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How Stupid Do You Have To Be?

It's In The Mail" by Nancy Ohanian

Medicare sent out an e-mail this morning warning that "As the country begins to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, there's no doubt scammers are already scheming. Medicare covers the COVID-19 vaccine, so there will be no cost to you. If anyone asks you to share your Medicare Number or pay for access to the vaccine, you can bet it's a scam.

Here's what to know:

You can't pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine.
You can't pay to get early access to a vaccine.
• Don't share your personal or financial information if someone calls, texts, or emails you promising access to the vaccine for a fee.

And, at the same time that arrived, I was reading Max Boot's Washington Post column, There Is No Vaccine For Ignorance. He wasn't having a laugh over people who get scammed over the vaccine. He was writing about a different breed of Trumpist than the scam-artists. "The good news," he wrote, "is that roughly two-thirds of the country inhabits the land of facts, where information comes from mainstream media. The bad news is that at least one-third live in a la-la-land of 'alternative facts' and 'fake news,' where the most trusted sources of information are Fox News and Facebook-- or, heaven help us, Newsmax and OAN... There is a vast, unbridgeable chasm that separates the brilliant scientists who came up with the coronavirus vaccines and the ignoramuses who believe that the coronavirus was engineered by Bill Gates to profit from vaccinations, or that it was created as a bioweapon by China, or that it is spread by 5G cell towers, or that it doesn’t actually exist, or that its dangers are vastly exaggerated, or that masks are either useless or harmful in stopping its spread. This pandemic of misinformation helps explain why the United States is among the countries with the highest covid death rates in the world despite having the most sophisticated medical sector. Now these two nations are on another collision course because of the resistance to taking the coronavirus vaccine."

Yesterday the states reported 199,080 confirmed new cases. Today it was a ghastly 232,342 new cases, bringing the total to 18,917,152-- 57,134 cases per million residents of our country. 28,728 of these cases are critical-- more than the next 4 worst hit, by that metric, countries (India, Brazil, Iran and Germany) combined. There were also 3,401 new deaths announced today-- so a total of 334,218, worse than Brazil and India combined (with a combined population of about 5 times our own).

Also writing for The Post, Michael Gerson noted something that I would hope all DWT readers have already concluded on their own-- that Trump must never hold power again. In explaining why he's come to that conclusion-- beyond referring to Trump as "a humiliating national disaster," he wrote that "On one side are the lunatics-- among them Giuliani, Powell and Flynn-- who want Trump to violate laws and assume authoritarian powers. On the other side are sycophants who supported Trump’s spurious legal challenges to the election result but apparently draw the line at treason. By most accounts, Trump’s sympathies lie with the lunatics."

Yes, lunatics-- but lunatics posing a danger to our country, perhaps the biggest danger since the South Carolina militia attacked the American garrison stationed at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, while the treasonous residents of Charleston celebrated in the streets. This week, nearly every columnist and news reporter in the country is writing about how the next month will be the most dangerous since Trump first occupied the White House. This morning, NY Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt wrote Trump "is at perhaps his most unleashed-- and, as events of the last few days have demonstrated, at the most unpredictable point in his presidency. He remains the most powerful person in the world, yet he is focused on the one area in which he is powerless to get what he wants: a way to avoid leaving office as a loser."

