Trump battles trade and Covid effects, but stokes a bigger battle

It looks like Donald Trump has an uphill battle to retain the presidency. Contracting Covid has been an obvious setback, but trade tariffs imposed by Trump as well as his general behaviour had already made re-election difficult for him.

But militia style battles, encouraged by Trump, may pose major problems post-election.

FiveThirtyEight currently forecasts a 15 in 100 chance of Trump winning in Biden is favored to win the election – and this has dropped from 30% on 1 September, 24% on 15 September and 20% on 1 October just as he tested positive for Covid.

There does appear to be a Covid effect. Reuters: With pandemic dominating U.S. election, older voters turning away from Trump

Many older Americans have turned away from President Donald Trump this year as the coronavirus ravages the country, eroding an important Republican support base that helped propel him into the White House in 2016, Reuters/Ipsos polling data shows.

Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden now split American voters aged 55 years and older almost evenly: 47% say they are voting for Biden on Nov. 3 while 46% back Trump, according to Reuters/Ipsos national surveys in September and October.

Trump won the 55-plus age group by 13 percentage points in 2016, according to exit polls. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, achieved the same margin.

Biden is beating Trump among older voters in Wisconsin by 10 points and drawing about the same amount of support as Trump is with that demographic in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and Arizona, according to the state polls conducted in mid-September and early October.

Four years ago, Trump won older voters in each of those states by 10 to 29 points.

But before Covid Trump already had problems in some key states that helped him win the 2016 election.

Reuters: Trump steel tariffs bring job losses to swing state Michigan

President Donald Trump promised a new dawn for the struggling U.S. steel industry in 2016, and the lure of new jobs in Midwestern states including Michigan helped him eke out a surprise election win.

Trump’s strategy centered on shielding U.S. steel mills from foreign competition with a 25% tariff imposed in March 2018. He also promised to boost steel demand through major investments in roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

But higher steel prices resulting from the tariffs dented demand from the Michigan-based U.S. auto industry and other steel consumers. And the Trump administration has never followed through on an infrastructure plan.

Biden leads Trump in Michigan by 8 percentage points, according to a Reuters/Ipsos state opinion poll of likely voters conducted from Sept. 29 – Oct. 6, widening his lead from a few weeks earlier.

Nationally, the steel industry has been shedding jobs for the past year – since before the wider economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – and now employs 1,900 fewer workers than it did when Trump took office, according to U.S. Labor Department data. 

While the tariffs failed to boost overall steel employment, economists say they created higher costs for major steel consumers – killing jobs at companies including Detroit-based automakers General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co.

The tariffs had a profound impact on steel consumers, industry experts say. All three Detroit automakers – General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV – have closed a plant in Michigan since January 2018, according to Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research. Both General Motors and Ford reported $1 billion each in increased steel cost in 2018.

Nationally, steel and aluminum tariffs resulted in at least 75,000 job losses in metal-using industries by the end of last year, according to an analysis by Lydia Cox, a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Harvard University, and Kadee Russ, an economics professor at the University of California, Davis.

In all, they estimated, the trade war had caused a net loss of 175,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs by mid-2019.

Trump made similar 2016 campaign promises to revive the ailing coal industry by rolling back environmental regulations. But that industry’s employment has dropped 9% since 2016, to about 46,000, as 66 coal plants – nearly a fifth of the U.S. total – have closed. The economic losses come despite the administration’s moves to ease restrictions including limits on carbon emissions and dumping coal waste into streams.

One (loose) group of voters does seem to support Trump.

FiveThirtyEight: How Trump And COVID-19 Have Reshaped The Modern Militia Movement

While established militias are kind of like a heavily armed scout troop — formal organizations with ranks and membership dues and training programs and regular meetings — some academics argue that many people who are falling into the militia movement’s orbit these days are more like loosely affiliated individuals.

So a crowd like the one that showed up in Kenosha can be made up of individuals, even strangers, with little connecting them except a shared interest in gun rights and a sense that they’re the only ones who can protect their community. And in these trying times — amid a pandemic and protests against racial injustice, plus a president who is giving them more public support than they’ve ever had from the national political establishment — those individuals are taking a collective turn in a direction that, experts fear, is likely to result in more violence.

The rise of President Trump, and the tumultuous events of 2020, have made it even more difficult to untangle what militias are doing and what their individual adherents believe. From the beginning of his candidacy, Trump’s rhetoric — his attacks on the “deep state” or the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant insults that peppered his tweets and speeches — have resonated with and garnered public responses from people within the militia movement.

When Trump tweeted about an impending civil war or warned about threats from the left, it brought extremist theories and conversations into the national conversation. 

The pandemic — and the racial injustice protests that have roiled cities throughout the summer — appear to have brought even more people into the militia movement’s orbit. Suddenly, people were at home all day, feeling anxious and fearful about the future and spending a lot more time online. Many in the militia movement chafed at state lockdown orders, and started appearing, heavily armed, at state capitols across the country to protest what they saw as an assault on their individual freedoms. 

Fear and anxiety are predictors of people — particularly young people — turning towards extremism and violence, said Miller-Idriss. In that context, the conditions of the pandemic are a perfect culture for radicalism to grow. “We know from the research that unemployment itself does not lead to greater risk of engaging in extremist behaviors but economic precarity does,” she said. For the last six months, the entire country has lived on the edge of economic and social precarity. What if our institutions crumble? What if we can’t get our normal lives back? Extremist ideologies can offer meaning, purpose and a narrative of control when everything feels out of it.

