Headlines: October 8, 2020
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The Vice Presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris on Wednesday night went off with far fewer explosive outbursts than the one that took place a week earlier between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. However, Mr. Pence still managed to channel his President’s penchant for interruptions and repeatedly spoke over Senator Harris. Among the issues discussed were the Trump administration’s failures on the coronavirus. Also discussed was the industry of fracking – the practice of hydraulic fracturing which is an invasive method of oil and gas extraction. Pence accused Harris of wanting to ban the practice and Harris responded saying Biden would not ban it. Video surfaced of Harris claiming she was for the banning of fracking when she ran for President in the Democratic primary. Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez jumped in on social media during the debate to remind both Pence and Harris that “fracking is bad actually.”
Harris and Pence also clashed on the Supreme Court vacancy, abortion rights, healthcare, and racial justice. Harris took Pence to task on several of those issues as well as for wanting to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Pence proclaimed he was against the right to an abortion. A majority of Americans believe in the right to an abortion. Debate moderator Susan Page asked Mr. Pence if he would support a peaceful transition of power if the Trump ticket lost in November and he refused to answer. In fact checking the Wednesday night debate, the New York Times found that Mr. Pence spewed the most lies of the night and a new poll showed 6 out of 10 Americans agreeing that Harris won the debate. Arguably the biggest star of the night was a fly that landed on Pence’s head, clearly visible against the Vice President’s white hair. The fly remained on his head for more than 2 minutes with Pence seeming not to notice, and has generated so much buzz on social media that some hope it has a starring role in this weekend’s Saturday Night Live. Also garnering attention for the wrong reasons was Karen Pence, the Vice President’s wife, who joined him at the end of the debate on stage without a mask. The only 3 people exempted from wearing masks at the debate were the two participants and the moderator.
Meanwhile President Donald Trump who remains at the White House after being treated for the coronavirus claims he is no longer contagious and wants to begin his public campaign rallies. The President’s actual words in an interview were, “I’m back because I’m a perfect physical specimen.” The 74-year old who regularly uses a spray tan and has spent at least $70,000 a year on hair maintenance is considered to be overweight and therefore in a high-risk category. He has also now refused to debate Biden under new rules for the second debate to be held as a virtual event. Mr. Biden has asked in response that the format be changed to a town-hall so that Trump, “is not able to evade accountability.” In reflecting on Wednesday night’s Vice Presidential debate Trump called Senator Harris “a monster,” a typical retort from a President known for targeting women.
Mr. Trump also cast his Covid-19 diagnosis as a “blessing from God,” and touted the experimental drug he was put on made by the pharmaceutical company Regeneron, as a sort of miracle cure. It has now emerged that the drug was made available by a man who is a member of Trump’s golf club. Interestingly Regeneron’s fact sheet makes clear that the drug was developed using human stem cells – a method of testing that Trump’s evangelical anti-abortion supporters may find unsavory. The President’s physician released an update on his health and Trump has now returned to the Oval Office.
In contemplating where he caught the virus Trump pointed the finger at Gold Star families, who are the loved ones of fallen soldiers. Trump said on Thursday, “They come within an inch of my face, sometimes.” Trump has already been slammed for denouncing fallen US soldiers as “losers” and “suckers” during a European visit to an American military cemetery. News emerged that a total of 34 people have been infected at the White House, more than previously known. A USA Today investigation concluded that Trump and other infected White House staffers, “carried the virus across the country in a matter of days, potentially exposing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people as they went about their business.” The head of the White House Security office is apparently gravely ill with the virus, and Trump’s debate coach Chris Christie remains hospitalized after catching it as well.
The New England Journal of Medicine has issued a strongly worded statement against President Donald Trump—a publication that in its 208-year history has never before issued an editorial. The editorial, titled, “Dying in a Leadership Vacuum,” said that “magnitude of this failure [on the pandemic] is astonishing… The response of our nation’s leaders has been consistently inadequate.” The economic fallout is also astounding as 840,000 jobless Americans filed for benefits last week. Meanwhile Trump, who has repeatedly flip flopped on whether or not he will support a Covid-related economic relief bill now says that “talks are working out.” It’s very possible that the erratic leader, who has sent his own party into crisis-mode, may once again change his whims.
In other news, six men were just arrested for their roles in a plot to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer—another female leader that Trump has enjoyed repeatedly targeting. The men were armed and discussed kidnapping her ahead of the November election and moving her to another location for some sort of home-grown “trial.” They appear to be part of the anti-lockdown protesters that Trump had gleefully egged on earlier this year. Their arrest by the FBI offers yet another piece of definitive evidence that it is Trump supporters rather than anti-fascist activists who are a greater source of political violence in the nation.
Meanwhile Attorney General William Barr, who has faced accusations of politicizing the Justice Department to favor Trump, has just weakened the requirements on investigating voter fraud incidents. Trump has repeatedly claimed there is rampant voter fraud—a cover for voter suppression. Now, hundreds of attorneys and judges as part of a group called Lawyers Defending American Democracy have written an open letter to DOJ staffers encouraging them to speak out or resign in protest of any unethical moves they may witness from Barr or his allies. The letter’s signatories say, “Attorney General Barr’s prosecutorial actions supporting the President’s friends and partisan interests have eroded public confidence in his commitment to impartial justice for all people.” And CNN has obtained the instructions that the Trump campaign is sending to those of the President’s supporters who have signed up to be “poll watchers” on election night. The poll-watchers are a thinly-veiled voter-intimidation effort and as per the instructions they have received, they are to be “vigilant” and “courteous,” and have a mission to “deter” bad behavior. Nevada’s Attorney General Aaron Ford called Trump’s repeated encouragement of poll watchers as a, “dog whistle to voters for voter intimidation.”