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Essential Politics: The pandemic response, a year later – Los Angeles Times

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This is the March 10, 2021, edition of the Essential Politics newsletter. Like what you’re reading? Sign up to get it in your inbox three times a week.

To start today’s newsletter, let’s get personal.

At the end of February 2020, I visited The Times’ offices in El Segundo for the first time.

I had been at the company all of two months, but in the Washington bureau. This was a chance to finally meet some of my colleagues in person. I went out to lunch with my team and met a friend for dinner. I spent a free afternoon at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. And I took a full flight home. In retrospect, that trip was one of the last “normal” things I did.

Days after I returned to Washington, my world dramatically shifted. Over the course of an afternoon, my boss and I discussed whether I should quarantine after being on an airplane. My mom urged me to work from home. My husband did too. On March 10, 2020, I left the Washington bureau’s office, certain I’d be back soon. I wasn’t, of course.

Everyone has a story like mine — a story about the moment that neatly cleaved the past from the pandemic present. For many, that moment was a year ago this week.

Last March 11 brought a series of bombshell headlines: The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Tom Hanks announced he’d contracted the coronavirus. The NBA suspended the 2020 season. President Trump banned travel from Europe. On March 13, he declared a national emergency. So began a year of politics unlike any in memory.

How it started

The 2020 outlook: A March 8 Times story included this quote: “We’re past the point of containment,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration during the first two years of the Trump administration, on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Days later, researchers cast doubt on the U.S. case count, suggesting the real toll was already much higher than officially reported. Health officials warned of dwindling supplies of tests and medical equipment.

“The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, told the House Oversight Committee. “That is a failing. It is a failing. Let’s admit it.”

Trump had for weeks downplayed the virus’ threat and continued to claim that Democrats and the media were overstating its risks. At times he directly contradicted experts like Fauci. It was an approach that drew criticism and highlighted existing flaws in the administration’s communications, Eli Stokols and Noah Bierman reported. Ultimately his own advisors blamed his erratic stewardship for his election defeat.

The headlines:

The relief: Discussions about an emergency relief package quickly began but slowed amid disagreements among Democrats, Republicans and Trump.

A Democratic proposal in the House included enhanced unemployment benefits, paid sick leave and a boost in the availability of food stamps, Jennifer Haberkorn reported March 11. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin worked together on a deal, though it was ultimately slimmer than what Democrats had proposed.

Trump pressed for tax cuts, unsuccessfully seeking support from Senate Republicans. A strategy-planning lunch that week ended without agreement. Congress would not pass legislation to send to the president for two more weeks.

What the president was up to: He played golf at Mar-a-Lago and dined with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. He campaigned for reelection. He also agreed to stop shaking hands and cancel campaign rallies.

Trump focused on trying to mitigate the virus’ economic impact, including by announcing the European travel ban and a national emergency. He’d planned, after all, to take credit for a good economy in campaigning for a second term, Stokols and Bierman reported.

He was also tweeting — largely criticism of Joe Biden, his likely presidential rival, President Obama and other Democrats. “Sleepy Joe Biden was in charge of the H1N1 Swine Flu epidemic which killed thousands of people. The response was one of the worst on record. Our response is one of the best, with fast action of border closings & a 78% Approval Rating, the highest on record. His was lowest!” Trump tweeted on March 12, misrepresenting the facts about the 2009 contagion, which killed more than 12,000 Americans while Biden was vice president.

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How it’s going

The 2021 outlook: Biden’s promises to rein in the pandemic are being put to the test. Congress is set to give final approval Wednesday to a new relief package that achieves a number of Democratic priorities.

Grief, loss and empathy have long been central to Biden’s personal story, as he highlighted in his campaign for president, Mark Z. Barabak wrote in September. He has staked his presidency on ending the pandemic and restoring the economy.

Americans have responded positively in polls. But the situation remains delicate, especially as some Republican-led states lift pandemic restrictions even as variants of the coronavirus are spreading, Megerian and Stokols write.

Republicans have almost unanimously criticized the stimulus package, calling it a “liberal wish list,” David Lauter writes. But increasingly, Democratic lawmakers and the Biden administration have decided to own that label.

The headlines:

The Times front page on March 9, 2021

The Times front page on March 9, 2021.

The relief: The latest relief package, providing $1.9 trillion in assistance for individuals, businesses, states and local governments, is one of a series over the past year and brings total aid to more than $4 trillion.

