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The Washington Report: October 16, 2020 … “Mr. Rogers Vs. Crazy Uncle”
16 Oct 2020

The Washington Report: October 16, 2020 … “Mr. Rogers Vs. Crazy Uncle”

Mr. Rogers Vs. Crazy Uncle … Kabuki Theater … Russians, & Rudy Giuiliani & Misinformation & Trump … Covid Raging … Inside The Fall Of The CDC … Irony, It Had A Good Run … Dems Financial Dominance … Sexting, Who Cares? …  and other news of the week.
Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners
P.S. 18 Days Till Election Day.

Milwaukee’s Own Shepard Fairey

We in Wisconsin already know Milwaukee is a gem, but Shepard Fairey’s mural may very well transcend Milwaukee, putting us on the map right along with the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the National Portrait Gallery — prominent places that have already featured Mr. Fairey’s work.”
– Secretary of Wisconsin Tourism Sara Meaney
JS “A powerful, new mural by artist Shepard Fairey, who designed the “Hope” poster during Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, is complete in downtown Milwaukee. The three-story “Voting Rights Are Human Rights” mural is on the north side of the Colby Abbot Building at 759 N. Milwaukee St.  Wisconsin artists Tyanna Buie, Niki Johnson, Tom Jones and Claudio Martinez and Minnesota-based artist Dyani White Hawk collaborated with Fairey on the Milwaukee mural.”
In addition to being a mural of historical importance, this is Capstone’s Milwaukee office building. OK, it’s a BIG DEAL.
The mural’s central image of a Black man is based on a 1960s Civil Rights march photo by Steve Schapiro.  A headline that reads “They Turned Out to Vote in Wisconsin During a Health Crisis. Here’s Why” from an April 7, 2020, New York Times article is painted beside the man’s face in the mural.
HUGE SHOUTOUT to friend and building owner, Patti Keating-Kahn, for her vision and commitment to making this mural a reality.  And to Chuck Kahn, too. This year, through Covid, the devastating building fire and political bureaucracy, you persisted!
Local sponsors including the Black Box Fund provided funding for the supplies and equipment to create the mural, and Fairey donated his own time and paid his crew and the collaborating artists.”

One Year Anniversary

Politico “… of the last time President Trump spoke with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We’re living through the most difficult year in most of our lifetimes, and the president of the United States and the speaker of the House have not even had so much as a conversation in 2020.”

Dueling Town Halls: Mr. Rogers vs. Crazy Uncle

New Yorker “When Trump debated Biden, a couple weeks ago, Fox News’s Chris Wallace failed to stop Trump from going on the offensive, endlessly interrupting Biden and making a mockery of the debate rules. On Thursday, NBC offered Trump a chance to recoup in front of a national television audience. Instead, he chose to double down. … Trump was unrepentant about the pandemic, and even absurdly claimed that he had seen a study purporting to show that eighty-five per cent of those who wear masks get covid-19 anyway. In the debate, he had refused to denounce white supremacy. This time, he refused to denounce QAnon, even after Guthrie explained that the group falsely claims Democrats are “a satanic pedophile ring” engaged in an elaborate sex-trafficking conspiracy. “I don’t know about QAnon,” Trump responded, before saying that at least the group is strongly “against pedophilia,” which he is, too. The whole effect was more than a little unhinged, as captured in Trump’s most memorable exchange with the NBC anchor …
“Why, Guthrie asked the President, had he chosen to tweet out a wild conspiracy theory earlier this week, suggesting that President Obama had killed the Navy’s seal Team Six in order to cover up the fake death of Osama bin Laden?
When Trump responded that he was merely retweeting this insane and completely bogus story, so it was perfectly fine, Guthrie refused to accept his answer. She said, “I don’t get that. You’re the President! You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever!”

