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Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Trump’s coronavirus poll bump, explained

Vox: To progressives, America’s flailing response to the coronavirus pandemic is everything that’s been terrifying about a Donald Trump presidency since his candidacy started gaining steam — dishonesty, disrespect for expertise, lack of focus and attention to detail, all colliding with a genuinely difficult policy problem to create a lethal catastrophe.

It’s sobering, then, to realize that Trump’s approval ratings, while not exactly good, have been steadily rising since mid-March to reach the highest point since the earliest days of his presidency. After an up-and-down associated with the impeachment process followed by the recent decline, he’s now up to about a 45 percent approval rating from around 40 percent at the beginning of November.

But to contextualize this a bit, essentially all incumbent leaders appear to be benefiting from a coronavirus-related bump. Compared to the governors of hard-hit states or the presidents and prime ministers of hard-hit foreign countries, Trump’s bump is actually quite small, amounting to maybe 2 or 3 points. Compare that with foreign leaders like France’s Emmanuel Macron or Germany’s Angela Merkel, who have seen double-digit increases in their approval ratings.

A Siena College poll released Monday showed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) enjoying a 20-point boost in his approval rating.

That same poll showed a 1-point bump for Trump in New York state, a bit lower than what national averages show but not far out of line with them.

It’s not really clear what this portends for the future. But it does mean that explanations for Trump’s approval bump that focus on things like his performance at the daily staged newscasts are probably missing the forest for the trees.

Trump is faring far worse than other similarly situated leaders, and the thing to explain is not why his numbers are going up but why they are going up so little.

Trump’s polling bump is small in global terms

Italy has become the poster child for the coronavirus’s global spread, and the Italian government’s handling of the outbreak is widely cited as a cautionary tale of mistakes to avoid.

But the public gives high marks to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his cabinet, a hastily composed coalition government that was formed last year in a desperate bid to keep the far right out of power. Polls show a sky-high 71 percent approval rating for a formerly unpopular team.

Smaller but still large approval bumps are also evident for Merkel and Macron.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s approval ratings have also soared into the high 70s, despite a policy approach characterized by a confusing back-and-forth on whether to even try to contain the virus, leading to a situation where the prime minister himself has been infected.

Indeed, if anything, European data seems to suggest bigger bounces for leaders with less effective responses, though we’ll probably want to wait and see on an approval poll out of Spain — which has been one of the hardest-hit countries — before making that conclusion firmly.

Rally-’round-the-flag effects are common

In the United States, meanwhile, gubernatorial polling has been scant, but what’s out there suggests huge boosts for governors of both the hardest-hit states and states that thus far seem to have been largely spared.

It’s of course long been observed that presidents benefit from a rally-’round-the-flag effect in wartime.

Franklin Roosevelt’s numbers went up after Pearl Harbor, Jimmy Carter’s rose in the initial phase of the Iran hostage crisis, and George W. Bush’s soared after the 9/11 attacks. One common thread in all of this is that voters seem to discount the question of presidential conduct before the crisis hit. The hostage crisis, for example, was precipitated by the Carter administration’s decision to admit the recently deposed shah of Iran into the country after a lobbying campaign led by Chase Manhattan Bank. The Bush administration ignored warnings about al-Qaeda during its first nine months in office and sidelined plans it inherited from the Clinton administration for more aggressive action.

But in both cases, the incumbent president played the role of national leader on television very effectively in the early days of the crisis; only later would public support eventually wither.

When Democrats praise Cuomo’s response in contrast to Trump’s, they are largely doing something similar. The governor has been a steady presence on television and a clear crisis communicator. But he was slower to take action than West Coast governors like Washington’s Jay Inslee and California’s Gavin Newsom, and the actual situation in New York seems to be quite a bit worse, perhaps as a result. But precisely because things are so bad, Cuomo is on television very frequently discussing the emergency and his efforts to cope with it — and he’s doing a good job of that, regardless of what mistakes may have been made two weeks ago.

If you’re looking for information about likely consequences for November, the most important thing to remember is that to the extent that voters change their minds, they tend to do so in the very short term — the border wall government shutdown tanked Trump’s numbers and then they bounced back right away.

The most striking thing about Trump’s approval rating bump, however, is simply that it’s very small. Compared to other politicians in the US and abroad, he’s very bad at playing a unifying figure. As a politician, that weakness is offset by the way the Electoral College overweights his coalition. But given the public opinion equivalent of a layup, he’s falling far short of the hoop.