He is almost entirely disengaged from leading the nation even as Americans are being felled by the coronavirus at record rates. Faced with an aggressive cyberassault almost surely carried out by Russia, his response, to the degree that he has had one, has been to downplay the damage and to contradict his own top officials by suggesting that the culprit might actually have been China. He played almost no role in negotiating the stimulus bill that just passed Congress before working to disrupt it at the last minute.
It is not clear that Mr. Trump’s latest behavior is anything other than a temper tantrum, attention-seeking or a form of therapy for the man who controls a nuclear arsenal-- though one alternative, if charitable, view is that it is strategic groundwork for a grievance-filled run in 2024.
...[C]urrent advisers have described a daily struggle to keep Mr. Trump from giving in to his impulse to listen to those who are telling him what he wants to hear. And former advisers say the most worrisome issue is the gradual disappearance of the core group of West Wing aides who, often working in unison, consistently could get him to turn away from risky, legally dubious and dangerous ideas.
...Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel who has implored Mr. Trump to steer clear of proposed maneuvers like having federal officials seize control of voting machines to inspect them, has become a target of the president’s anger.
Mr. Trump has characterized Mr. Cipollone derisively, invoking his own mentor, the infamously ruthless and unscrupulous lawyer Roy Cohn, as what a White House counsel should aspire to be like.
The White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has objected to some of the president’s desires, like appointing Ms. Powell as special counsel examining voter fraud, but he also made a trip to Georgia on Tuesday to investigate ballot safety measures. Mr. Meadows, a former House member, has also leaned into the effort by his old colleagues to challenge the vote in Congress, something that might keep the president from engaging further with Ms. Powell, but which many Republicans consider destructive to their party.
Other advisers have simply absented themselves at a time when the president is particularly unsteady.
The president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has been out of the country for significant amounts of time since Election Day, traveling through the Middle East for deals that burnish his own credentials. He has responded to people seeking his help with Mr. Trump by saying that the president is his children’s grandfather, implying there are limits to what he can do to help.
Mr. Trump has spent his days watching television, calling Republicans in search of advice on how to challenge the electoral outcome and urging them to defend him on television. As always, he turns to Twitter for boosts of support and to vent his anger. He has not gone golfing since the weather has turned colder, and is cloistered in the White House, shuffling from the residence to the Oval Office.
Many Trump advisers hope that his planned trip to his private club in West Palm Beach, Florida., Mar-a-Lago, will give him a change of scenery and a change of perspective. He is scheduled to leave on Wednesday and stay through the New Year holiday, although some aides said he still might decide against it.

Others hope he never returns from there. And that probably includes more than a few mainstream conservative Republicans, even if many of them feel that he well may be all that binds the Republican Party together. Matthew Continetti-- wasn't he the guy who paid for the Steel Dossier?-- argued that though "the bulk of the conservative movement and the Republican Party agonized over Mr. Trump’s conduct, rhetoric and character, [they] voted for him anyway," seeing him as the lesser evil in the 2016 general election. Afterwards, "Most of the central institutions of the American right-- the activist think tanks, the single-issue groups, talk radio, blogs, cable news-- aligned themselves with Mr. Trump’s program, if not always with his persona. It was a tricky play. The Trump program is subject to change at the whim of the Trump persona. The party more often catered to the president’s obsessions, tastes, moods and inclinations than it stood against them. Even as it became clear that what really thrilled the crowds at MAGA rallies was Mr. Trump’s unpredictability, brashness, crudity, dark comedy and unapologetic fighting spirit, some on the right began an effort to backfill ideological content into the vessel of 'Trumpism.' What they forgot was that for Mr. Trump, everything is a transaction. Deals can be modified until the last moment and then litigated after the contract has been signed. It’s true that the broad outlines of Mr. Trump’s worldview-- immigration restriction, trade protection, reluctance to enter into foreign entanglements, opposition to entitlement reform-- have been more or less consistent for decades. What is equally true is that Mr. Trump has no hesitation in dropping a proposal, person or principle if he believes it will suit him. The programmatic details of Trumpism are fungible. The attitude behind it is not."

Trump’s attitude is what came to define the conservative movement and the Republican Party... For much of the right, implacable and vocal resistance to cultural progressivism mattered more than experience, credentials or know-how.
...Untangling the party from Mr. Trump will require Republican officials to follow the lead of conservative jurists and the growing number of lawmakers who acknowledge the reality of Joe Biden’s victory. It will require a delicate recalibration of the relationship between party elites and the grass-roots populism that fuels the Trump phenomenon.
It will require a depersonalization of the right, with leaders focusing less on individual candidates and more on the principles that have guided the movement for more than half a century: anti-statism, constitutionalism, patriotism and anti-socialism. And it will take a willingness to look ahead to the next election, rather than dwell on the last one.
None of this will be easy. Mr. Trump’s power over the right waxes even as his institutional strength wanes because much of the Republican Party judges his presidency to have been a success. He infused the party with new voters, with a new set of issue positions and with a devil-may-care brio. He fulfilled his side of the bargain with conservative interest groups. His Tweets deflect attention from a lack of internal consensus on health care, technology and foreign policy.
The Republican Party has embraced reality-TV authoritarianism not out of strength but weakness. Mr. Trump is all it has.

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