At last, the right conversation about coronavirus

At last, the right conversation about coronavirus

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On the roster: At last, the right conversation about coronavirus – Biden struggles to close massive cash gap – Census struggles – Audible: The original social distancer – A shrubbery!

AT LAST, THE RIGHT CONVERSATION ABOUT CORONAVIRUS
Ken Feinberg’s resume reads like the nightmare tour of the early 21st century: 9/11, the Virginia Tech shootings, the Panic of 2008 bailout, the BP oil spill, the Penn State rapes and the Sandy Hook massacre.

A former prosecutor and chief of staff to then-Sen. Ted Kennedy with a Boston accent that could cut glass, Feinberg became America’s go-to guy for administering relief funds after a federal judge picked him to oversee the 1984 Agent Orange settlement between chemical companies and Vietnam veterans and their estates.

Presidents, judges, members of Congress and the leaders of major organizations came to rely on Feinberg’s judgment, evenhandedness and thoroughness. We like to say that you can’t put a value on a human life, but we do it all the time. And Feinberg was the best in the business.

Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival back in 2012, Feinberg described what it was like to sit across the table from grief-stricken families who had just months prior lost loved ones in the most horrible ways imaginable. Here’s his recollection of what a conversation might have been like:

“I can’t bring your daughter back. You say you’d rather replace – you’d rather take your daughter’s place at the World Trade Center. I haven’t got that power. All I can do, and it’s not much, is try and demonstrate your country’s desire to help you through compensation, financial certainty. Other than that, life is unfair, and I wish I could do more.”

Feinberg learned better than to try to share the pain of the grieving. He could never match it, and they would resent being patronized. He learned not to try to interrupt their emotional outbursts. Let them vent. Let them be heard.

In the end, Feinberg only had two tools at his disposal: money and that inescapable truth that most of us struggle to accept from the time we are toddlers, that life is unfair.

That understanding is how we, in this transitory life, keep going. If we allowed the unfairness of it all to hobble us, our sense of justice would become debilitating. Understanding that bad things happen to good people and that good things happen to bad people is a necessary part of life.

Like Feinberg, we – collectively and individually – have to make decisions based on that knowledge. And in the era of coronavirus, we’ve talked a lot about this premise. And many took their turns as amateur Feinbergs.

One chorus rises up: Look at all the people who die from the flu (34,200 in 2018-19) or in traffic accidents (38,800 in 2019). We don’t shut down the whole country over those things! The cure will be worse than the disease!

Comes the response: We should try to save every life we can! Every life is precious, and you just can’t put a price on that!

As it turns out, many of us were having the entirely wrong conversation. With the acknowledgement from the Trump White House Tuesday that the American death toll could be as high as 240,000, even with effective management, many realized that this was not about weighing the cost of individual lives versus economic disruption. This was about weathering a terrible storm.

At the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington researchers’ current forecast is that the death toll will be just below 100,000 for the period ending Aug. 4. But it’s not just that the numbers are so huge, it’s that they’re happening all at once. Unlike the deaths from car crashes or other ailments, these are not spread out over the year, but packed into a few months.

The institute’s forecast is that the peak will come in two weeks, when nearly 3,000 people a day are dying and more than 260,000 people are hospitalized. That’s not about the value of individual human lives, that’s about a shock to the system that we will struggle mightily to absorb and survive.

April will be savage in its brutality. It will test us like little else has in modern history.

But the good news is that after too much jaw-jaw, Americans across the political spectrum appear united in their understanding of the threat and their patriotic duties to prevent the spread and care for those harmed by both the disease and the economic consequences of its cure.

This is going to be a hell of a blow, but an America united can weather it.