USA

Cartoon by Marc Murphy

Huge questions over leadership  

By Al Seymour

The Roya Gazette: ... This is truly a time when the quality of leadership comes under the world microscope, as lives depend on whether economic growth is considered more important than human lives.

America, viewed as a leader among powerful nations because of its wealth and military might, is the subject of questionable leadership over its response to the coronavirus attack, whose death toll mounts daily. In any democracy, the people have every right to voice concerns when, through words and actions, a leader seems out touch with reality in confronting a deadly health crisis that has affected so many.

Leaders, especially in large, diverse countries, should always display values of defending truth and decency. And, while no leader will ever please everyone, their legacy should be that they are seen as trying to put the welfare of people above political status in all their duties.

In other words, truth should never be some type of guessing game when lives are at stake.

The free press, who are charged with probing and questioning matters of concern to the people, should never cease in the task of seeking accountability from those responsible for promoting democratic values.

The World Health Organisation, which monitors the current pandemic, has declared that the United States could become the epicentre of the disease, as cases mount hourly throughout the nation. All this, as Democrats and Republicans were locking horns over an economic package to help the nation survive an economic plunge, as much of the business world was brought to a grinding halt.

Medical experts warned that the duration of the shutdown would really depend on how much success is achieved in trying to bring the situation under control. It is at this point where America’s leadership hit a new low in dealing with facts about this disease that has overcrowded hospitals, with many facilities in short supply of protective gear for medical workers on the front line.

In New York, the Governor, Andrew Cuomo, urgently appealed directly to the Federal Government for ventilators, and noted that without an adequate supply, many would die.

With so many people ill, New York, along with many other states, has been forced to convert some large buildings into makeshift hospitals, with an appeal for more nurses and doctors to assist in treating the sick. It should also be noted that medical staff are not immune from the virus, and in many countries, doctors and nurses have died while trying to help others. That has resulted in a greater strain in trying to respond.

This is perhaps why many medical experts were stunned to hear President Donald Trump declare that he wanted America to resume business operations by Easter, only a matter of weeks away. One observer said if America followed that directive, without any regard for the present crisis, it could lead to millions of Americans dying as they mingled and spread the disease, which is already out of control. It really raises questions about leadership and whether political motives are hindering the ability to be honest and truthful with the people. When people feel they are not getting the truth from their leader, be it a small or large country, they lose confidence and that creates further problems.

When the media is accused of poor journalism for asking questions the people want answered, democracy itself is on shaky ground.

Most people want leaders to be firm and truthful in carrying out their duties in serving the people with dignity. This is not a time for political posturing because too much is at stake for millions of Americans, who want their nation to overcome the crisis and continue the struggle to ensure that quality of life for each person is placed above political ambitions.

Most people want America to be successful without so much negativity in the air. There are many problems around the world, with people suffering from conditions unrelated to the pandemic, and there is much to be done in those areas. Leadership will play a role if priorities are based on good values.

Meanwhile, the world remains deeply focused on bringing a deadly virus under control, and the only way at the moment is by keeping people isolated until it is clear that the virus has run its course.

With lessons learnt from this crucial period in our history, it should help the world to be better prepared for similar challenges in future. How we come out of this will depend on leaders who are willing to be truthful with values that put the welfare of the people first.

Never Closed

Cartoon by Clay Bennett

The Meaning of Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Quackery

The New Yorker: On March 18th, researchers in France circulated a study about the promising experimental use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, in combination with azithromycin, an antibiotic, as a treatment for the disease caused by the coronavirus. The study was neither randomized nor peer-reviewed, and other scientists soon criticized its methodology. But Tucker Carlson, on Fox News, highlighted the work. The next day, President Trump promoted hydroxychloroquine’s “very, very encouraging early results.” He added, mentioning another unproven therapy, “I think it could be, based on what I see, it could be a game changer.”

At a White House press briefing on March 20th, a reporter asked Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, whether hydroxychloroquine could be effective in treating covid-19. “The answer is no,” Fauci said, before yielding the microphone to Trump, who countered, “May work, may not. I feel good about it. That’s all it is, just a feeling, you know, smart guy.” A few days later, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, said, “Using untested drugs without the right evidence could raise false hope and even do more harm than good.”

