The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

The Piranhas Come for Kyrsten Sinema

Senator Kyrsten Sinema questions government transportation officials during a hearing with the Senate Commerce subcommittee on Transportation and Safety on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 27, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

On the menu today: Like a school of piranhas, the progressive left attacks Kyrsten Sinema for the cardinal sin of not letting it have what it wants; Dr. Anthony Fauci pulls an Emily Litella; and a new report indicates that in the summer of 2019, lots of Chinese medical authorities in the Hubei province suddenly wanted to have a lot more PCR tests on hand. What stirred that sudden expanded interest in detecting particular genes in a sample?

Kyrsten Sinema Is Under Attack

Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema is the new Howard Schultz. Stay with me here.

In one of the true afterthoughts of the 2020 presidential-election cycle, former Starbucks CEO Schultz explored a “centrist independent” bid for the presidency, for what seemed like ten minutes. It was always the longest of longshots. Unless you followed the coffee chain or the business world, Schultz was not a particularly well-known figure. He was amiable, but not particularly charismatic. His rags-to-riches life story and worldview were interesting, but hardly slam-dunk presidential material.

But something odd happened almost immediately after Schultz announced his interest in an independent bid. Lots of big cultural figures who had never had a second thought about Schultz suddenly had extremely strong opinions about him and concluded that he was terrible and that his company was terrible. Stephen Colbert joked, “Who hasn’t been in a Starbucks bathroom and thought, “The guy in charge of this should be in charge of everything”?

Now, if Colbert had told the same joke a month earlier, no one would have understood it. Was there a widespread perception that Starbucks was a dump? The company sells about 4 million cups of coffee per day; whether or not you like its coffee, clearly lots of people all around the world like the place. Was there a prevalent belief that Starbucks was a particularly badly run company and that the CEO of that company had to be stupefyingly incompetent? Was Starbucks the kind of notorious, seedy eyesore no respectable person would want to be caught dead in?

But as I noted at the time, almost instantly, Starbucks became a cultural villain — never mind that the chain’s ubiquitousness had become something of a joke; as Dennis Miller cracked, “In my neighborhood, they’re opening up a new Starbucks . . . in another Starbucks.”

The Daily Beast suddenly discovered that the music selection at Starbucks featured too many white artists. Think Progress editor Ian Millhiser called for a boycott of Starbucks even though Schultz has left the company. Mika Brzezinski demanded of Schultz in his Morning Joe interview, ‘How much does an 18-ounce box of Cheerios cost?’ (He didn’t know.) A week ago, none of these people had any gripe with Schultz or Starbucks. He hasn’t officially announced a bid yet, and no polling has hinted at his level of support. But overnight, the well-regarded liberal former CEO became progressives’ enemy No. 1. Dozens of left-leaning public voices took to print, social media, and the airwaves to destroy him, like a shoal of piranhas.

The only thing Howard Schultz had done wrong was to represent a minuscule potential threat to either complicate or derail the Democrats’ effort to defeat Donald Trump. And for that, he had to be metaphorically destroyed. Overnight, lots of big cultural figures sent the clear signal: You are not supposed to like Howard Schultz. He is bad. Not only are you a bad person if you even consider voting for him, you are a bad person for not instantly hating him the way we do.

The progressive Left — represented not just by Democratic politicians but by activists, aligned groups, institutions, cultural figures, and certain journalists — operates on the mentality that anyone who stands in the way of it getting what it wants must be destroyed.

Joe the Plumber. Brett Kavanaugh. The Little Sisters of the Poor. Brendan Eich.

And right now, Kyrsten Sinema — who has never voted against the Biden administration’s position in the Senate — is the target of the progressive Left’s wrath. On Sunday morning Politico’s Playbook newsletter thought the biggest story of the day was that Saturday Night Live was making fun of Sinema:

After everybody else is on board with investing in roads, Sinema: “I want no roads.” Biden: “Why?” Sinema: “Chaos.” [In reality, roads are one of the few things Sinema has made clear she wants.]

After Sinema is asked what she actually likes: “Yellow Starbursts, the film ‘The Polar Express’ and when someone eats fish on an airplane. . . . As a wine-drinking, bisexual triathlete, I know what the average American wants.”

Politico seemed convinced that this impression will shape how Americans feel about what’s going on in Washington. New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg cites the sketch this morning and fumes, “It sometimes seems as if what Sinema wants is for people to sit around wondering what Sinema wants.” Oh, those silly women, never knowing what they want! Even Freud was baffled by it! Goldberg wishes Sinema were more like John McCain and concludes that, “There’s a difference, it turns out, between being a maverick and being a narcissist.”

