- Glenn Sonnenberg
Musings from the Bunker 12/15/20
It’s another day when the news forced me to rewrite today’s Musing. Yesterday marked a number of news items, two in particular meaningful news about the virus, its toll and the promise of its ultimate defeat. It also was a day of yet more news generated by a president taking his last swings at the world, as he tries to reconcile his defeat through lies and abandon those who may speak reason. These are, of course, the rantings of a small man who truly believes his personal narrative trumps those of a nation and a world at war with a great plague.
COVID NEWS #1
We passed another milestone. More than 300,000 Americans have now died of COVID. More Americans have died from COVID than in the entirety of world War II… A popularly circulated chart lists four of the eight deadliest dates in U.S. history are as the result of COVID. While the chart is partially true—more Americans died than were killed at the Battle of Antietam, Pearl Harbor and 9/11, some notable dates (like Gettysburg) were omitted. But we’re on track to be surpassing many of these dates in the coming weeks.
It remains true that mass gatherings, indoor gathering, failure to social distance and failure to wear masks have made this more deadly than it need be.
COVID NEWS #2
The Pfizer vaccine has begun being administered. There will be a lot of people vaccinated in the coming weeks, particularly health care workers, people who work in hospitals, residents and workers in nursing homes, first responders and others. And increasingly the vaccine will be more broadly available.
We should stop for a minute and realize the magnitude of the accomplishments of scientists and physicians around the world. And while we’re at it, and for all the failures, lies, lack of leadership and misdirection coming out of Washington, “Operation Warp Speed” helped produce vaccines in record time. This is not to suggest that we have President Trump to thank—he didn’t “give” us the vaccine—but he did support the initiative.
This has been a remarkable undertaking and it will require yet another massive effort to distribute and administer the vaccines. We should stop an pause and acknowledge that we are capable of moonshot thinking.
ELECTORAL COLLEGE DAY
We should wish ourselves a Happy Electoral College Day. This, just on the heels of the last Trumpian Holiday—State Certification Day. With Mr. Trump and his minions, we are given repeated opportunities to celebrate, but not without the requisite amount of drama. This usually ministerial act, prosaic an arcane, has risen to national theatre this year. Through the efforts of liars and scoundrels without evidence, the President and his criminal conspiracy have put our democracy at great risk. Over 50 cases, 86 judges have ruled against the baseless claims of a “fixed” or “fraudulent” election, 36 of whom were appointed by Republican presidents and many of whom were appointed by Mr. Trump.
PROFILES IN COWARDICE
The second case brought by Mr. Trump and his attorneys was resolved late last week, with a 9-0 vote. Do not be misled by the fact that two Justices said the case could be brought—they also held there was no case for relief. The big story here was that 18 attorneys general (all Republicans) and 126 members of Congress (all Republicans) signed onto the ridiculous amicus brief supporting the fantastical claims of the President’s lawyers. As both Jake Tapper and Chuck Todd reminded us on Sunday, we should remember these names. These people are cowards. They put their careers ahead of what is right. They were willing to sign onto an attempt to deprive millions of Americans their duly cast votes. They were willing to name the candidate who was defeated in the election to the presidency, destroying any semblance of democracy. These are shameful individuals, who should be defeated at the polls, regardless of what voters feel about the policies they support. Character should matter.
I only wish those who continue to believe the absurd conspiracy theories read some of these opinions. Mr. Trump got his day in court multiple times, without success, while the judges in the cases have nearly uniformly excoriated his attorneys for the risk they brought to our democracy and the audacity of calling upon the courts to overturn the vote of the people.
BILL BARR LEAVES
The most partisan Attorney General in our history, a man who has carried Mr. Trump’s water for the past couple of years, has left his post. Whoopee. Before he did so, he misrepresented to the American people what the Mueller investigation’s report actually disclosed, he misinformed the people repeatedly, he bowed to Mr. Trump’s pressure on investigating political rivals, he terminated disloyal career public servants and made staying untenable to people with a moral compass. We are supposed to applaud the fact that he weakly stood up to say that there was no evidence of massive voter fraud—a statement of fact that any self-respecting person would have acknowledged quickly and definitively in a similar situation. But here we applaud Mr. Barr for courage because he stood up against the President and notably and surprisingly, against his own past performance. Are we to applaud him simply for doing the right thing, notwithstanding his prior behaviors? Ridiculous.
Mr. Barr is yet another example of what happens to anyone that enters Mr. Trump’s orbit. They are useful and loyal until the Supreme Leader deems them disloyal. And then they are enemies of the people and are either fired or forced to resign. By now, have we finally learned that no one escapes from Mr. Trump’s world unscathed?
THE LAST EXERCISE OF THE MAD KING
Our president is not done yet. His tweets have become more strident, not less, in his march toward marginalization. My favorite is the one word: “OVERTURN!” At this point, it no longer is about the vote, no longer about whether there was fraud (hey, Trump supporters, that’s not what the bulk of the cases were ever about). He is trying to win the game through every technical loophole he can find and attempt to exploit. It’s been incredible:
Suppressing the vote through intimidation
Encouraging states not to open sufficient polling sites and drop off sites
Not beginning the processing of absentee ballots until election day, to provide the appearance he was “leading” on election night
Multiple recounts that were going nowhere
Claims and lawsuits of fraud, without any evidence—repeatedly losing
Trying to interfere with state certifications by leaning on Republicans to overturn the certifications of the counties
Trying to have legislatures reverse the vote of the people
Trying to delay certifications
Trying to get the courts to delay or invalidate the state certifications
Now trying to get Congress not to accept the electoral count from swing states
January 6th, the joint session of the new Congress, should be a routine event. But the most partisan of the sycophants who support the president solely for personal political gamesmanship (not for any real sense of grievance, since we really all know the results) will try to manhandle their colleagues to rejection of electoral votes from “disputed” states. What the dispute is is a collection of cockamamie conspiracy theories and ridiculous “statistical” justifications.
It’s over. And it will be a shameful bit of political theatre to watch.
NATIONAL COVID RELIEF DAY
Years from now, our children will tell our grandchildren and great-grandchildren about the winter of 2020 and how humanity bound together to beat COVID. They will recount the courage of the front-line workers and the scientists. They will recall the nurses who received the first vaccinations. They will recall the scientists, the public health professionals, the physicians, and the pharmaceutical companies for what they have done.
And, as a postscript, perhaps in that very same conversation, they will recall the rantings of a president who by that time will have been universally rejected by history as among our very worst, how he showed little empathy for the sick and dying, how he tried to crowd out the historic tragedy of COVID and the subsequent scientific triumph with a narrative all about himself and his perceived grievances--putting his nation at peril.
Those who hear these stories may will laugh at this clown, this carnival barker, and wonder how we could have allowed the American presidency to be debased by his election. They will hear this tragic tale of how, because of this man's mendacity and indifference, more people died than should have. But they also will recall the bittersweet fairy tale ending to the story. In the end, the deaths of so many innocents contributed to the defeat of this man and, in so doing, they did not die in vain.