Trump’s quackery was at once eccentric and terrifying—a reminder, if one was needed, of his scorn for rigorous science, even amid the worst pandemic to strike the country in a century. Yet his conduct typified his leadership as the crisis has intensified: his dependency on Fox News for ideas and message amplification, his unshakable belief in his own genius, and his understandable concern that his reëlection may be in danger if he does not soon discover a way to vanquish COVID-19 and reverse its devastation of the economy.

New York City now faces a “troubling and astronomical” increase in cases, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the emergency is overwhelming hospitals, straining drug and equipment supplies, and threatening to cause a shortage of ventilators. The grim course of events in the city is a “canary in the coal mine” for the rest of the country, Cuomo said, and leaders elsewhere must take decisive action lest they, too, become inundated. Trump, though, spent much of last week promoting a contrarian gambit that has been percolating in the right-wing media. He said that, to revitalize the economy, he would like to lift travel restrictions and reopen workplaces across the country within weeks, perhaps by Easter, which is on April 12th, because, as he put it repeatedly, “we can’t let the cure be worse than the problem.”

Public-health experts immediately warned against such a reversal of social-distancing rules. “The virus will surge, many will fall ill, and there will be more deaths,” William Schaffner, a specialist in preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, told the Times. When a reporter asked the President whether any of the “doctors on your team” had advised him that a hasty reopening was “the right path to pursue,” he replied, “If it were up to the doctors, they may say, ‘Let’s keep it shut down . . . let’s keep it shut for a couple of years.’ ” Public-health specialists have said no such thing; they have spoken of a conditions-based approach (“You don’t make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline,” Fauci has said), while advising that, to save the most lives, local leaders must wait to lift restrictions in their areas until the data show that the virus has stopped spreading. Trump said that any loosening of rules he might seek around the country—he mentioned Nebraska and Idaho as possible sites—would be “based on hard facts and data,” but he also said that he chose Easter as a target date because he “just thought it was a beautiful time.”

It is true, as Trump also argued, that enormous job losses and an all but certain recession caused by the pandemic will harm many vulnerable Americans, and claim lives, as ill people without health insurance, for example, forgo care or struggle to get it at stressed clinics and hospitals. Yet, at least in the short term, over-all mortality rates fall during recessions; the reasons for this aren’t fully clear, but social scientists think they may include the public-health benefits of a decrease in pollution, as a result of the slowing economy. In any event, the case the President made for hurrying an economic revival against the advice of scientists was morally odious; it suggested that large numbers of otherwise avoidable deaths might have to be accepted as the price of job creation.

Public-health officials spoke frankly to the press about the catastrophic prospects of the President’s Easter folly. (“President Trump will have blood on his hands,” Keith Martin, the director of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health, told the Times.) Trump responded on Twitter by lashing out at the “LameStream Media” for reporting such forecasts, calling the press “the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success.” Last Wednesday, after Mitt Romney, the only Republican who voted to convict the President, on a charge of abuse of power, during the Senate impeachment trial, announced that he had tested negative for COVID-19, Trump tweeted mockingly, “I’m so happy I can barely speak.” At the White House briefings, surrounded by the sorts of civil servants and experts he habitually disdains, Trump has adapted awkwardly to the role of solemn unifier. When he leaves the podium to tweet nonsense at his perceived enemies, he at least provides his opponents among the country’s homebound, screen-addled, and anxious citizenry with a galvanizing dose of his immutable obnoxiousness—a splash of the old new normal.

The journal Science asked Fauci why he doesn’t step in when the President makes false statements in the briefings. “I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” he said. America’s public-health system is fragmented and market-driven, conditions that only compound the challenge of quashing COVID-19. In the Trump era, however, decentralization has a benefit: the President is not solely in charge, and in the months ahead governors and mayors will continue to shape the odds of life or death for great numbers of Americans. Last week, Trump reviewed the possibilities for quarantine in New York City, his ravaged home town. He rambled about the stock exchange (“It’s incredible what they can do”), before going on to pledge, “If we open up, and when we open up . . . we’re giving the governors a lot of leeway” to decide how this should be done. We can only hope so.

Steve Coll, a staff writer, is the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. His latest book is “Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Corona Planet Distancing

Bad Reporter by Don Asmussen

Fashion 2020

Cartoon by Hilal Özcan

Our only good news: Toilet paper won’t run out

By Ronald Blumer

The Washington Post: As the great toilet paper panic of 2020 worsens, Americans may be starting to contemplate life without it. But in fact, this now-essential household product was not adopted on a widespread scale until less than a century ago. And, initially, Americans resisted adopting it — until the flush toilet came along making it essential.