THE RULEBOOK: DISCIPLINE IS KEY
“It requires no skill in the science of war to discern that uniformity in the organization and discipline of the militia would be attended with the most beneficial effects, whenever they were called into service for the public defense.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 29

TIME OUT: YOGI BEAR IT
Sports Illustrated: “When readers received the April 1, 1985, issue of Sports Illustrated, they opened the magazine to read an article about a young, unknown New York Mets prospect who could throw a baseball 168 mph. The Curious Case Of Sidd Finch, written by journalist George Plimpton, detailed the mysterious lifestyle of the ‘part-pitcher, part-yogi’ who played the French horn beautifully and looked like ‘Goofy in one of Walt Disney’s cartoon classics’ when he threw the ball. The fascinating story of Sidd Finch was all a hoax, an idea originally drummed up by SI’s managing editor at the time, Mark Mulvoy, and perfectly executed by Plimpton. Part of what made the story so believable was the photographs of Sidd Finch, taken by SI photographer Lane Stewart, who recruited his friend, art teacher and occasional assistant Joe Berton to portray the fictional Sidd Finch character. In honor of April Fool’s Day, SI caught up with Stewart and Berton, who are still good friends and forever bonded by the saga of Sidd Finch.”

Flag on the play? – Email us at [email protected] with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
ESTIMATED DELEGATES FOR DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION
Biden: 1,217
Sanders: 914
[Ed. note: 1,991 delegates needed to win]

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE 
Average approval: 48.4 percent
Average disapproval: 47.8 percent
Net Score: 0.6 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 4.8 points
[Average includes: Grinnell/Selzer: 48% approve – 48% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 49% approve – 47% disapprove; Fox News: 48% approve – 51% disapprove; Gallup: 49% approve – 45% disapprove; Monmouth University: 48% approve – 48% disapprove.]

BIDEN STRUGGLES TO CLOSE MASSIVE CASH GAP
NYT: “Top [Joe Biden] fund-raisers and donors, as well as campaign, super PAC and Democratic Party officials, described urgent efforts to reimagine the ways they raise money during a pandemic and global economic slowdown. And in nearly two dozen interviews, they expressed deepening concern that the downturn could choke off the flow of small online donations as millions of people lose their jobs. The coronavirus shut down much of the American economy just as the former vice president took control of the Democratic presidential race, upending his plans to consolidate support among party donors who had previously supported other candidates and diminishing his ability to replenish his cash reserves to compete with President Trump’s well-funded re-election campaign. Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden face the same headwinds. But the president began March with an enormous financial advantage over the Democrats: a combined roughly $225 million in cash on hand between his re-election campaign, the Republican National Committee and their shared committees. Mr. Biden and the Democratic National Committee had only $20 million, after accounting for debts.”

Trump gets a bump, but Biden maintains edge in new poll – Grinnell College: “Republicans overwhelmingly support Trump’s overall job performance, 91% of Republican voters will vote to re-elect President Donald J. Trump has his highest approval rating in Grinnell College National Poll history, but still trails former Vice President Joe Biden in a head-to-head matchup. The poll, a partnership between Grinnell College and nationally renowned polling firm Selzer & Company, shows President Trump’s approval rating (48%) has risen eight points since October 2019. In the same span, his disapproval rating has fallen five points to 45%. The poll was conducted March 27-30, 2020. Despite the improved approval numbers, Trump trails former Vice President Joe Biden 47%-43% in the poll, released April 1, 2020. Both men have strong support among their bases (91% of Republican voters back Trump, 86% of Democratic voters favor Biden), while independent voters lean toward Biden 43-35%.”

General election race remains close in Wisconsin – Marquette University Law School: “General election matchups between Trump and both Democratic candidates indicate a very close race. In the March poll, Biden receives 48 percent and Trump receives 45 percent. In the other matchup, [Sen. Bernie] Sanders is the choice of 45 percent and Trump the choice of 47 percent.”

