Wow, what a morning! Dr. Anthony Fauci has good news on a coronavirus vaccine; the nation’s cities were somewhat calmer and less violent last night — although the decision about deploying the National Guard has now become hopelessly politicized; and one of the country’s least-popular Republicans loses a primary.
Dr. Fauci: We Should Have 100 Million Vaccine Doses by the End of the Year
All right, finally some good news: “The US should have 100 million doses of one candidate Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the year, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Tuesday. ‘Then, by the beginning of 2021, we hope to have a couple hundred million doses,’ Fauci said during a live question and answer session with the Journal of the American Medical Association.”
But before we break out the party hats . . . “When you look at the history of coronaviruses, the common coronaviruses that cause the common cold, the reports in the literature are that the durability of immunity that’s protective ranges from three to six months to almost always less than a year,” he said. “That’s not a lot of durability and protection.”
We might need annual coronavirus shots the way we’re supposed to get annual flu shots. Also note that Fauci changed his tune a bit late last month when he declared that a second wave in the fall was “not inevitable.” (So it’s “evitable,” then?)
Actions to Restore Public Order Require a Buy-In from Broad Swaths of the People
President Trump is not interested in listening to state officials who disagree with him, and he has no ability to persuade them to come around to his position. Democratic officials have little or no interest in listening to the president and refuse to take actions that could be perceived as concurring or supporting the president. This has far-reaching, real-world consequences.
On a call with the nation’s governors Monday, Trump seethed with frustration, telling them, “most of you are weak. You have to dominate. If you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time . . . Somebody throwing a rock, that’s like shooting a gun. You have to do retribution, in my opinion.” Trump’s preferred, or perhaps lone, form of persuasion is to berate and insult others until they change their minds.
Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota — who has earned plenty of fair criticism for his response to riots in his state — urged the president “to make clear to the public that the National Guard wasn’t an occupying force and instead consists of people’s neighbors.” Trump responded, “It got so bad a few nights ago that the people wouldn’t have minded an occupying force. I wish we had an occupying force.”
When someone who President Trump doesn’t like says, “I am concerned that this could become X,” Trump’s first instinct is often to say, “This will absolutely be X.” Maine governor Janet Mills, a Democrat, told the president she was concerned about his upcoming trip to Puritan Medical Products, which manufactures swabs for test kits. Trump later said, “she tried to talk me out of it. Now, I think she probably talked me into it. She just doesn’t understand me very well.”
In this sense, Trump is correct. When other people warn him not to do something, he often reflexively does it to demonstrate he won’t be controlled, regardless of consequences. (“DO NOT CONGRATULATE.”)
Unsurprisingly, the governors who did not already agree with the president were not persuaded to change their actions. Some Democratic officials who had activated National Guard units before Monday’s call are now publicly insisting they will not deploy them. Trump’s tone Monday appears to have pushed some Democrats further away from his preferred position.
Calling out National Guard could be step to restoring public order. Despite historically ignorant claims that this hasn’t been done in centuries, California governor Pete Wilson called out nearly 10,000 of his state’s Army National Guard to in Los Angeles after the riots in 1992. There is some debate as to whether the National Guard deployment was the decisive factor in ending the riots; the amount of violence in the city dropped after the third day, and the deployment was largely complete by the end of day four.
As of Monday morning, National Guard units had been activated to prepare to assist law enforcement (but not necessarily deployed) in Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. (This is separate from the active and deployed National Guard units assisting with the coronavirus response in all fifty states.) It is worth noting that the National Guard can be used in ways to assist police — communications, directing traffic, simply having a deterrent presence in public squares and intersections, etc. — and not necessarily in a role that puts them in confrontation with protesters or rioters.
Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser also activated her local National Guard Sunday, but by Tuesday morning she declared, “I don’t think that the military should be used on the streets of American cities against Americans. And I definitely don’t think it should be used for a show.”
What happened in between Sunday and Tuesday? Trump’s conference call to the governors about “domination” and “retribution.” Fairly or not, the president altered the perception of what those troops were there to do with his rhetoric. For the deployment to run smoothly, the public in these cities needed to see the Guardsmen as a reinforcement for local police, ensuring stability and order. Local and state officials needed most of the public to buy-in to the value of the deployment, just as the president needed the state governors to buy into the proposal as well. And then Trump explicitly wished the Guardsmen could function as an occupying force.
