunningham||42%||Thom Tillis*||39%||Aug 28||Sep 08||Benenson Strategy/GS Strategy|
* Denotes incumbent
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Sep10 Trump Is Gaining among Latinos in South Florida
Sep10 HHS Tried to Muzzle Fauci
Sep10 Trump Releases a List of Possible New Supreme Court Justices
Sep10 Senate Races Are Almost All Filled in Now
Sep10 Why Predicting The Election Is So Difficult This Year
Sep10 Eight Questions That Could Decide the Election
Sep10 Anonymous Sources Are Essential to Modern Political Reporting
Sep10 Democrats Are Looking Down
Sep10 Ginsberg Comes Clean
Sep10 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep10 Today's Senate Polls
Sep09 Another Bad Day on the COVID-19 Front
Sep09 The Justice Department Confirms It Is Indeed Trump's Personal Legal Team
Sep09 Cohen Book Is Released
Sep09 McConnell Prepares for Some Senatorial Kabuki Theater
Sep09 Trump Yet Again Encourages Supporters to Take the Law Into Their Own Hands
Sep09 Trump Campaign Has Cash Flow Problems
Sep09 DeJoy Investigations Are Coming
Sep09 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep09 Today's Senate Polls
Sep08 Trump Blames the Democrats for...Everything
Sep08 Trump Attacks the Military's Leadership, Too
Sep08 Trump Tosses Out Some Very Red, Culture-Wars-Flavored Meat
Sep08 DeJoy Gets Introduced to the Underside of the Bus
Sep08 Poll: Voters Think Trump Is More Likely to Win the Debates
Sep08 Judge to Census Bureau: Keep Counting
Sep08 Chris LaCivita Will Try To Rescue Trump
Sep08 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep08 Today's Senate Polls
Sep07 National Poll: Biden Leads Trump by 10 Points
Sep07 Trump Is Betting on YouTube This Time
Sep07 Trump Is Going after Harris
Sep07 Kevin McCarthy: Trump's War on Absentee Ballots Could Screw Us
Sep07 Jeffrey Goldberg: I Stand by My Reporting
Sep07 DeJoy May Have Broken the Law
Sep07 Barr Is Trump's Lap Dog
Sep07 When Will Absentee Ballots Be Processed and Counted?
Sep07 Secretaries of State Warn that Election Day Could Become Election Week
Sep07 Anita Hill Will Vote for Biden
Sep07 Sensitivity of Our Map Algorithm
Sep07 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep07 Today's Senate Polls
Sep06 Sunday Mailbag
Sep06 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep05 Saturday Q&A
Sep05 Today's Presidential Polls
Sep04 Trump Tells Residents of North Carolina, Pennsylvania to Vote Twice
Sep04 Trump Allegedly Smeared Dead, Disabled Veterans
Sep04 Biden Goes to Kenosha