President-elect Biden can create the best coronavirus task force in the world and as long as Republicans don’t pressure Trump to concede, it will be all task and no force. Instead he’s convinced his party to give him a month or two to prove the lie to end all lies: that he actually won a rigged election.
Bad luck with that and stop wasting precious time we don’t have with COVID-19 roaring back. There are no well parts of the country to help sick parts with beds and equipment. All are in peril. Rural states are enduring brutal outbreaks with more than 100 cases per 100,000 people. There were 145,000 new cases Wednesday, and—more concerning—a record-breaking 65,000 hospitalizations. By Thanksgiving, conservatively, 250,000 people will have died.
Take a virtual trip to El Paso to see a city so overwhelmed they’re throwing together tents constructed of fiberboard and flex seal. The most critical cases are flown to Houston, and when things go badly, the grief of loved ones is compounded by having to find a way to get the body back to a mobile morgue to await burial—if a funeral home can be found. The town was devastated last year when 23 people were killed by an out-of-control gunman at a Walmart. An out-of-control virus is on track to claim 100 victims a week.
Texas is one of those red states whose governor, Greg Abbott, out of deference to Trump, treated the economy as vital and the virus as something that would disappear on its own. This earned the Lone Star State the dubious distinction of being the first to reach a million cases in one day. The state’s philosophy was summed up by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who told Tucker Carlson, no relation, that grandparents like him should be willing to risk death to save Trump’s beautiful GDP.
In a sea of dark red on the COVID map, Texas is just one bloody blot that as predicted when cold weather arrived, was hit with another wave of sickness and death. There were 1,400 deaths in a single day this week.
But there’s hope. Unlike Trump, Biden believes government is a force for good. He just appointed Ron Klain to be his chief of staff. He kept deaths from Ebola in the Obama administration to 11. That’s not 11,000, but 11. Former FDA commissioner David Kessler, a veteran public health expert from the days when the FDA meant business, will be leading a 13-member coronavirus task force that Biden will listen to.
Hope is the thing Trump can snuff out with a pre-dawn tweet. As he rages inside the White House like a frustrated 2-year old who lost his blankie, officials at agencies across government were told not to cooperate with the incoming team. COVID-19, oblivious to the election and the Transition Act of 1963, is going on its deadly way to bring red state governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, aka Ron DeathSentence, to his knees for a second time.
DeSantis, famous for letting college kids go wild in Clearwater over spring break, hastily opened every beach and bar, restaurant and gym after one of the deadliest summers in the country, and before his curve was close to flattening.
He would not permit local governments to enforce mask mandates or social-distancing rules. After dismissing his apolitical recordkeeper he suspected made him look bad by overcounting deaths, he hired an anti-mask, anti-lockdown, and pro-hydroxychloroquine sports blogger as a data analyst after hearing him praised on Fox News in hopes of some undercounting. He should avoid numbers altogether. DeSantis once boasted about his record compared to Taiwan’s, with about the same population. Taiwan has endured 1,000 deaths, compared to Florida’s 17,000.
To complicit Republicans, the outgoing president is not a duck who is lame but a big, bad wolf who can blow their political houses down. The fear of becoming minority leader led Mitch McConnell to the floor of the Senate to confirm Trump’s right to his frivolous lawsuits. But as hard as Attorney General Bill Barr is trying to find it, and Texas’s Patrick, with a $1 million reward, is trying to buy it, fraud is in short supply.
The postal worker who changed postmarks has recanted. The guy who forged his sick mom’s ballot? He voted for Trump. On the list of irregularities in Detroit was a GOP poll watcher who couldn’t find a parking space. As much as the grifter in Trump would like a million bucks, he hasn’t coughed up the name of the river with all the ballots floating in it.
As for recounts like the one in Georgia, prior ones have shifted the margin between candidates by an average of just 430 votes, not the tens of thousands Trump needs. In the category be careful what you recount for, the shift often benefits the winning candidate, humiliating the loser a second time.
The country needs a leader who doesn’t mock those who wear a mask to protect others, and, as we just found out, ourselves, and requires others to. Where was the president of Notre Dame when the Irish beat number one Clemson and thousands of students, many maskless, swarmed the field, hugging, cheering and spraying droplets on each other for a good hour. It made me want to put on a mask and hold my breath.
College football’s leadership reacted by canceling eight big games this weekend, which sends a message equal to anything out of the CDC. Not wearing a mask in the bleachers, or at multiple superspreader parties at the White House, has to become as socially unacceptable as lighting up in someone’s house, or not wearing a seat belt. By that measure, just the sight of Biden, with his oversized big black cloth, will save lives.
The virus will spread and kill until Trump shares the power he’s not using as he’s obligated to do. There’s no one left in the cabinet or the White House who will speak truth to Trump. It’s up to Senator McConnell, if he’s listening. By the time Trump doesn’t show up for the inauguration, the dead could number 399,000. It’s hard to absorb such a massive figure: there’s no wall big enough for all the photos, the National Mall’s not large enough for all the empty chairs it would take to stand for all the dead.
At 78, McConnell can grab his last chance to become a statesman, to push the packing of courts with unqualified hacks lower in his obit and his arranging a meeting of Trump and Biden into the first paragraph. It will be too late Dec. 14 when the vote is certified.
By this time in 1992, George H.W. Bush, also rejected after one term, emerged from a long meeting with Bill Clinton in the Oval Office to shake hands in a way that assured the country that power was flowing freely from one commander-in-chief to another. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
No one’s expecting a miracle in the Rose Garden. It’s going to be hard to mend what’s been broken. It will take a moonshot to stop the dying. Mitch could get it started now.