Unsurprisingly, since Monday, several Democratic governors like J. B. Pritzker and Andrew Cuomo have publicly declared they not want the National Guard deployed in their states’ cities. Interestingly, Texas governor Greg Abbott also said he doesn’t see a need for National Guardsmen in his state’s cities, and Trump declared via Twitter he agreed with Abbott’s decision because of the border wall. (For those wondering how close the biggest Texas cities are to the U.S.–Mexican border, San Antonio is about 157 miles from Laredo, Austin is 235 miles away, Houston is about 315 miles, and Dallas is about 430 miles.)
There are portions of the District of Columbia that are under the control of the federal government. This is why last night dozens of masked, camouflaged National Guardsmen lined up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The masks are presumably for coronavirus protection, and the Lincoln Memorial was among several national monuments and sites on the National Mall that were spray-painted with graffiti on previous nights. Nonetheless, it is easy to see why people are unnerved at the sight of masked troops lining up behind barricades at an iconic American structure, after the president yearned for domination, retribution, and an occupying force.
Whether or not you think the people of these besieged states and cities should have elected these governors and mayors, they did. Those state and local officials were as freely elected as the president was; they took oaths of public service upon taking office just like he did. Any successful deployment of the National Guard will require cooperation from state and city officials, and state and local police.
Posse Comitatus is on the books for a reason. Soldiers and police both carry guns, but their missions are distinct. Soldiers set out to neutralize and kill an enemy, usually foreign combatants. Police enforce laws against U.S. citizens. (Yes, military police units enforce laws as well.) There are rare situations where military forces can be deployed to assist civilian law enforcement agencies, but responsible leaders in the civilian and military worlds recognize the two realms ought to be mixed as little as possible.
This is one of the reasons it is also disturbing to hear Defense Secretary Mark Esper say that when he walked with the president Monday evening across Lafayette Park, he believed he was following the president to “see some damage and to talk to the troops,” not to pose for photographs in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. “I didn’t know where I was going,” Esper told NBC News. This is a moment where clear communication between civilian and military leaders is most necessary, and the president is not communicating to his own secretary of defense where he’s going and why.
Esper requested the use of Virginia’s National Guardsmen earlier on Monday, in order to deploy them on the streets of Washington. Governor Ralph Northam denied Esper’s request, and his chief of staff declared in a statement, “we quickly learned it had not been made at Mayor Bowser’s request or coordinated with her, and we have heightened concern based on the president’s remarks that the administration is looking to use the Guard to escalate — not de-escalate — the situation.”
Democratic governors are simply not going to deploy their state’s national guardsmen into cities where Democratic mayors do not want them. Trust is the fuel that moves the engine of any resolution to this violence. Without it, efforts are just going to sputter.
Yesterday I described President Trump’s mentality as one of perpetual conflict “with himself and groups he likes on one side, and others he cannot abide on the other.” The opposition never has a point, there is no honorable concession, all compromises are forms of surrender, and the only objective is complete victory and forcing the opposition to accepting defeat. “No matter the problem, he always finds a path back to his favorite explanation: He is strong and others are weak; if other people were as strong as he was, the problem wouldn’t be happening.” Unsurprisingly, a lot of the president’s fans agree with him.
A lot of options get taken off the table when someone has this mentality. Every conflict can only be escalated. Tensions can only be ratcheted higher. Like a horned ram who likes to bash heads, the president can only charge into conflict and hope that the collision does more damage to his opponent than himself.
This is a situation that requires building consensus, and Trump turned it into another one of his battles of wills.
Perhaps the president’s foes were always going to accuse him of being an aspiring dictator or fascist. But he sure makes their job easier for them.
A King Is Toppled
Republican voters ousted U.S. Rep. Steve King on Tuesday, delivering an end to the two decades of controversy he brought to his heavily conservative district. The Associated Press has called the 4th Congressional District primary race for state Sen. Randy Feenstra of Hull, who had the backing of many state elected officials and national Republican groups. Feenstra won with 45.7% of the vote to King’s 36%, a margin of just under 8,000 votes, according to unofficial results from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.
ADDENDUM: A little while back, I had a chat with Oliver North, discussing the actions of the Chinese government and the coronavirus; that interview can be watched here.