The president’s rhetoric has fed into that, experts say. By the time he was elected, Trump was a hero to many in the militia movement. “Donald Trump has succeeded in being at once the head of government and the head of anti-government,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a remarkable thing, actually.”

With Trump saying both implicitly and explicitly that militias or even just armed individuals are the only thing standing between America and the chaos of a leftist takeover of the country, the promise of control becomes even stronger. It becomes a call to arms — one that more young Americans, sitting at home without school or even work, may try to answer.

This is a real problem for the US.

Inquirer (1 September): Trump’s promotion of armed militias risks stoking civil war

Claiming to be the law-and-order president, Trump is stoking racial tensions rather than seeking to calm them. He is encouraging armed supporters who show up in racially troubled towns and cities with their rifles at the ready.

He cheered on a pro-Trump caravan of trucks that drove into downtown Portland, Ore., Saturday as “GREAT PATRIOTS,” even though video showed them hurling paintballs and pepper spray and driving into protesters, leaving one dead from an unsolved shooting.

The Atlantic: A Pro-Trump Militant Group Has Recruited Thousands of Police, Soldiers, and Veterans

Stewart Rhodes was living his vision of the future. On television, American cities were burning, while on the internet, rumors warned that antifa bands were coming to terrorize the suburbs. Rhodes was driving around South Texas, getting ready for them. He answered his phone. “Let’s not fuck around,” he said. “We’ve descended into civil war.”

…Rhodes had been talking about civil war since he founded the Oath Keepers, in 2009. But now more people were listening. And whereas Rhodes had once cast himself as a revolutionary in waiting, he now saw his role as defending the president. He had put out a call for his followers to protect the country against what he was calling an “insurrection.” The unrest, he told me, was the latest attempt to undermine Donald Trump.

In Trump, the Patriot movement believed it had an ally in the White House for the first time. In 2016, when Trump had warned of election fraud, Rhodes put out a call for members to quietly monitor polling stations.

When Trump warned of an invasion by undocumented immigrants, Rhodes traveled to the southern border with an Oath Keepers patrol. He sent members to “protect” Trump supporters from the protesters at his rallies and appeared in the VIP section at one of them, standing in the front row in a black Oath Keepers shirt.

When Trump warned of the potential for civil war at the start of the impeachment inquiry last fall, Rhodes voiced his assent on Twitter. “This is the truth,” he wrote. “This is where we are.”

The race riots have happened since then.

As Rhodes told the people in the crowd to be ready for war, I sized them up. Some looked hardened, but many more did not. One man rested a hand on a cane. When Rhodes asked what their concerns were, several said they feared that rioters would show up in their neighborhoods.

His comments became more inflammatory as he began to warn about antifa and protesters. “They are insurrectionists, and we have to suppress that insurrection,” he said. “Eventually they’re going to be using IEDs.”

“Us old vets and younger ones are going to end up having to kill these young kids,” he concluded. “And they’re going to die believing they were fighting Nazis.”

It could start with a protest gone wrong, he said, or shots from a provocateur. Someone mentioned a young mother in Indiana who’d been shot and killed after reportedly shouting “All lives matter” during an argument with strangers.

“We talk about being attacked,” another man said. “Now, I have a question. What if you’re attacked in subtle and consistent ways over a period of time?”

This was a different kind of crowd than Rhodes had drawn to the VFW hall. Many were in their 20s and 30s and had come in uniforms—some Three Percenters wore black T‑shirts and camouflage pants, and members of another group stood together in matching woodland fatigues. From the latter, a man climbed onto the flatbed and introduced himself as Joe Klemm, the leader of a new militia called the Ridge Runners.

He was a 29-year-old former marine and spoke with a boom that brought the crowd to attention. “I’ve seen this coming since I was in the military,” he said. “For far too long, we’ve given a little bit here and there in the interest of peace. But I will tell you that peace is not that sweet. Life is not that dear. I’d rather die than not live free.”

“Hoo-ah,” some people cheered.

“It’s going to change in November,” Klemm continued. “I follow the Constitution. We demand that the rest of you do the same. We demand that our police officers do the same. We’re going to make these people fear us again. We should have been shooting a long time ago instead of standing off to the side.”

“Are you willing to lose your lives?” he asked. “Are you willing to lose the lives of your loved ones—maybe see one of your loved ones ripped apart right next to you?”

Guardian: ‘Our worst nightmare’: will militias heed Trump’s call to watch the polls?

In the final minutes of last week’s televised presidential debate, a few days before he tested positive for Covid-19, Donald Trump was asked by the moderator, Chris Wallace, whether he would call on his supporters to stay calm and desist from civil unrest in the immediate aftermath of next month’s election.

Trump pointedly declined the invitation. Instead, he replied: “I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen. I’m urging them to do it.”

For those who monitor the activities of far-right militia groups and white-supremacist paramilitaries, Trump’s remarks were as welcome as jet fuel being used to quell a wildfire.

“The militias will absolutely seize on [Trump’s comments],” said Steven Gardiner, who tracks militias at the progressive thinktank Political Research Associates. “The possibility of armed factions with military-style rifles showing up at polling places is very troubling.”

FBI background checks – a direct indicator of gun sales – almost doubled year-on-year this summer, a reflection of the jitters that abound. As America arms itself, deadly weaponry is increasingly finding its way on to the streets, borne by self-styled private militias and culminating in violent clashes that have caused bloodshed in several US cities.

With the most ferociously-contested presidential election in modern times now less than a month away, there are signs that heavily-armed militia groups, many of them finely attuned to Trump’s every whim, are setting their sights on the ballot.