Humans have long wiped their rears with whatever was at hand. We used leaves, moss, porous stones and even seashells. The Romans, in their communal lavatories, used a sponge on a stick which they would swish in a pail of water and then pass on to their neighbor. Corn cobs were popular in the farm belt of the American Midwest. Much of the world today doesn’t wipe at all, but uses water from a jug or a bidet to handle this task.

The Chinese, who first created paper more than 2,000 years ago, immediately put it to use wiping. When cheap wood pulp-based paper became ubiquitous in the 19th century, people used newspapers, handbills and frequently pages from the very thick Sears Roebuck catalogue to wipe themselves. In 1857, a New York businessman, Joseph C. Gayetty, began manufacturing “paper for the water closet,” touting it in his ads as “The Greatest Necessity of the Age!” Gayetty’s great invention came in a package of sheets.

But it was Seth Wheeler of Albany, N.Y., who, in 1871, became the first person to have the idea of perforating a roll of paper so that it could be conveniently torn off in sheets. In a flurry of subsequent patents, Wheeler also invented the cardboard tube at the center of the roll, and a holder for his new creation. In short, this Edison of wiping created all the elements of the product that adorns our bathrooms today.

Yet, for as brilliant and intuitive as Wheeler’s invention might seem to us today, convincing 20th-century Americans to buy his disposable product presented great difficulties. After all, why pay for Mr. Wheeler’s fancy roll when so much paper was available free and could serve the same purpose?

Toilet paper was also a luxury because well into 1940s most Americas used outhouses — effectively holes in the ground — to do their business. You could dump the entire Sunday edition of The Washington Post (which was the thickest edition of the week) into these receptacles, and it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

But during this time, cities were building sewers and a municipal water supply, and more and more houses were acquiring another great necessity of the age — indoor bathrooms. The flush toilet, unlike the outhouse, was much more particular in what it could digest. Toilets are connected to the sewer using an S-shaped trap to block off sewer gases from backing up into the house, but this circuitous plumbing can easily block up. It is the flush toilet that finally made toilet paper a product that everyone had to have.

Wheeler died in 1925, and it was others, notably the Scott brothers who for a while dominated the industry. They used modern advertising techniques, such as scary ads promising hemorrhoids if you used a rival’s less expensive product to sell their brand. But the market was huge and growing and soon other companies found ways to compete, offering softer multiplied layered rolls and even colored paper to match the bathroom’s decor.

The success has been stunning.

In the United States alone, toilet paper has become a 2.5-billion-dollar industry — a product that most see as essential to their daily lives — which explains the present-day panic. And while the product has become softer and more rear-end friendly since Wheeler conceived it, his basic concept has not changed.

But there is good news for those worried about a shortage of toilet paper, in light of hoarding and empty shelves. Unlike some of the critical medical equipment and protective attire hamstrung by overseas supply chains, the paper industry has remained local and with ready access to its raw material, wood pulp and recycled paper.

We shall have many problems in the coming months, but a shortage of this “greatest necessity of the age” is not something we have to worry about.

Coronica

Cartoon by Fadi Abou Hassan

How did Spain get its coronavirus response so wrong? 

The Guardian: It is one of the darkest and most dramatic moments in recent Spanish history. In the chilling table of daily dead from the coronavirus pandemic, Spain has taken top position from Italy - with 738 dying over 24 hours.

Spain is now the hotspot of the global pandemic, a ghoulish title that has been passed from country to country over four months – starting in Wuhan, China, and travelling via Iran and Italy. As it moves west, we do not know who will be next.

What went wrong? Spain had seen what happened in China and Iran. It also has Italy nearby, just 400 miles across the Mediterranean and an example of how the virus can spread rapidly and viciously inside Europe.

Yet Spaniards cannot blame that proximity. There are no land borders with Italy, while France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia – all countries that are doing much better – do have them.

This may, in fact, be one of the reasons for the country’s late response. Spain thought it was far enough away. “Spain will only have a handful of cases,” said Dr Fernando Simón, the head of medical emergencies in Madrid, on 9 February. Six weeks later he gives out daily figures of hundreds of deaths. The number of dead per capita is already three times that of Iran, and 40 times higher than China.