But, of course, that is exactly what Trump is, and his combative performance was no accident: it was just what the President wanted and, indeed, what he had planned for his encounter with “fake” NBC News, an insult that he tweeted hours before taking NBC’s stage. Trump, win or lose, will end the race as he began it, in a blaze of name-calling and narcissism.Trump might not even be entirely wrong in pursuing his theory of the case. He did not need a winsome personality to win the Presidency four years ago, a miracle that, for Trump, offers an all-purpose justification for whatever political folly he is currently engaging in. And the truth is that he does still have a chance of beating Biden, remote as it seems. On October 15, 2016, the Web site FiveThirtyEight gave Clinton an 85% chance of winning the election. On October 15, 2020, the same Web site gave Biden an 87% chance of winning. Both nationally and in a few battleground states, the polls are better today for Biden than they were for Clinton, but only marginally so.Still, somehow, this time feels different … After four years of Trump, many Americans are exhausted by it all, and particularly by the President’s relentless, polarizing, inescapable presence in their lives. They could use a little nice.

…After listening to Trump, the Biden show sounded soothing, and even a bit boring. Turning the channel to the former Vice-President exchanging civilized words with George Stephanopoulos and an auditorium full of earnest Pennsylvanians was like stumbling into a meditation room after being trapped at a barroom brawl.


AND THIS … Minutes into the two town halls the Trump campaign aide Mercedes Schlapp tweeted that Biden sounded like the late children’s-television host Mister Rogers, of zippered-cardigan fame. She clearly meant it as an insult. But who doesn’t like Mister Rogers?

To sum it up, @Pete Buttigieg “Just imagine turning on the TV, seeing your president, and feeling your blood pressure go down instead of up.”


Kabuki Theater*

Cato “Amy Coney Barrett is now sailing toward confirmation, but not because we learned anything about her during this week’s hearings. … Judge Barrett was charming and disarming — she did what she needed to do to get confirmed —but that showed this part of the process to be more kabuki theater than oral exam.

.. During her nearly 20 hours of testimony over two days, Barrett declined to share her legal views on abortion rights, health care, voting rights, immigration, presidential power and climate change, seeking to separate her academic writings from how she might rule if confirmed. In rebuffing Democrats, she left them exasperated.

“I’d be afraid to ask her about the presence of gravity on Earth,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said Thursday.

HISTORY OF HEARINGS “Public confirmation hearings have only been around for a century, starting with Louis Brandeis’s nomination in 1916, which was contentious because he was Jewish and a progressive crusader. But Brandeis didn’t testify at his own hearing — that was seen as unseemly. The first time a nominee took unrestricted questions in an open hearing was Felix Frankfurter in 1938. It simply wasn’t regular practice until the 1950s. At that point, the hearings became an opportunity for southern Democrats to rail against Brown v. Board of Education. Few senators other than the segregationists even asked the nominees questions.
Otherwise, hearings became perfunctory discussions of biography, as with Byron White in 1962, who was questioned for about 15 minutes, mostly about his football career. John Paul Stevens, the first nominee after Roe v. Wade, wasn’t even asked about that case. The focus in that post‐​Watergate time was on ethics.

Things changed in the 1980s, not coincidentally when the hearings began to be televised. Now all senators ask questions, especially about key controversies and fundamental issues, but nominees refuse to answer, creating what then‐professor Elena Kagan called a “vapid and hollow charade. But even with this conventional narrative, there has been a subtle shift; from Robert Bork in 1987 through Stephen Breyer in 1994, nominees went into some detail about doctrine.