Burghart’s research group has been tracking the escalation of militia activity especially in key swing states. In Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in particular, groups have been detected discussing what they call “voter integrity” efforts on polling day.

“We anticipate that after Trump’s call to arms at last week’s debate we’ll see a lot more activity from here,” Burghart said.

In Montana, a popular base for libertarians and militia members, there are similar signs of militia groups assiduously retweeting Trump’s falsehoods about mail-in voting fraud, circulating the lies widely among themselves.

Burghart’s research group has been tracking the escalation of militia activity especially in key swing states. In Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in particular, groups have been detected discussing what they call “voter integrity” efforts on polling day.

“We anticipate that after Trump’s call to arms at last week’s debate we’ll see a lot more activity from here,” Burghart said.

In Montana, a popular base for libertarians and militia members, there are similar signs of militia groups assiduously retweeting Trump’s falsehoods about mail-in voting fraud, circulating the lies widely among themselves.

It’s not just the rightwing paramilitaries that pose a mounting danger. Anti-fascist and radical left groups have shown a growing recourse to guns too, as was seen with the shooting by a self-styled anti-fascist activist, later himself killed by police, of a member of the pro-Trump group Patriot Prayer in Portland last month.

The arming of African American and anti-fascist factions has contributed to the volatility of the times. But the overwhelming bulk of militia activity falls firmly on the other side of the country’s widening racial divide – with the overwhelmingly white far-right.

It’s a daunting task, made none the easier by Trump. “When he talks about ‘poll watching’ and fraud, and refuses to urge his followers not to engage in civil unrest, that’s a thinly-veiled dog-whistle for armed groups to coalesce.”

It isn’t just an election at stake in the US. It isn’t just democracy at stake.

And the risks are real. Reuters: F.B.I. Says Michigan Anti-Government Group Plotted to Kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Authorities charged 13 men, some of whom were accused of plotting to storm the State Capitol building and planning to start a civil war.

Storming the State Capitol. Instigating a civil war. Abducting a sitting governor ahead of the presidential election.

Those were among the plots described by federal and state officials in Michigan on Thursday as they announced terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges against 13 men. At least six of them, officials said, had hatched a detailed plan to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who has become a focal point of anti-government views and anger over coronavirus control measures.

The men spied on Ms. Whitmer’s vacation home in August and September, even looking under a highway bridge for places they could place and detonate a bomb to distract the authorities, the F.B.I. said. They indicated that they wanted to take Ms. Whitmer hostage before the election in November, and one man said they should take her to a “secure location” in Wisconsin for a “trial,” Richard J. Trask II, an F.B.I. special agent, said in the criminal complaint.

That’s quite alarming. Sadly, predictably, the stoker-in-chief continues fomenting devision.

And:

It could become a very ugly election, and it could also get a lot worse, especially if Trump loses the election.

Trump has learned nothing useful from his Covid experience

Donald Trump claimed he had learned from experiencing being hospitalised with the Covid virus, but he doesn’t seem to have learned anything useful. To the contrary. He has set bad examples for dealing with Covid infections.

The normal practice for people with Covid is to isolate or quarantine them to avoid spreading the virus, which has proven to be very contagious. But Trump doesn’t do normal practice.

When leaving hospital Trump touched railings as he descended steps. I presume someone had to follow him disinfecting everything.

When Trump returned to the White House he symbolically removed his mask before going inside. There have already been a number of cases amongst White House staff, but Trump doesn’t seem to care about anyone else, it is all about his own ego.

Trump portrayed his dealing with Covid as some sort of sign of great leadership, as has his campaign, and also media fans – see Sean Hannity Compares Trump’s COVID Response to FDR and Churchill

Hannity asked if people wanted “a leader who’s willing to fight every minute of every day, for the country” or a “shadow of a man who hides in his basement bunker.”

Talking about the nation being “land of the free and home of the brave,” he went on to share famous words from FDR and Churchill.

Trump suggested he was an “invincible hero”:

And Trump continues to seriously downplay the seriousness of Covid, to the extent that Twitter slapped a warning on a tweet:

Presidents don’t usually get hospitalised and treated with steroids and experimental drugs for the flu.

Hundreds of Americans are still dying a die from Covid, with the total death toll 215,000. Many survivors have severe complications.

And Trump seems to be wrong about flu deaths: Trump compares COVID-19 to flu in tweet, Twitter raises red flag

On Monday, Trump told Americans “to get out there” and not fear COVID-19 as he returned to the White House after a three-night hospital stay to be treated for the new coronavirus and removed his white surgical mask to pose for pictures.

During the 2019-2020 influenza season, the flu was associated with 22,000 deaths, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. (bit.ly/30ByG1m)

So Trump seems to be as misleading as ever – and continues to dangerously set a bad example.

He is also taking a huge campaign risk. His treatment may have got him through his Covid infection remarkably fast, but there’s a real possibility he isn’t over it yet and he could have further problems.

Reuters: Trump steroid treatment for COVID-19 raises potential side effect risk

U.S. President Donald Trump is being treated for COVID-19 with a steroid that is recommended for severe cases of the illness and that comes with risks of serious side effects, including mood swings, aggression and confusion.

As a number of people have pointed out, that sounds like Trump before taking steroids.

The Infectious Disease Society of America says dexamethasone is beneficial to people with critical or severe COVID-19 who require extra oxygen. But studies show the drug may be harmful in people with milder COVID-19 because it can suppress their natural immune response.

In addition, side effects can include physical problems such as blurred vision and irregular heartbeat, as well as personality changes and difficulty thinking, according to the International Myeloma Foundation.

That’s just possible side effects of one drug Trump is still taking intravenously at the White House.