Next week’s Wisconsin primary election still on for now – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Wisconsin’s spring election is less than a week away. But a lot of concerns are casting a shadow on election day. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Tuesday he is not comfortable telling residents to go to the polls April 7 during the coronavirus pandemic. … Some polling places may not open April 7 because of a shortage of election workers. At least one clerk is warning that voters won’t be able to return their absentee ballots in time to have them counted. Milwaukee needs about 1,400 poll workers to run its election but so far has fewer than 400, according to Neil Albrecht, director of the Milwaukee Election Commission. … Absentee voting has been encouraged and presents its own challenges as a record number of people request ballots. The state Supreme Court blocked Dane County’s clerk Tuesday from telling large groups of voters that because of the coronavirus pandemic they may request absentee ballots without showing a photo ID.”

Activists fight Ohio’s new primary – Cleveland Plain Dealer: “A coalition of voting-rights groups has sued over Ohio’s new law that extends voting for its primary election through April 28, arguing the vote-by-mail process lawmakers created will disenfranchise thousands of voters. The League of Women Voters of Ohio, the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute and several state voters, in a federal lawsuit filed Monday, argue the state’s timeline is too fast to conduct a proper election. They are asking a judge to: Order county boards of elections to directly mail primary ballots, with postage pre-paid envelopes, to all registered voters who have not already cast a ballot in this election. … Offer in-person voting for Ohioans who don’t receive a ballot on time. The state’s plan only offers in-person voting for the disabled and homeless. Pick a new date that will give election officials more time to organize the election and inform voters how it will work. Re-open voter registration until 30 days before the end of voting.”

Iowa secretary of state to send every voter an absentee ballot – Des Moines Register: “The Iowa Secretary of State’s office will mail every registered voter in Iowa an absentee ballot request form ahead of the state’s June 2 primary, it announced Tuesday. The plan to send ballot request forms to 2 million Iowans comes as concerns about in-person voting have mounted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Other states have moved their primary dates back out of fear of spreading the virus as people gather at polling sites. Iowa’s June 2 primary is scheduled to go forward as planned, but Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is encouraging Iowans to vote by mail to reduce the spread of the virus. Last week, Pate extended the early voting period for mailed ballots to 40 days, up from 29. That means Iowans will be able to cast mailed ballots beginning on April 23.”

CENSUS STRUGGLES 
Roll Call: “Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau planned to use April 1, ‘Census Day,’ to kick off in-person counting and outreach efforts that are key to the 2020 count. Efforts to stop the spread of the virus scuttled those efforts, pushing a census process already rocked by controversy into unprecedented territory. Vulnerable communities already considered difficult to count — young children, the elderly, rural residents and people of color — face greater risk of being left out of the count, which is used to divvy up congressional representation, more than $1.5 trillion of federal spending, and more. … The Census Bureau uses ‘Census Day’ as the reference for counting everyone in the country, and planned to use it to start in-person counting and outreach efforts. Over the weekend, the agency announced it postponed all field operations and hiring through at least April 15, after previously delaying them through April 1.”

Poll: Overall readiness to respond to the census has increased – Pew Research Center: “Amid a blitz of advertising about the 2020 census, a rising share of U.S. adults have heard something recently about it: Two-thirds say so in a new Pew Research Center survey, up from half a few weeks earlier. Overall readiness to respond to the census has inched up since earlier this year, even as some key hard-to-count groups remain less enthusiastic than others. Notably, in an era where opinions on a host of national issues fall along political lines, perceptions about the U.S. census largely are not polarized, according to the new survey. Republicans and Democrats (including those who lean toward each party) are about equally likely to say they plan to respond. Similar majorities of Democrats and Republicans also say they believe census results will not benefit one party more than the other, and majorities of both say the 2020 census will at least be somewhat successful in accurately counting the number of people living in the U.S.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Senators upset House left Washington without temporarily extending FISA provisions  Politico

Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s financial disclosures show more stock sales – AJC

AUDIBLE: THE ORIGINAL SOCIAL DISTANCER
“You know, if you’ve seen my show, nothing good ever happens going out of the house — you know that. There’s just trouble out there. It’s not a good place to be.” – Larry David, the star of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in a video message urging Californians to stay at home.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Dressing correctly, including shaving, and work, go hand in hand.  Neglect either and one soon becomes a bum. Love the ‘Bleachers,’ there are some real jewels there.” – Rod Steorts, Sutton, W. Va.