On 19 February, 2,500 Valencia soccer fans mixed with 40,000 Atalanta supporters for a Champions League game in Bergamo which Giorgio Gori, mayor of the Italian city, has described as “the bomb” which exploded the virus in Lombardy.

In Spain, Valencia players, fans and sports journalists were amongst the first to fall ill.

The main reason for the quick spread through Spain may be completely mundane. It has been an unusually mild, sunny Spring. In late February and early March, with temperatures above 20C (68F), Madrid’s pavement cafes and bars were heaving with happy folk, doing what Madrileños like best – being sociable. That means hugging, kissing and animated chatter just a few inches from someone else’s face.

On 8 March, just a week before the country was closed down, sports events, political party conferences and massive demonstrations to mark International Women’s Day all took place. Three days later, about 3,000 Atlético de Madrid fans flew together for another Champions League match in Liverpool.

The Socialist-led government of Pedro Sánchez reacted late and clumsily. The country lacked essential equipment. Ventilators, protective clothing for doctors and coronavirus tests are still only just being sourced. China has gone from villain to saviour, as equipment and tests pour in – much of it brokered by the same Chinese immigrant community that has closed shops and shut itself away to avoid a racist backlash.

The virus has laid bare, too, deep faults in the Spanish care system. Private old people’s homes must turn a profit while charging people prices they can afford – which may be a basic pension of just over 9,000 euros. As a result, these were understaffed, unprepared and quickly overwhelmed, with death rates of up to 20%. The army was sent in, and found some people lying dead in their beds.

Spain has a magnificent primary care system, but its hospitals have been hit by a decade of austerity since the financial crisis. It has only a third of the hospital beds per capita that are provided by Austria or Germany. Yet that is still more than the UK, New Zealand or the US.

When Sánchez announced that he would be invoking emergency powers, he took more than 24 hours to put them in place – by which time part of the population of Madrid and other cities had dispersed across the country.

Poor coordination meant that the regional government of Madrid had closed universities and schools earlier that week, provoking a holiday atmosphere in which bars and parks were full and many families left for their beach homes.

The lockdown that began on 14 March has been efficiently enforced with police fines and popular pressure (including eggs hurled from balconies). As a result, Spain’s ghastly curve of fatalities will begin to flatten soon and ministers say measures should start being relaxed when the month-long quarantine ends on 11 April. Yet no-one expects a return to normality.

When this is over, Spain will be extremely fragile. When the financial crisis hit in 2008, unemployment soared to 27%, public debt leapt upwards and the nosedive into recession was amongst the worst in Europe. Much the same will happen this year.

The solutions imposed a decade ago – austerity, jobs losses and salary cuts – will not be tolerated. The economist Toni Roldán has calculated that Spain needs a 200bn euro loan from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). That, however, must wait. For the moment, Spain must beat the virus. This has been the toughest moment so far, but there may be worse to come.

antidote against coronavirus

Fauci v Trump

Cartoon by Kevin Kallaugher

Trump ‘Furious’ And Potentially Ready To Openly Defy Anthony Fauci

By Shannon Barber

Hill Reporter: Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has emerged as the one steady hand on Trump’s coronavirus task force, but that could all be coming to an end.

Trump is reportedly “furious” with the grandfatherly figure who has brought sense and calm to daily coronavirus briefings, and he was noticeably absent from a recent briefing, prompting Twitter trends and panic amongst the American people. It turns out the panic was justified.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, an anxious Trump is toying with the idea of simply going against all medical advice and ordering Americans back to the streets, to work, to daily life as if there is no COVID-19. Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair described what a former White House aide has said of the situation:

    “Trump is furious. He’s been calling business leaders asking if he should just reopen the economy.”

Trump’s own tweets echo these sentiments. He has recently sent out a capitalized missive that reads,

“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”

Sherman continues:

    “Sources say that Trump is leaning toward telling at least some Americans to return to work after the 15-day social-distancing period ends on March 31. This puts Trump on a potential collision course with Fauci that many fear will end with Fauci being fired or quitting. ‘Fauci is the best medical expert we have. We can’t lose him,’ a former White House official said. Signs of tension between Trump and Fauci have been emerging.”

This is obviously the last thing America needs. Trump has a penchant for firing people who make him look foolish, and who will not fall in line with his plans.

It surely seems that Anthony Fauci, from the infamous facepalm forward, just might be on the chopping block. Our hope of survival will likely die with his job.