If it turns out that Trump is not free of Covid and it causes further problems his bravado will look like stupidity. And potentially dangerous.

FiveThirtyEight: Trump Is Giving Dangerous Advice. Being Afraid Of COVID-19 Has Helped Us Control COVID-19.

…the best evidence we have suggests that these simple actions work. A June study published in Nature estimated as many as 60 million COVID-19 infections were avoided thanks to social distancing and lockdown efforts. And disease modelling projects that tens of thousands of lives could be spared with widespread adoption of social distancing and mask-wearing.

The president’s message not to be afraid of the virus is dangerous if it encourages Americans to reject the things they do because they’re afraid of the virus. And that has implications for all of us. Think of the grocery store worker who has to stock shelves while dozens of strangers brush past them, or the nurse who has to come in close proximity with patients daily, many of whom may have active COVID-19 infections. Without the fear of what this disease can do to you, there’s little motivation to protect them.

It’s easier to feel secure when you’re the president of the United States, of course. But that’s not a reality the rest of us live day to day. In our reality, fear is rational, and it’s what pushes us to act. By telling us there’s nothing to fear, Trump is both ignoring the experience of millions of Americans, and giving further fuel to those whose response to fear is denial. Fear on its own isn’t useful. But neither is a dismissal of reality.

New York Times: ‘Don’t Be Afraid of Covid,’ Trump Says, Undermining Public Health Messages

Public health experts had hoped that President Trump, chastened by his own infection with the coronavirus and the cases that have erupted among his staff, would act decisively to persuade his supporters that wearing masks and social distancing were essential to protecting themselves and their loved ones.

“Don’t be afraid of Covid,” he wrote. “Don’t let it dominate your life.”

Scientists, ethicists and doctors were outraged by the president’s comments about a disease that has killed nearly 210,000 people in the United States.

“I am struggling for words — this is crazy,” said Harald Schmidt, assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. “It is just utterly irresponsible.”

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical School, called the president’s message “dangerous” because it encouraged his followers to ignore basic recommendations to keep themselves safe.

“It will lead to more casual behavior, which will lead to more transmission of the virus, which will lead to more illness, and more illness will lead to more deaths,” Dr. Schaffner said.

This is fairly obvious stuff.

It is also obvious that trump doesn’t really care about the health of Americans. All he cares about is his own ego, being seen as a hero, and winning the election.

Covid would have been much worse if drastic action wasn’t taken to limit the spread of the virus. If could still be much worse if too many people follow Trumps example and advice.

Trump speaks about coronavirus amid outbreak: cartoons

Trump and White House Covid crisis

After months of playing down the severity and risks of Covid the virus has hit home to Trump (or at least should have), after he, his wife and a number of close aides testing positive over the last few days.

The latest positives are Trump’s ‘body man’ (who accompanies the president day and night) assistant Nicholas Luna and White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany.

Reuters Factbox: White House staff, top Republicans who have tested positive for COVID-19

It is not being disclosed how many White House staff have tested positive, and information about the severity of Trump’s condition is being deliberate withheld, with a number of contradictory reports confusing the situation.

Reuters: Severity of Trump’s illness unclear four weeks ahead of election

President Donald Trump on Monday began a fourth day of treatment for COVID-19 at a military hospital outside Washington, with the severity of his illness unclear barely four weeks before Americans go to the polls to decide whether to reelect him.

Doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, are treating Trump, 74, with a steroid, dexmethasone, that is normally used only in the most severe cases. Trump was running a high fever on Friday and had been given supplemental oxygen after his blood oxygen levels dropped, Dr. Sean P. Conley, the White House physician, said on Sunday.

But the Republican president’s medical team, which has painted a rosy picture of his condition, will weigh whether he can leave the hospital later on Monday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Fox News, adding that he was optimistic Trump would be discharged.

Even if discharged, Trump will need to continue treatment as he is still undergoing a five-day course of an intravenous antiviral drug, remdesivir. The normal quarantine period for anyone testing positive for the novel coronavirus is 14 days.

Trump put his ego head of his security staff by going on a drive by to have fans wave and cheer. This will have also made things difficult for staff caring for Trump.

The treatment regime being given to Trump suggests his condition is not minor. It has been suggested Trump may be discharged from hospital on Monday (US time), but that would really just be transferring to near hospital conditions at the White House, with intravenous treatment continuing.

This has impacted on Trump’s campaign, that can’t be avoided. While he might attract some sympathy votes he also risks losing support with a significant show of vulnerability and stupidity in how he has dealt with Covid.

FiveThirtyEight: Will Trump’s Diagnosis Change the Way Republicans Think About COVID-19?

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll, for instance, they found that 67 percent of registered voters agreed that if Trump had taken the coronavirus more seriously, he probably wouldn’t have been infected, including about 9 in 10 Democrats and half of all Republicans.

Meanwhile, a Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that 52 percent of registered voters didn’t trust Trump to give accurate info about his health and his COVID-19 treatment.

And Politico/Morning Consult found that 56 percent of Americans did not trust Trump to give accurate updates on his health.

The severity of Trump’s illness may not be clear for another week or two Covid has a reputation for lingering and getting worse with people badly afflicted. Trump will be receiving the best medical care he wants to get, but that may or not work well for him.

RealClear Politics: One Month Out, Battered Trump Campaign Faces Big Challenges

President Donald Trump’s long-hidden tax returns leaked out. His first debate performance ignited a firestorm over white supremacy. He was hospitalized for COVID-19 after months of playing down the threat of a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans.

