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Al Cross: As Trump’s virus work drags them down, Republicans seem frantic


Republicans facing an election amid a century-rank catastrophe made worse by their president are throwing anything they can against the political wall to see what sticks. Some of what they’re throwing is pretty slippery – trying to discredit experts, shifting the blame to China, or, well, just making stuff up.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had been a voice of reason, repeatedly volunteering in interviews that Americans should wear masks in public – a step urged by public-health experts and governors of both parties but rejected by much of the political base of a president who has declared victory, left the field and refused to wear a mask.

McConnell’s been wearing one, but has otherwise gone off the reservation, mainly in an online video interview May 11 with Lara Trump, wife of presidential son Eric Trump. As they discussed the pandemic, McConnell averred, “Clearly the Obama administration did not leave for this administration any kind of game plan for something like this.”


Al Cross (Twitter @ruralj) is a professor in the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media and director of its Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. His opinions are his own, not UK’s. He was the longest-serving political writer for the Louisville Courier Journal (1989-2004) and national president of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2001-02. He joined the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame in 2010.

NKyTribune and KyForward are the anchor home for Al Cross’ column. We offer it to other publications throughout the Commonwealth, with appropriate attribution.

That’s simply not true, and McConnell admitted it May 14. President Trump’s predecessor left him a 69-page playbook for a pandemic, including one caused by a novel coronavirus, with such points as supplies of personal protective gear, and Trump largely disregarded it. Then we learned that a big U.S. manufacturer of N95 respirator masks offered in January to ramp up domestic production because he was getting so many orders from other countries, and his offer wasn’t accepted.

At the same time, Health Secretary Alex Azar “struggled to get Trump’s attention to focus on the issues,” The Washington Post reported in a revealing timeline of the crisis. The only strong, early action Trump took was to ban most travelers from China, a move that still allowed 40,000 people to come from that country to the U.S., including 4,000 from Wuhan, epicenter of the pandemic.

To his credit, McConnell hasn’t, as far as I can tell, defended Trump’s overall handling of the crisis. But his acolytes, such as Attorney General Daniel Cameron, are trying to shift blame to China – which does need to be held accountable for how it handled the Wuhan outbreak, but is largely beyond the reach of legal action that Cameron suggested.

McConnell talked about legal action in the interview, to make what appears to have been his first public criticism of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s handling of the pandemic. Asked about Democratic negotiating stances in Congress, he turned the conversation in another direction:

“If you look at the rhetoric, the Democrats seem to actually prefer keeping people locked up at home. That’s one of the reasons some of the governors have run into trouble. My governor in Kentucky, for example, has lost two cases in federal court because he overreached. He tried to have a travel ban in which you couldn’t leave or enter the state. . . . He tried to prevent people from having drive-in church services on Easter Sunday.”

Whoa again, Senator. Beshear had to change his travel ban, but he didn’t try to prevent drive-in services; he actually encouraged them.

McConnell seems to have swallowed the claim of lawyers for Maryville Baptist Church in Hillview, that state police put quarantine notices on cars of people participating in the church’s drive-up service. Three judges on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did likewise, without proof; Beshear says state police told him they placed notices only on cars of people who had gone inside the church.

McConnell continued, “Some of these governors, particularly the Democrat governors, it seems, enjoy this extra power over people’s lives, and . . . the governors have been struck down, been overruled, for being sort of drunk with power at the opportunity to keep everybody locked up.”

That, sadly, echoed McConnell’s silly seatmate, Rand Paul. On May 7, Paul said Beshear was “drunk with power,” and on May 12 he told the Owensboro Chamber of Commerce that the governor was a dictator.

That was the same day Paul went after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, disputing basic public-health history and practice about avoiding resurgences in epidemics.

Paul is an ophthalmologist. He should have more respect for a colleague, and for science. His jab at Fauci, and two by Trump that followed, continued the sad trend among some Republicans of discounting scientific experts.

That’s understandable, if not acceptable, in politics. For example, on climate change, they dance with the fossil-fuel industries who helped buy their tickets to the dance. With a deadly pandemic, it’s not understandable, except to see them as singers of whatever tune Trump and his right-wing media choir sing in frantic efforts to get him re-elected.

McConnell and Trump are joined at the hip for the election, and the senator has been called the president’s chief enabler. Please don’t enable a pandemic.


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2 Comments

  1. Richard says:

    As of Friday, new cases were decreasing in 19 states and increasing in just three, while staying mostly the same in the rest, according to a database maintained by The New York Times. I would not say that President Trump has not done a perfect job, but as of today, the death rates per million people is 267 in the U.S. This is far better than 8 other first world countries, including Spain, Italy and the UK. Russia would likely by ahead of the U.S. as well, if they published statistics. Can anyone trust China’s numbers, or China in general, for that matter?

  2. Joe says:

    Apparently Mr.Cross is unaware that the United States is a representative republic. States and localities are responsible for their respective approach in handling a pandemic. The Federal government has provided guidance and a whole lot of ventilators, PPE, temporary hospitals/ships and assorted other medical equipment to those states that have requested help. President Trump gets no thanks from the ‘lame stream’ media for these efforts, even though several Democratic governors have thanked the Federal government for said help. Since when is the coordinated good faith efforts from all branches of government subject to such blatant politicalization from the Left?? It appears the Democrat Party has only one approach to all of our problems … Attack, attack and attack some more President Trump. Looking forward to voting Nov 3 along with the silent majority who will stop the Democrat/Socialist nonsense,

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