Most of us can see the dynamic at work here. Liberals loved John McCain because he deviated from the Republican Party line and intermittently sided with Democrats. Liberals currently loathe Sinema because she is deviating from the Democratic Party line and, for now, positioning herself with Republicans. Being a “maverick” is only good if you are helping the party that Michelle Goldberg likes.

You noticed it is suddenly okay to paint Sinema as a silly and shallow airhead who is obsessed with fashion, right?

“I think those negotiations have started now, so . . . this has probably helped some things move loose,” Representative Mark Pocan (D., Wis.), another leader of the Progressive Caucus, said of Manchin’s proposal. He also needled Sinema for not putting out her own proposal, telling Forbes that, “Half of Manchinema has now shown us something. Waiting for the other half to show us something other than a designer purse.”

Oh, those silly women and their obsession with designer purses! Good thing he’s a leader of the Progressive Caucus, otherwise that remark might be considered sexist!

Writing of the activists who yelled at Sinema from outside the stall as she attempted to use a public toilet, Kirsten Powers, who once seemed quite sane, now insists that, “People weaponize grace (and ‘manners’ etc) to tone police and silence people who are being harmed. It’s not ‘toxic’ to confront a politician who supports policies that are harmful.”

Boy, if there’s any problem that the United States of 2021 has in abundance, it’s “weaponized grace and manners,” isn’t it? Our society is just too darn polite, respectful, kind, and generous, and our biggest challenge is that we just don’t have enough angry activists who are willing to confront politicians. Oddly, I don’t remember this assessment being prevalent during the days of the Tea Party protests or the former president’s MAGA rallies.

Dr. Emily Litella

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Sunday:

BRENNAN: But we can gather for Christmas, or it’s just too soon to tell?

FAUCI: You know, Margaret, it’s just too soon to tell. We’ve just got to — concentrating on continuing to get those numbers down. . . .

BRENNAN: Yes.

FAUCI: . . . and not try to jump ahead by weeks or months and say what we’re going to do at a particular time. Let’s focus like a laser on continuing to get those cases down. And we can do it by people getting vaccinated and also, in the situation where boosters are appropriate, to get people boosted, because we know that they can help greatly in diminishing infection and diminishing advanced disease, the kinds of data that are now accumulating in real time.

“It’s just too soon to tell” is not, “Yes, you can gather with your family members for Christmas.” Yesterday’s Jolt raked Fauci over the coals, and of course many folks insisted I was the one being unreasonable.

But somewhere between Sunday and Monday, Fauci decided he was being misinterpreted:

The best way to assure that we’ll be in good shape as we get into the winter would be to get more and more people vaccinated,” Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, said Monday on CNN. “That was misinterpreted as my saying we can’t spend Christmas with our families, which was absolutely not the case. I will be spending Christmas with my family, I encourage people, particularly the vaccinated people who are protected, to have a good, normal Christmas with your family.”

As the great Gilda Radner used to say in her persona of the oft-confused old lady, “Never mind.”

Wait, Why Did China’s Hubei Province Need So Many More DNA Tests in Summer 2019?

Suspicious? Odd? Just a coincidence?

Purchases of PCR tests in China’s Hubei Province surged months before the first official reports of a novel coronavirus case there, according to a report by Australia-based cybersecurity company Internet 2.0.

About 67.4 million yuan ($10.5 million at current rates) was spent on PCR tests in Hubei during 2019, nearly double the 2018 total, with the upswing starting in May, according to the report.

This is the sort of thing that will fuel people’s thinking that the virus was either deliberately created or deliberately released, or that Chinese authorities knew that the risk of a leak was higher. But May 2019 is particularly early in the timeline of the pandemic, and as the report notes, “PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, tests are used to detect the presence of a particular genetic sequence in a sample, and they have applications beyond COVID-19 testing.” Another complication: “Orders doubled from universities, jumped fivefold from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and surged tenfold from animal testing bureaus. Purchases from hospitals declined by more than 10 percent. Monthly procurement data shows a spike in orders in May, especially from CDC buyers and the People’s Liberation Army.”

If Chinese authorities knew or suspected some new virus was going around, would they want the hospitals to not have as many of these kinds of tests? Maybe this information is less directly tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is it an indicator that experimentation or testing activity in Chinese labs increased in the summer of 2019?

ADDENDUM: We’re asking for your support again. You’ll hear more from me soon, but for now, read Mark Antonio Wright and heed his words.

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