Lord help us, America.

Emergency Powers

Cartoon by Mike Luckovich

Can Trump be trusted not to abuse his coronavirus emergency powers?

By Tom McCarthy

The Guardian: Standing in the Brady briefing room at the White House last week Donald Trump said that despite new restrictions on the number of journalists allowed in the room, there were still too many reporters around.

“You’re actually sitting too close,” the president told the journalists. “We should probably get rid of about another 75, 80% of you. I have just two or three that I like in this room.”

If it was a joke, the timing was terrible.

As the coronavirus crisis has grown, so too has the power of the president’s whim to shape American life, whether that means choosing which states get emergency medical equipment first, deciding where to deploy troops to build temporary hospitals – or controlling what the public knows about what the government is doing.

In recent weeks, Trump has invoked emergency powers enabling him to waive certain healthcare regulations and direct enormous streams of cash to areas of need. He has also announced that the federal government would use its authority to direct private companies to boost the production of surgical masks, gloves and other equipment, although the status of those efforts was unclear.

For now the risk – the seeming surety – of a national disaster has fostered a willingness in even Trump’s harshest critics for him to aggressively seize the reins of his office and marshal the power of the federal government toward a muscular and decisive response that could save thousands of lives.

But with this widespread desire for action has come related concerns about where, exactly, that power will stop growing, when the emergency crests, and how that power will shrink when the crisis subsides.

Civil society advocates warn the fog of crisis could give Trump cover to grab adjacent powers, not related to the current emergency, that might be difficult to claw back – especially if Congress and the courts failed to check Trump after the fact.

“Ordinarily, that’s not something you’d be worried about, because it would seem kind of unthinkable for a president to exploit a pandemic to arrogate a bunch of power that he doesn’t need,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

“But we have seen that this president is willing to abuse emergency powers, and to use them for political gains. And so we have to worry.”

By invoking the National Emergencies Act on 13 March, Trump gained access to emergency powers in more than 100 other statutes, Goitein said, “and if you look at those authorities, very few of them relate to health crises”. With incremental action, Trump could expand government control of the internet, freeze private assets or change the size and composition of the armed forces.

Other steps Trump has taken in the coronavirus response, such as restricting international borders and imposing mandatory quarantines for certain travelers, do not rely on emergency authorities but could create a legacy of expanded executive power that advocates fear could outlast the virus.

One step Trump did not take after his administration declared a public health emergency on 31 January was to reallocate funds to speed approval for drugs and ramp up the production of coronavirus tests kits. Trump’s failure to deploy that power, the University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck said, may have ironically created a scenario in which he ends up using much broader powers.

“The president’s dilatory use of the powers he has, I think, is going to end up requiring him to use a lot more of that power, in ways that are a lot more controversial and a lot more coercive and a lot more inconsistent,” Vladeck told Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution in a Lawfare podcast about emergency powers and coronavirus.
Members of the Maryland national guard control entry to a section of parking lot on the south side of FedEx Field on Monday that officials said will become a clinic for coronavirus health screenings.

Concerns that the administration would look for ways to use the crisis to move the lines of the law were sharpened by reports last week that the justice department had asked Congress to pass legislation allowing federal judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies.

But analysts differ in their imaginations of how a dangerous expansion of power by Trump might unfold, with the economy in a tailspin and a presidential election on the horizon.

Under extraordinary powers accessible to Trump after his national emergency declaration, he could declare the coronavirus to be a “foreign threat” and impose financial sanctions on anyone he said was contributing to the threat, such as a media company or a political opponent.

He could announce an interstate travel ban, enforceable by the military, citing a need to stop the spread of the virus. Along similar lines, he could take steps that could make it harder for some people to vote in the presidential election in November – or make it more difficult for legal challenges to such steps to be heard in court.

“It’s not hard to imagine the federal courts in general, and this supreme court in particular, being remarkably deferential to the federal government in a public health crisis like this one,” Vladeck told Wittes.

Or, in what analysts describe as a worst-case scenario, the justice department could move for a federal judge to declare a breakdown of local law enforcement – at which point Trump could theoretically deploy the military in the streets, in a manner breaking with past deployments of active-duty troops for disaster response.

As an ominous reference point, civil liberties advocates point to anti-democratic moves taken by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to close most courts, adjourn parliament and exploit secret cellphone data >>>

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