Trump’s reelection team, battered on all sides, now enters the final month of the campaign grappling with deficits in the polls, a shortage of cash and a candidate who is at least temporarily sidelined.

The crises, many of Trump’s own making, have come so quickly that they are hard to keep straight.

Recordings revealed that he acknowledged minimizing the dangers of the coronavirus earlier this year. A blockbuster story raised questions over whether he privately belittled members of the military. And even the first lady was captured on tape expressing disdain for having to decorate the White House for Christmas.

The president’s team is launching what it calls “Operation MAGA” to propel his campaign forward, even as he was being treated Sunday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Although Trump’s medical team raised the possibility that he could be released as early as Monday, significant questions remained about the president’s health and schedule.

The challenges facing the reelection team are enormous.

Both heads of Trump’s political apparatus — campaign manager Bill Stepien and Republican National Committee head Ronna McDaniel — tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Also infected: several outside advisers who had been involved in the president’s debate preparations last week, including former White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Deputy campaign manager Justin Clark is temporarily overseeing the campaign’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Stepien organized a late Saturday staff call to project an optimistic tone, even as he acknowledged the loss of the campaign’s “best asset,” the president.

Trying to portray positives is an obviously difficult situation risks looking like the knight in the Holy Grail movie.

Vice President Mike Pence outlined plans to launch a new effort to ramp up campaign appearances by Trump lieutenants who haven’t been infected. Pence himself will star in the new effort, in addition to Trump’s children. Pence promised that he and the first family would begin fanning out across the country aggressively in person after Wednesday’s vice presidential debate.

“We’ve got a campaign to run,” Pence said. “I promise you, this president, as soon as his doctors say so, he’s going to be back out there.”

The standard quarantine period for someone with Covid is 14 days, providing they get over it quickly. There may be a negative reaction oif the normal rules are not applied to trump and his campaign staff.

The president’s hospitalization also underscores what has long been the Trump campaign’s greatest challenge: its inability to shift the national discourse away from the virus. For months, even as the campaign has tried to frame the election as a choice between Trump and Biden, the race has been perceived largely as a referendum on the president’s handling of the pandemic.

And Trump’s tone on the virus has changed little despite his illness. In a video released late Saturday from the hospital, he expressed no contrition for his handling of the virus and still spoke of quickly moving beyond the pandemic.

The rush to campaign again is as risky as being a threat to Trump’s health and even his life – and the health of others. Biden has been a lot more sensible about Covid than Trump and won’t want to put himself at risk, so further debates may not happen – or if they do happen with Trump in some sort of obvious isolation it will be difficult for Trump to avoid his handling of Covid.

Trump is a chaos candidate at the best of times, but it is an abnormally chaotic year in the US. Anything could happen – not only is political power at risk, health and even lives are at risk, and Trump is currently the centre of attention on that right now. It won’t help that an increasing number of his key staff are testing positive and having to isolate as well.

Twitter is again getting a workout from Trump, but that has largely lost it’s novelty and shock value. It’s going to be a tough month for him.

Elsewhere in the world Covid is far from over. One in 10 may have caught COVID, as world heads into ‘difficult period’: WHO

Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergency expert, was addressing the agency’s Executive Board, where the United States made a thinly veiled swipe at China for what it called a “failure” to provide accurate and timely information on the outbreak.

Ryan said that outbreaks were surging in parts of southeast Asia and that cases and deaths were on the rise in parts of Europe and the eastern Mediterranean region.

White House Covid cluster

The growing White House Covid cluster could turn out to be a clusterfuck. Lax attitudes to Covid and lax protective measures may have contributed to a dangerous situation.

It appears that Covid may have been spreading amongst those associated with Trump for days before a positive test of close aide Hope Hicks raised the alarm – but not enough alarm to stop Trump travelling to and attending a fund raising event before his positive test result was made public.

The White House Covid cluster includes:

  • Donald Trump
  • Melania Trump
  • Hope Hicks (senior White House adviser who close aide too Trump)
  • Kelly Anne Conway (former adviser and current associate)
  • Bill Stepien (Trump campaign manager)
  • Chris Christie (ex N.J. Governor who helped Trump prepare for the debate on Tuesday)
  • Ronna McDaniel (Republican National Committee Chair)
  • Mike Lee (Senator R-Utah)
  • Thom Tillis (Senator R-N.C.)
  • Ron Johnson (Senator R-Wis.)

I’m sure there will be a lot of testing going on and more positive tests may come out of the cluster.

Trump is currently being treated in hospital. There are differing reports of his condition. He is in a high risk group due to his age and weight and presumed lack of physical activity.

There is also uncertainty about when Trump tested positive.

CBS News: Trump tweets he is “feeling well”; Source says his vitals were “very concerning”

It’s the most serious health crisis a president has faced since President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981. 

Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s physician, told reporters on Saturday that Mr. Trump was not on oxygen. However, he sidestepped questions about whether the president had received oxygen treatment at the White House on Friday. 

Conley said Mr. Trump is “just 72 hours into the diagnosis now,” creating confusion about when the president found out he had COVID-19. He made the announcement about his positive test result early Friday morning, after appearing at a fundraiser at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey, hours earlier.

72 hours before Saturday is about Wednesday.

Reuters – Trump’s COVID-19 symptoms ‘very concerning’, next 48 hours critical: source

President Donald Trump is not yet on a clear path to recovery from COVID-19 and some of his vital signs over the last 24 hours were very concerning, a person familiar with his health said on Saturday.

The source’s assessment of the Republican president’s medical status seemed to be at odds to that of a team of doctors who said at a press conference earlier on Saturday that he was “doing very well.”