Policy disputes slowed its progress and threatened to split the Senate Democratic majority, Sarah D. Wire reported. Senate Democrats disagreed on some provisions, including a minimum wage hike, eligibility for individuals’ relief payments and the amount of federal unemployment assistance.

The package was altered some to win the votes of moderate Democrats going into this week, disappointing some but ensuring the bill’s passage. The final package provides $1,400 checks for many Americans, an expansion of Affordable Care Act subsidies and tax benefits for families, Wire reports.

After the House vote to approve Senate-passed changes, which is expected on Wednesday, the package goes to Biden to be signed into law.

What the president is up to: Biden has a series of public appearances this week to highlight vaccine progress, economic aid and lives lost over the past year. He is also scheduled to deliver a prime-time address on Thursday.

The president has been tweeting, but not with the frequency, inaccuracy and occasional falsehoods of his predecessor. Biden’s posts have largely focused on encouraging Congress to pass the relief package.

The view from Washington

— Who are Biden’s Cabinet members and nominees? Introducing a new guide from The Times.

— The White House on Monday announced a temporary protected status decree that could allow tens of thousands of Venezuelans who fled their homeland to remain in the United States with legal standing, report Molly O’Toole and Tracy Wilkinson.

— Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri will not seek a third term in the U.S. Senate — the fifth Senate Republican to decide against running in 2022.

— The Republican National Committee is defending its right to use Trump’s name in fundraising appeals despite his demands that they stop the practice. He has urged his supporters to send money to his own PAC instead.

— Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has formally approved an extension of the National Guard deployment at the U.S. Capitol for about two more months as possible threats of violence remain.

— A Trump-era immigration rule denying green cards to immigrants who use public benefits like food stamps was dealt likely fatal blows Tuesday after the Biden administration dropped legal challenges.

The view from California

— At his State of the State address, Gov. Gavin Newsom made an aggressive effort to rekindle faith in his ability to lead a state tattered by the pandemic as he faces an attempt to recall him from office, Taryn Luna and Phil Willon write.

— The publication of private, intimate pictures of former Rep. Katie Hill that drove her to resign from office will be contested in court this week in an argument that pits the 1st Amendment against California’s revenge-porn law, reports Seema Mehta.

— California politicians used to out-tough each other on the death penalty, writes Barabak. But times have changed and so have candidates’ approaches.

Stay in touch

Keep up with breaking news on our Politics page. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox.

Until next time, send your comments, suggestions and news tips to politics@latimes.com.

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Politics Briefing: Trudeau to visit Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation next week – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accepted an invitation to visit Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation on Monday, after not visiting the community two weeks ago on the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

The B.C. First Nation had previously said that Mr. Trudeau did not response to an invitation to attend a ceremony near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to mark the inaugural event. Mr. Trudeau apologized last week for travelling to Tofino for a vacation on that day instead, calling it a mistake that he regrets. He said he was looking forward to visiting the community.

Monday’s visit will not be a public event, according to a press release.

People listen as drummers begin to play after a moment of silence during a Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc ceremony to honour residential school survivors and mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, in Kamloops, B.C., on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Mr. Trudeau’s office also confirmed Friday that the swearing-in ceremony for his new cabinet will take place on Oct. 26, and that Parliament will resume a month later on Nov. 22.

The release from the Prime Minister’s Office said that early priorities for the government will include introducing legislation to ban conversion therapy, 10-day paid sick leave for all federally regulated workers, accelerating climate action and working with Indigenous communities on reconciliation.

There will also be a focus on vaccination against COVID-19: the government outlined five vaccination commitments in the first 100 days, which includes ensuring everyone 12 and up who travels by air or rail in Canada has had their shots.

Speculation continues about which MPs will be in the new Liberal cabinet, though Mr. Trudeau promised last month that his cabinet will once again be gender-balanced, continuing a trend established in his first two mandates. He’s also confirmed that Chrystia Freeland will remain Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

The party lost four female cabinet ministers in the last election: three who did not win re-election and one incumbent who chose not to run again.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. Today’s newsletter is co-written with Menaka Raman-Wilms. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Opposition parties and military observers are criticizing the federal government for not disclosing the latest sexual misconduct investigation into a senior military officer during the recent election campaign. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and acting chief of the defence staff General Wayne Eyre were notified about the investigation into Lieutenant-General Trevor Cadieu on Sept. 5, but neither the military nor government disclosed the information publicly at the time.

