With Charlie Harper
Well, it didn’t have quite the resonance it might have enjoyed if we weren’t all in the middle of a global health pandemic, but Bernie Sanders and then Barack Obama formally endorsed Joe Biden as the Democratic presidential candidate in the past several days. With plenty of Democratic primaries still scheduled for May, June or sometime this summer, the field is now clear for Biden.
Very notable is the contrast of these events with the corresponding endorsements by the two men of Hillary Clinton four years ago. It took weeks after Clinton’s nomination became inevitable for Sanders to grudgingly offer his limp endorsement. Obama, though widely tipped to have favoured Clinton from the start of a bitter nomination fight in 2016, did not offer his endorsement until the second week of June.
As analysts dissected Clinton’s shocking 2016 defeat in the ensuing months and years, the lack of early, enthusiastic support by Sanders and Obama was often referenced.
Of course, things are different now. Instead of competing to battle a seemingly frivolous opponent in Donald Trump, the Democrats are now trying for every ounce of support to cure America’s own peculiar political pandemic. Four years of this administration has everyone but the most committed zealot at least concerned about the nation’s future if Trump were to remain in office.
Liberal and many other pundits are wringing their hands over Trump’s bulging campaign war chest compared with the relative pittance remaining in Biden’s coffers after a primary season in which his fundraising prowess was often called into question.
Other observers point to the massive edge in visibility for a president who continues to dominate more than an hour of live TV virtually every day in the COVID-19 briefings from the White House. And his campaign doesn’t have to pay a single penny for any of this free television exposure. And now Trump is holding up relief checks so they can have his name prominently emblazoned on them. The notion that the president is responsible for their relief money might be hard for many voters to ignore.
On the other hand, Trump’s tardiness in recognizing and then reacting to the pandemic has become more widely acknowledged in the US and the surge in his approval ratings of several weeks ago as a “wartime leader” has subsided.
And Trump still, fundamentally, doesn’t show he knows or even much cares what he is talking about. He’s only good in these TV briefings when he sticks to his talking points and yields the floor to Dr. Anthony Fauci and other experts. But of course, Trump cannot step aside and let anyone else shine for very long. And he still lies with dismaying regularity. His wilful ignorance and mendaciousness appear again and again. But he doesn’t care and he doesn’t think his political base cares, either.
Speaking of Dr. Fauci, he has come under fire recently for having the temerity to contradict some of Trump’s nonsense about reopening the country in a few weeks. Fauci, who is 79 years young, does not appear fazed by the internet frenzy that followed Trump’s retweet of someone’s opinion that for contradicting the President, Fauci should at least be dismissed from the coronavirus task force, if not fired from his position at the National Institutes of Health.
Fauci has been giving TV and newspaper interviews and betrays no concern about being fired. He has also spoken about AIDS and the illusion of youthful impregnability.
“There were multiple lessons I learned from dealing with the HIV/AIDS epidemic decades ago,” Fauci said. “A big one is that you cannot have any separation between the people in authority trying to solve the crisis and those who are out there experiencing it and anxious about it.”
On younger people, he said: “I’m now actually pleading with the younger generation that, while you feel you are invulnerable, the fight is not only about yourself. You have a societal, even moral, responsibility to protect yourself so you don’t infect those who are perhaps more vulnerable.” Most Americans would concede Fauci has proven to be much more trustworthy during the coronavirus pandemic than his boss. Trump might eventually get weary of that and fire him. He might not. He didn’t fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US elections, for example.
But Trump did fire FBI Director James Comey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his first Secretary of State, three Chiefs of Staff and three National Security Advisers, plus dozens of others. You might not want to put a large bet down on Fauci’s intermediate term prospects of remaining in his job. A bet on Trump staying in his job would likely get you better odds, but November is still six long months away.
Waiting to get back to the serious business of sport
Largely uncelebrated during the coronavirus pandemic are the hundreds of millions of sports fans around the world who are going crazy with nothing to watch on TV except reruns of events whose outcomes are familiar.
In place of sports, we can only watch so many sitcoms and old movies. And even though every Dolphin fan has to be excited about the team’s prospects in the NFL player draft now just a week away, how many mock drafts can you really digest without feeling a bit of pre-draft nausea? Sports Illustrated is now on its 15th mock draft, and there’s time for several more before the actual draft occurs.
Amid all this live sports deprivation, there is some news.
In Germany, whose national discipline and sense of order are well documented, the Bundesliga top soccer league has green-lighted a resumption of training and other activities which should lead to a resumption of play sometime next month, without any live audience.
Germany has the fourth highest number of people in Europe affected by the coronavirus, but by far the lowest fatality rate, so this decision may make some sense. Still, even Christian Seifert, head of the Bundesliga, figures that at least 240 people are needed to stage a top-level soccer match, even with no fans in attendance. That number includes players and coaches, trainers, referees, TV technicians and grounds staff.
Some fans have long wondered when some pro sports events would simply be played for TV audiences, since so much professional league revenue comes from television contracts. Now that situation has arrived, hopefully temporarily.
No similar decisions have been made about restarting the season in the English Premier League, the world’s most popular. Since the British prime minister just got out of the emergency room in London after a scary bout with the coronavirus, this is not too surprising. Most speculation centers on a possible Premier League resumption of activity by early July at the earliest.
Closer to home, WWE has been granted special status as an essential business by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. This is not a joke.
WWE, which used to be known as the World Wrestling Federation, has a big facility near Orlando and had been stockpiling its matches prior to Florida’s shelter in place orders.
DeSantis, who arguably made a risky situation much more dangerous by dragging his feet before finally closing the Sunshine State’s Spring Break beaches last month, has expanded his list of essential services deemed appropriate to resume some activity.
The essential services list now includes WWE “employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience.” The production, the governor’s memo stipulated, “must be closed to the general public.”
We will see how the wrestlers and associated support crew feel about the ramifications of the governor’s decision. Critics are piling on Florida’s chief executive, whose behaviour and judgement seem to fall short in comparison to many of his colleagues in initially much harder-hit states such as New York, California and Washington.
DeSantis is a former Republican congressman from Florida’s sixth district (Daytona Beach) who is best known nationally as a strong Trump loyalist. He won both the
GOP primary and the general election last November with the active support of the president, who continues to ignore the advice of most health experts and publicly push for a quick reopening of the American economy.
Somehow, the governor’s WWE decision is not very surprising.