The source, who asked not to be identified, said the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of Trump’s care.

Trump left the White House and was moved to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington on Friday just hours after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Trump just getting Covid is concerning. The health of the president is a big deal. It’s hard to read how much the hospitalisation was precautionary and how much necessitated by Trump’s condition.

White House doctor Sean P. Conley told reporters outside the hospital on Saturday that Trump had not experienced difficulty breathing, and currently was not on supplemental oxygen.

“The team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made,” Conley said.

Conley said Trump had received a first dose of a five-day course of Remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral drug sold by Gilead Sciences Inc that has been shown to shorten hospital stays. He is also taking an experimental treatment, Regeneron’s REGN-COV2, one of several experimental COVID-19 drugs known as monoclonal antibodies, as well as zinc, Vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and aspirin, Conley has said.

That seems like a lot of drugs. They must be being administered based on top current medical advice, but there must be some risk from the experimental nature of the treatment.

So how did this Covid outbreak occur? Obviously many people associated with Trump travelling and mingling at campaign events raised the risks, as did a lax attitude to basic protective measures like wearing of masks.

Trump repeated mocking of Joe Biden for frequently wearing a mask at the Tuesday debate. Trump’s campaign is now in jeopardy while Biden can continue his cautious campaign (his campaign has sensibly withdrawn negative advertisements targeting of Trump).

There is some uncertainty about Trump’s condition and also when he tested positive.

Reuters: Relying on testing to ward off COVID put Trump White House at risk

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. President Donald Trump put his faith in a toaster-sized machine that could spit out test results in a matter of minutes.

In late March, Trump hailed the launch of Abbott Laboratories’ ID NOW test at a Rose Garden event and embraced its widespread use at the White House to keep the deadly virus at bay. The president often skipped his own administration’s public health recommendations on mask wearing and social distancing, explaining that “everyone’s tested” around him using the Abbott device.

His strategy was no match for the virus.

Obviously everyone around him being tested was not enough as it didn’t prevent the current outbreak, it just confirmed the virus was spreading in Trump’s entourage.

“The reliance on a rapid test, with its limitations, unfortunately gave the White House and its staff a false sense of security that they were in control of the virus,” said William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“You cannot rely on that test to create a barrier between you and the virus,” he said, adding that people “have to wear masks, do social distancing and not go to all these rallies.”

While rapid tests can help contain the spread of a highly contagious virus, they were not designed to be used in isolation. A negative result merely captures a snapshot in time and doesn’t guard against infection soon after. And a person may be infectious for days before the amount of virus in their body registers positive on a test.

That’s all well known. We have been told about it often enough here in new Zealand over the last eight months. Human behaviour contrary to safe practices has been our biggest (but relatively small) problem.

Lax behaviour is likely to have contributed to this outbreak.

Trump and his staff regularly do not wear masks. Last month, Trump publicly disagreed with Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who testified to Congress about the importance of the face coverings.

And at Tuesday’s presidential debate, Trump disparaged his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, for his frequent mask use. “I don’t wear masks like him – every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” the president said.

Now, the fallout from the White House’s focus on testing as a precaution could extend far beyond the president and his wife, experts say.

The fallout includes obvious serious health risks for Trump and those who have been associating with him.

Trump’s campaign has also been severely disrupted. If Trump recovers quickly enough and resumes his campaigning that is likely to be much more cautious regarding Covid, and Trump’s attitude to Covid could be (should be) quite different.

While most people survive Covid Trump is in a higher risk group, so his health, his life and the presidency are at risk. His ability to govern the country has already been impacted.

There have been a number of articles along the lines of What happens if a presidential candidate dies

Aside from his risk factors the odds are that Trump will survive.

To date there have been about seven and a half million recorded cases of Covid, and currently 213,841 deaths, which is a 2.8% death rate.

There are currently 2,566,780 active cases in the US, with 14,177 of those classified as serious or critical, which is just 0.55%.

There is a seven day rolling average of 42,646 new cases per day in the US, with a seven day average of 726 deaths, which is 1.7%.

So the Trump and White House cases are comparatively small, and the risk of serious illness or death also small.

But even if Trump recovers quickly from being infected with Covid should be a reality check for him. It should also dent his cavalier attitude to the virus.

There are reports that suddenly White House staff seem to be wearing masks. The reality of Covid will have hit home to many people.

More on Trump with Covid, senator also tests positive

Donald Trump is experiencing ‘mild symptoms’ after testing positive for Covid. He will continue to work at this stage, but he and his staff will separate themselves from vice president Mike Pence and his staff – Pence will take over presidential duties if Trump becomes incapacitated.

Trump has been acting as if Covid is virtually over and not a risk. here’s a Twitter timeline:

That was a fund raising dinner after he knew his close aide Hope Hicks had tested positive.

Senator Mike Lee has also tested positive to Covid. Three days earlier he had met with the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Lee says he will isolate for ten days but will be back at work in time to deal with the Supreme Court nomination.

The US sharemarket started down on Friday but has recovered.

RNZ: Pence negative, Trump has mild Covid symptoms – White House

US President Donald Trump has mild symptoms of Covid-19 after he and his wife, Melania, tested positive for the coronavirus, the White House says.

Vice President Mike Pence, next in line for the Oval Office, has tested negative for Covid-19, hours after Trump announced that he was infected, Pence’s spokesperson said.

Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said the president was “on the job” and “in good spirits”, adding that he expected him to make a quick recovery.

Officials said the process of tracking all the president’s contacts in recent days was ongoing, adding that Trump was considering how he might address the nation or otherwise communicate with the American people later today.