Canada could retaliate against American companies should the U.S. go too far with a Buy American approach, suggested Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, after meetings on Thursday with her counterparts in the G20 and International Monetary Fund. U.S. President Joe Biden said this summer that Buy American provisions would be an important part of boosting a postpandemic recovery.

David Amess, a Conservative MP in the U.K, died on Friday after being stabbed during a meeting with constituents in Essex, England. A 25-year-old man has been arrested and a knife recovered. From the CBC.

Ontario launches its digital vaccine passport app on Friday, a week ahead of the initial Oct. 22 target date. The province has had a paper-based proof of vaccination system since Sept. 22, and the new scannable app moves Ontario to a system like the ones already in place in B.C. and Quebec.

The U.S. will announce on Friday that it plans to reopen its land borders on Nov. 8 to non-essential vaccinated travellers, according to a White House official.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

The Prime Minister is in private meetings in Ottawa on Friday, according to his public itinerary.

LEADERS

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in Toronto on Friday morning, where he delivered remarks to the Ontario Building Trades Convention.

No public itineraries were issued by the other leaders on Friday.

HOW TO BE A PRIME MINISTER

From Governing Canada, A Guide to the Tradecraft of Politics by Michael Wernick (Published by On Point Press, an imprint of UBC Press)

The Politics Briefing newsletter is featuring excerpts from Governing Canada, a new book by Michael Wernick, the former clerk of the privy council. Our focus is a key chapter, Advice to a Prime Minister. (Parliamentary reporter Kristy Kirkup reported on the project here.)

Today’s concluding excerpt sums up Mr. Wernick’s advice to Prime Ministers:

“The tenure of our prime ministers has ranged from a few months to 21 years. In the “modern era” of politics, the attention and the pressures are unrelenting, and at some point personal burnout and weariness by the electorate will set in. However long you hold the office, every week will be an opportunity to make a difference. If you are mindful of what you want to accomplish and pay attention to time management, to team dynamics, and to your own personal resilience, you will get a lot done and leave important legacies. Try not to govern one day at a time, fighting fires and feeding media cycles. Managing the short-term challenges is just a shield, one that lets you aim higher and bend the curve – of history.”

DATA DIVE WITH NIK NANOS

Nik Nanos, the chief data scientist at Nanos Research, writes about how the 2021′s federal election was a wake-up call for Canada’s leaders – but awakening to what? “The campaign should make us ask whether it’s time for a rethink of our parliamentary democracy – and remind us that Canada is not immune to populist politics.”

OPINION

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on how the Prairies are showing Canada what a COVID-19 disaster looks like: “Thanks to the governments’ slow adoption of vaccine passports and other measures designed to halt the spread of the virus, the unvaccinated have not been convinced to do what is necessary – which has produced the bedlam we are now witnessing.”

Diane Fu and Emile Dirks (contributors to The Globe and Mail) on how Ottawa may have emerged a loser after Meng Wanzhou’s release, but it can still challenge and co-exist with Beijing: “Many contentious issues will continue to haunt bilateral ties, including Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan. What’s more, even if relations thaw in the short term, the political values of the two countries remain fundamentally at odds.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on how politicians who recently travelled now have a message for Canadians: Don’t travel: “Travelling a year ago was a hard thing to justify. But fully vaccinated individuals who have followed the rules until now ought to be able to escape for a mental-health reprieve without the scorn of federal officials who might not even have unpacked yet from their campaign jaunts across the country.”

Parag Khanna (special to The Globe and Mail) on how if you’re searching for the American Dream, go to Canada: “After all, the “Canadian Dream” is much more attainable. Canada is a policy lab for experiments in reducing inequality. The country is far from perfect, but it ranks far higher than the U.S. in social mobility.”

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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LETTER: On politics and medicine – SaltWire Network

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The irrational hysteria and conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19 vaccines are an integral part of what historian Richard Hofstader called “The paranoid style in American politics.” This phenomenon has now permeated Canadian politics as well and suggests that “My ignorance is as good as your knowledge.”

Vaccines against disease and pestilence have been viewed as major advances for humanity. But few vaccines have been subjected to the scrutiny and public vilification that COVID-19 vaccines have. Why? The statistically minute number (percentage) of negative reactions to vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, is rarely mentioned by their detractors; similarly, every surgical procedure has a small probability of a complication.