[Ed. note: One sure does, Mr. Steorts! I’m reminded daily about the value of routine and good habits, starting with making my bed and morning prayers. I love a good, lazy vacation, but this is something altogether different.]

“Just curious. Is there a reason why you described Seth Meyers as a ‘liberal talk show host’ instead of simply a ‘late night talk show host’ who happens to be liberal? I don’t have any doubt that he is liberal based on his years on SNL, and I have rarely seen his show. I guess I am asking if he has moved his show away from the standard late night formula to more of an MSNBC nighttime lineup format, or is his monologue leaning so far left, or is there some other reason that liberal is the first word to describe him? Or am I just being a pain in the ***?” – Steve Arthur, Arlington, Va.

[Ed. note: Good catch, Mr. Arthur! I wrestled quite a bit with that descriptor. You can’t really call him a generic “late-night host” because his show is so explicitly political and so enthusiastically left-wing. Other chat show hosts do lots of political humor and others certainly lean left, but Myers has made it his mainstay. He’s had both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on this week and treated them to a series of softballs on the left side of the plate. My mind was made up once I read his second question to Sanders: “One of the moments or one of the unique things about this moment is how it’s making a lot of people reevaluate the current system in health care. Obviously, Medicare For All is the issue people most associate you with. Could you speak to how this moment would be different if we had a system like Medicare For All and the shortcomings of the current system we’re living with?” That’s not a talk show question, that’s a liberal political show question. I thought it was worth noting since it gave context to Sanders’ comments about remaining in the race. He was in very sympathetic (virtual) company. If Sanders had been in an ideologically hostile environment, I would have noted that, too.]

“I may be way late with this message about your best political books list from the 3/20/2020 Halftime Report, but time is losing its meaning as my wife and I and our two children (ages 13 and 11) struggle through these crazy days! I started reading ‘Shelley’s Heart’ and as a self-admitted political junkie (politics for me is a spectator sport and my cast for best all-time announcers would include yourself, Charles, Brit HumeTim Russert and David Brinkley – if I had to limit myself to five) and as a proud American-Italian, I have to agree with your finger kissing emoji comment. I’ll work my way through all five books, pacing myself to make these more quiet moments of joy last as it looks like there are more difficult days ahead. I do miss the political coverage and hearing your take on the nightly panel segments (and there is only so much one can take of watching Covid-19 case/death counts) – hopefully politics and MLB Opening Day arrive soon.” – Ric Bencini, Bartlett, Ill.

[Ed. note: Holy crokano, Mr. Bencini! That’s a hall of fame to which I could never aspire. Those are the real giants, I’m just scratching in the sand over here. But thank you, I’ll take the compliment in the spirit in which it was offered. I can also tell you that as my home studio rig comes together, you may be seeing me more. In the meantime, you can catch me with Brianna on Fox Nation daily.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at [email protected] and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

A SHRUBBERY!
Fox News: “With the UK under strict lockdown rules, people are only allowed to leave their homes under very strict guidelines. Apparently, one clever and crafty individual wasn’t going to let this stop them from going outside. A couple from Stevenage in the UK, Nicholas Murray and Madeline Mai-Davies, shared footage that they say shows one of their neighbors donning a disguise to head out to the store. The video shows the man dressed as a bush and apparently sneaking out to the store before heading back home (and tripping along the way). The couple captioned the footage, ‘Neighbor’s back at it again, sneaking out during lockdown’ and ‘Neighbor always sneaking out to get his shopping.’ The videos, uploaded to Tik Tok, have received over 700 thousand views. The UK has been taking strict actions to enforce the lockdown put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus.”

AND NOW A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Government has grown huge, and a presidential hiccup can still panic the stock market, but Washington has far less impact on the direction of America and the world than it did a generation ago.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on May 21, 1990.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

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