Contact tracing will be a big job.

Yesterday, the first couple said they intended to self-isolate after one of Trump’s closest aides, Hope Hicks, tested positive. Soon afterwards, they too received positive test results.

But there has been criticism of Trump’s decision to go to a fundraiser attended by dozens of people in New Jersey on Thursday, apparently when officials already knew about Hicks’s symptoms.

Testing positive will impact on Trump’s ability to campaign, and should also impact on his attitude to Covid and the current state of the virus in the US, but that’s not a given with Trump.

I presume this will rule out at least one of the presidential debates.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is next in line of succession after Pence. She said on Friday that she had been tested for Covid-19 and should know her results soon.

In response to Trump’s positive diagnosis, she said: “This is tragic. It’s very sad. … Going into crowds unmasked and all the rest was sort of a brazen invitation for something like this to happen.”

Before the positive test announcements:

After the announcements:

Biden praying for Trump is an odd image.

A burn from within the family:

The president’s niece, Mary Trump, who wrote a scathing book about her uncle, had this message: “I reserve my sympathy, empathy, and despair for those who are sick and for those who have died because they were misled, lied to, or ignored.”

CNN: GOP senator on Judiciary panel tests positive for Covid-19 days after meeting with Trump’s nominee

Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, announced Friday he tested positive for Covid-19, just days after meeting in person with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Tuesday.

Barrett tested negative for coronavirus on Friday, according to White House spokesperson Judd Deere.

Lee, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted on Friday that he took the test Thursday, and would “remain isolated” for 10 days. He said he has “assured” Senate Republican leaders that he will “be back to work” to join the Judiciary panel to advance Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Ten days is a short isolation time for someone with Covid, and presumes that he will recover and test negative quickly. Most people with Covid only suffer from mild symptoms, but some are unlucky and suffer from severe and extended problames, and over 213,000 in the US have been very unlucky.

Covid continues to cause major disruptions. There are currently over 300,000 recorded new cases a day around the world , with over a million recorded deaths in total.

Donald aand Melania Trump test positive for Covid

News earlier today – a close aid of President Donald Trump, Hope Hicks, had tested positive for Covid, having travelled with Trump to the debate and to rallies this week.

Trump has just announced that he and Melania have also tested positive and will go into quarantine.

Trump will no doubt have the best health care possible, but he will be concerned as he is in a higher risk age group.

And this will curtail his campaigning that had been progressing despite Covid.

It will also dent his claims that the US is dealing well with Covid.

The first Trump versus Biden debate

The first debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden gets under way soon. It is being run by Chris Wallace on Fox News and will be broadcast and live streamed all over the place.

How to watch the first presidential debate moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace

What topics will be covered?

According to the Commission on Presidential Debates Wallace selected the following topics for the first debate:

  • The Trump and Biden Records”
  • The Supreme Court
  • Covid-19
  • The Economy”
  • Race and Violence in our Cities”
  • The Integrity of the Election”

What is the format of the debate?

The candidates will not have opening statements, and Trump will receive the first question from the moderator. Each segment will last about 15 minutes, and the candidates will have two minutes to respond after the moderator opens each segment with a question. Wallace will then use the rest of the time in the segment to facilitate further discussion on the topic, according to the commission.

Where is the debate taking place?

The debate is taking place at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland.

The games started long ago, and are continuing up until the debate.

Biden campaign rejects Trump’s call for inspector to check for listening devices

Biden campaign to fact-check Trump with new Twitter account during debate

Trump misled public about Covid, blamed China, now Woodward

Donald Trump has been exposed yet again for misleading the public, this time about the severity of Covid. He blamed China for doing what he did (blame diversion is typical of Trump), and now he is trying to blame Bob Woodward for not revealing his misinformation sooner.

Back in April Trump warns of consequences ‘if China responsible’

US President Donald Trump has warned China that it should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the coronavirus pandemic, as he ratcheted up criticism of Beijing over its handling of the outbreak.

“It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn’t, and the whole world is suffering because of it,” Trump told a daily White House briefing.

It could have been far less worse in the US if Trump had been transparent and honest about the severity of Covid, and had acted faster and more decisively. Instead he fostered a culture of Covid denial in the US, and this affected how many states dealt with the virus – inadequately until it had already spread and killed many people.

Trump and senior aides have accused China of a lack of transparency after the coronavirus broke out late last year in its city of Wuhan. 

Bob Woodward has just revealed that Trump was far from transparent about what he knew.

Trump also again cast doubt on China’s death toll, which was revised up on Friday. China said 1,300 people who died of the coronavirus in Wuhan – half the total – were not counted, but dismissed allegations of a cover-up.

The United States has by far the world’s largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 720,000 infections and over 37,000 deaths.

In May Trump harshly blames China for pandemic; a lab ‘mistake’?

In recent days the Trump administration has sharpened its rhetoric on China, accusing the geopolitical foe and vital trading partner of failing to act swiftly enough to sound the alarm about the outbreak or to stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

That pretty much describes how Trump mishandled it in the US.

US officials have said the Chinese government should “pay a price“ for its handling of the pandemic

The US has paid a huge price – they now total 6.6 million cases and have had nearly 200,000 deaths attributed to Covid.

Now from NPR: Woodward Book Casts New Light On Trump’s Fight With WHO

President Trump has publicly blamed the World Health Organization for being slow to sound alarm bells about the coronavirus.