Amy Coney Barrett emerged unscathed from her theatrical audition — but the experience does raise the question of whether we should continue this “hollow charade.”
WHAT’S NEXT WaPo “… Oct. 22 Judiciary Committee vote on her nomination, full Senate consideration of Barrett’s nomination on Oct. 23 and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confidently declared that his GOP majority, which he is at the risk of losing in next month’s elections, had enough support to confirm her.
THE POLITICAL DOCTRINE OF “BECAUSE WE CAN” Democrats also criticized the GOP for muscling through a nominee so close to the election when millions of Americans are voting, with the rancor over Republicans blocking President Barack Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland in 2016 still palpable. Republicans control 53 votes in the Senate, and two are expected to oppose Barrett — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — because they did not support holding a confirmation vote for a justice so close to Election Day.
 *Define “Kabuki Theater ” – sometimes used in political discourse to describe an event characterized more by showmanship than by content. (

Intelligence Agencies Warned Trump About Rudy

WaPost “U.S. intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence.  The warnings were based on multiple sources, including intercepted communications, that showed Giuliani was interacting with people tied to Russian intelligence during a December 2019 trip to Ukraine, where he was gathering information that he thought would expose corrupt acts by former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

“The intelligence raised concerns that Giuliani was being used to feed Russian misinformation to the president, the former officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information and conversations.”

Why it matters: The New York Post said the former New York mayor was the source of the material it published this week about Hunter Biden. And Giuliani was in the White House 19 days ago to prep Trump for the first presidential debate.”

Covid Raging

 7.9 MILLION Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus. … 217,700 Americans have died.
THE FALL SURGE — The coronavirus is engulfing big city hospitals in states including Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana that are running low on nurses and beds and are being forced to set up overflow facilities. With new daily U.S. cases surpassing 62,000 on Thursday, the prospect of swamped intensive care units is prompting some governors who previously resisted public health orders to weigh new restrictions to ease pressure on their health care systems. From the early days of the pandemic, the availability of ICU beds — and hospitals’ ability to treat people who need life-support equipment like ventilators to breathe — has been an important benchmark for whether local health systems can handle outbreaks. …

Inside the Fall Of the Center For Disease Control & Prevention

DEEP DIVE:  Propublica “How the world’s greatest public health organization was brought to its knees by a virus, the president and the capitulation of its own leaders, causing damage that could last much longer than the coronavirus.”

… When the next history of the CDC is written, 2020 will emerge as perhaps the darkest chapter in its 74 years, rivaled only by its involvement in the infamous Tuskegee experiment, in which federal doctors withheld medicine from poor Black men with syphilis, then tracked their descent into blindness, insanity and death. With more than 216,000 people dead this year, most Americans know the low points of the current chapter already. A vaunted agency that was once the global gold standard of public health has, with breathtaking speed, become a target of anger, scorn and even pity.

How could an agency that eradicated smallpox globally and wiped out polio in the United States have fallen so far?

Some of the key wounds were self-inflicted. Records obtained by ProPublica detail for the first time the cataclysmic chain of mistakes and disputes inside the CDC labs making the first U.S. test for COVID-19. … Even when the CDC was not to blame, the Trump administration exploited events to take control of the agency’s messaging. As a historically lethal pandemic raged, the White House turned the CDC into a political bludgeon to advance Trump’s agenda, alternately blocking the agency’s leaders from using their quarantine powers or forcing them to assert those powers over the objections of CDC scientists.

Once seen as an apolitical bulwark, the CDC endured meddling on multiple fronts by officials with little or no public health experience, from Trump’s daughter Ivanka to Stephen Miller, the architect of the president’s immigration crackdown. A shifting and mysterious cast of political aides and private contractors — what one scientist described as young protégés of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, “wearing blue suits with red ties and beards” — crowded into important meetings about key policy decisions. … It’s a long read, but so worthwhile. CLICK HERE TO READ FULL ARTICLE

REVEALED … AP  “The Trump White House installed two political operatives at the nation’s top public health agency to try to control the information it releases about the coronavirus pandemic as the administration seeks to paint a positive outlook, sometimes at odds with the scientific evidence. The two appointees assigned to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Atlanta headquarters in June have no public health background. They have instead been tasked with keeping an eye on Dr. Robert Redfield, the agency director, as well as scientists, according to a half-dozen CDC and administration officials who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal government affairs.”