“On March 3, 2020, the World Health Organization cited official Chinese data to downplay the very serious risk of asymptomatic spread, telling the world that ‘COVID- 19 does not transmit as efficiently as influenza.’ ” Trump wrote, in a May 18 letter addressed to WHO leadership. “It is now clear that China’s assertions, repeated to the world by the World Health Organization, were wildly inaccurate.”

“Many lives could have been saved” had WHO warned the world earlier, Trump wrote. Later that month, he announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the global health agency.

Now, taped conversations between the president and journalist Bob Woodward, as reported in the forthcoming book Rage, indicate that in early February, Trump was well aware of the dangers of the coronavirus and chose to downplay the public health threat to Americans.

“This is deadly stuff,” Trump told Woodward in a Feb. 7 conversation. “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

For public health expert Jeremy Konydyk, the conversations clearly demonstrate that the president has been scapegoating WHO for failures of his administration. “These tapes make clear that the very things that the president was accusing WHO of failing to share, specifically the lethality and the transmissibility of this virus, were things he was already well aware of,” says Konyndyk.

Scapegoating WHO, scapegoating China, while Trump was making the mistakes he was accusing them of.

Trump told Woodward in a subsequent interview in March that he was downplaying the virus’s severity to avoid panic — a point he reiterated at a news conference September 10. “I don’t want to jump up and down and start screaming, ‘Death! Death!'” the president said.

But public health experts say the president’s attempts to reassure the public have had the opposite effect. “If you want the public to remain reasonably calm, if you want them not to be confused and uncertain, you tell them the truth,” says Lawrence Gostin, head of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University and director of a WHO collaborating center on global health law.

Gostin believes that public trust is gained when “you level with the American population” and tell what’s known about a situation, what’s still unclear and when and how the uncertainties will be resolved. Instead, when “the World Health Organization said it was serious and Trump downplayed it — that’s a recipe for fear and panic,” he says.

Trump fomented and encouraged and promoted an anti-Covid movement in the US.

And typically Trump denies lying about risks of coronavirus

He tweeted on Thursday that Woodward did not report his quotes for months. “He knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!”

Later he told reporters he never lied, when they suggested he deliberately misled the American public on how dangerous the virus was.

In a White House news conference on Thursday afternoon, he said in response to a reporter’s question: “I didn’t lie, what I said is we have to be calm, we can’t be panicked.”

That’s not what he said. He deliberately downplayed the severity of Covid, which encouraged many people to downplay the severity including to deny it was a problem aat all and should be virtually ignored.

He added: “I don’t want to jump up and down and start screaming, ‘death, death’, because that’s not what it’s about.”

That’s a stupid statement.

“Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives?” Mr Trump said.

“Didn’t he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!”

And true to form, when challenged on his bullshitting, he blamed the messenger, and also claimed Woodward supported his bull.

This won’t stop people devoutly supporting Trump while stoutly disputing the severity of Covid.

Woodward has been criticised by others as well.

Woodward has been criticised for withholding the president’s remarks on the pandemic, with some saying it was an unethical decision.

The journalist offered a defence in the Washington Post and Associated Press on Wednesday, saying he needed to check whether what Mr Trump told him was accurate.

“The biggest problem I had, which is always a problem with Trump, is I didn’t know if it was true,” Woodward told The Post.

That’s always been a problem with Trump. People tend to just believe what they want to believe because Trump lies and distorts the truth so much.

Woodward’s book, Rage, will be released on 15 September.

Donaldium Rhapsody

Trump challenged on Covid response, death toll ‘is what it is’

Donald Trump is under fire yet again after an interview in which he said that Covid is under control in the US, the death toll ‘is what it is’, and he disputed comparing deaths to population.

As always it’s difficult too know whether Trump believes what he says or if he is deliberately speaking bull to a specific audience. I think probably at times at least he has come too believe his own bull.

CNBC: Trump says coronavirus death toll ‘is what it is’ as he insists pandemic is ‘under control’ in U.S.

“Numerous categories, we’re lower than the world,” Trump said while reading from a small stack of papers he was holding.

“Lower than the world? What does that mean? In what?” Swan said.

The president handed one paper to Swan, who after a brief examination responded: “Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc.”

Trump replied: “You can’t do that … you have to go by the cases.”

Swan maintained that it was relevant to look at the number of deaths in the U.S. from Covid-19 in proportion to the population of the country. He compared the U.S. with South Korea, a nation of more than 50 million people that he counted about 300 total death from the coronavirus.

“You don’t know that,” Trump said.

“You think they’re faking their statistics?” Swan responded.

“Uh, I won’t get into that because I have a very good relationship with the country, but you don’t know that,” Trump said. 

President Donald Trump insisted that the coronavirus pandemic is “under control” in the United States even when confronted with the staggering death tolls from the virus.

During a contentious interview, Axios’ Jonathan Swan asked Trump how he could claim his administration has a handle on the virus as it kills 1,000 Americans a day.

“They are dying. That’s true, and — it is what it is,” Trump said. “But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it,” Trump said in the interview, which took place July 28 and aired Monday night on HBO.

“You really think this is as much as we can control it?” Swan asked. “A thousand deaths a day?”

“First of all, we have done a great job,” Trump replied, focusing on how governors have handled the crisis in their own states rather than him taking personal responsibility. “I could tell you right now who the great ones are and who the not-so-great ones are. But the governors do it. We gave them massive amounts of material.”

Trump’s rosy view of the U.S. response to the pandemic comes as more than 4.71 million cases have been confirmed in the country, as well as at least 155,478 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Both are the highest recorded totals for any country.

Going by Worldometer it looks like the US is heading for another 1000+ deaths today after the usual weekend drop in numbers

The US is getting close to 5 million cases and 160,000 deaths.