Irony, It Had A Good Run

Pool note from @tamarakeithNPR covering the president today: “Note that the first event in Ft. Myers with the theme of keeping senior citizens safe will be a large indoor gathering.”

Dems Financial Dominance

Trump raised $247.8 million in September, with $251.4 million cash-on-hand.
Biden raised $383 million in September, with $432 million cash-on-hand.
Biden’s fundraising advantage comes as Democratic grassroots donors flood campaigns up-and-down the ballot with donations. ActBlue, the Democratic online payment processor, handled $1.5 billion in the quarter, including $758 million just in September. WinRed, its Republican counterpart, processed $623.5 million in the third quarter.
BONKERS “Maine GOP Sen. SUSAN COLLINS raised $8.3 million last quarter and has $6.6 million on hand after raising $25.2 million for the cycle. SARA GIDEON, her Democratic challenger, raised $39.4 million last quarter and has $22.7 million on hand after raising $63.6 million this cycle.

Despite A Sexting Scandal …

FiveThirtyEight “When the polls don’t change after a scandal happens, what do we make of it? That’s the question we’re asking after news broke on Friday, Oct. 2, that North Carolina Democratic Senate nominee Cal Cunningham had been sexting a woman who wasn’t his wife. This development seemingly presented an opening for embattled Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, who has trailed Cunningham in most polls in one of the most important Senate contests on the ballot this November.

But despite concentrated Republican attacks over Cunningham’s extramarital affair, there’s little evidence that the trajectory of the race has changed — at least so far. On Oct. 2, Cunningham had a 67 in 100 shot of winning; today, Cunningham has a 67 in 100 chance, according FiveThirtyEight’s Senate forecast.

In other words, he was a slight favorite to win before the scandal broke and remains so today.
WHO KNEW? FORECASTS NOW HAVE A “SCANDAL VARIABLE” — So while this downtick in public perception hasn’t hurt Cunningham’s horse-race numbers, we can’t rule out the possibility that it will have a negative effect once votes are counted. Our past research has found that new scandals in the middle of a campaign can be a drag on a candidate’s vote share, especially in more competitive races. That’s why our Senate forecast includes a scandal variable, and Cunningham’s chances of winning did fall slightly after we added his scandal to our model — but this hasn’t shown up in the polls, at least not yet.”

Senate Forecast

FiveThirtyEight “… currently gives Democrats a 73 in 100 chance of winning control of the Senate, and Cunningham’s fortunes in North Carolina are pivotal to that. If Democrats can capture GOP-held seats in Arizona and Colorado, where they have better odds, along with more competitive races in Maine and North Carolina, that would give them the bare minimum of 50 seats they need to have a shot at control (assuming they lose control of Alabama’s seat but retain Michigan’s). And as long as Joe Biden wins — no certainty, but he is favored — that would hand Sen. Kamala Harris the vice presidency and the Senate tiebreaker. On the whole, Cunningham’s odds haven’t budged because the polls haven’t shifted. Four pollsters have surveyed the race since the scandal broke had also polled in late August or September — none of them found that much of a change from their previous polls.

Desert A Sinking Ship?**

NYT “Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, castigated President Trump in a telephone town hall with constituents on Wednesday, accusing the president of bungling the response to the coronavirus pandemic, cozying up to dictators and white supremacists, and offending voters so broadly that he might cause a “Republican blood bath” in the Senate. In a dire, nine-minute indictment of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy and what Mr. Sasse called his “deficient” values, the senator said the president had mistreated women and alienated important allies around the globe, been a profligate spender, ignored human rights and treated the pandemic like a “P.R. crisis.” He predicted that a loss by Mr. Trump on Election Day, less than three weeks away, “looks likely,” and said that Republicans would face steep repercussions for having backed him so staunchly over four tumultuous years.”
** “Desert a sinking ship” is a metaphoric expression that alludes to rats, which leave a vessel when it founders in a storm or runs aground so as to escape drowning. Just sayin…

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