Over the course of the past two centuries at least 15 life-saving vaccines have been developed without a similar public outcry. Those vaccines include (selectively): smallpox (1796), typhoid fever (1896), diphtheria (1923), whooping cough (1923), polio (1952), measles (1963), mumps (1967), chicken pox (1974), meningitis (1978), and malaria (2021). Defoe’s classic, A Journal of the Plague Year (1772) gives us an idea of what the world was like without vaccines.

Why COVID-19 vaccines have created such vitriol warrants serious sociological and political study. One suspects that there is a close correlation between right-wing populism, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion politics, and anti-vax sentiment. They are all part of the same political culture that promotes this paranoia. It would be easy to dismiss anti-vaxers as “know nothings,” but they are more than that. They mirror the social divisions within our society. And their ignorance is dangerous.

Canadian constitutional law is premised on promoting “peace, order and good government.” A corollary is that the courts attempt to follow John Stuart Mill’s dictum of creating, “The greatest good for the greatest number of people,” rather than the highly individualistic American approach of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Within this context, collective rights will supersede individual rights, which may be “reasonably limited” by circumstance such as a national emergency. The Canadian Charter of Rights was never intended to promote a wild west show like our neighbours to the south.

In the interest of public health policy, it is time to defend the history of science and its many advances.

Richard Deaton,

Stanley Bridge, P.E.I.

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‘Heartbroken’: Politicians express shock at killing of British MP – Al Jazeera English

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British Member of Parliament David Amess has died after being stabbed several times during a meeting with his constituents at a church in eastern England. He was 69.

Reports said a man walked into Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, south Essex, on Friday while Amess was holding a surgery with locals and attacked the politician.

Police arrested a man and recovered a knife.

Politicians from across the political spectrum expressed shock and sadness over the horrific incident.

Here are some of the reactions:

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister

In a tribute to Amess, Johnson said the late MP was killed after “almost 40 years of continuous service to the people of Essex and the whole of the United Kingdom”.

He added: “The reason people are so shocked and sad is above all he was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics.

“He also had an outstanding record of passing laws to help the most vulnerable, whether the people who are suffering from endometriosis, passing laws to end cruelty to animals, or doing a huge amount to reduce the fuel poverty suffered by people up and down the country.”

Johnson continued: “David was a man who believed passionately in this country and in its future. And we’ve lost today a fine public servant and a much-loved friend and colleague.

“Our thoughts are very much today with his wife, his children and his family.”

Dominic Raab, UK deputy prime minister

“Heartbroken that we have lost Sir David Amess MP. A great common sense politician and a formidable campaigner with a big heart, and tremendous generosity of spirit – including towards those he disagreed with. RIP my friend.”

Priti Patel, UK interior minister

“I am devastated we have lost Sir David Amess … David served the people of Southend with endless passion, energy and integrity. That he was killed while going about his constituency duties is heartbreaking beyond words. It represents a senseless attack on democracy itself.

“Questions are rightly being asked about the safety of our country’s elected representatives and I will provide updates in due course.”

Rishi Sunak, UK finance minister

“The worst aspect of violence is its inhumanity. It steals joy from the world and can take from us that which we love the most. Today it took a father, a husband, and a respected colleague. All my thoughts and prayers are with Sir David’s loved ones.”

Liz Truss, UK foreign minister

“Devastated to hear the terrible news about Sir David Amess MP. He was a lovely, lovely man and a superb parliamentarian. My thoughts are with all his family and friends.”

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland

“This is awful beyond words. My thoughts and deepest condolences are with David’s family, friends and colleagues. May he rest in peace.

“Elected representatives from across the political spectrum will be united in sadness and shock today.

“In a democracy, politicians must be accessible and open to scrutiny, but no-one deserves to have their life taken while working for and representing their constituents.”

Nadhim Zahawi, UK education minister

“Rest In Peace Sir David. You were a champion for animal welfare, the less fortunate, and the people of Southend West. You will be missed by many.”

Sajid Javid, UK health minister

“Devastated to learn of Sir David Amess’ murder. A great man, a great friend, and a great MP killed while fulfilling his democratic role. My heart goes out to Julia, his family, and all who loved him. Let us remember him and what he did with his life.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, UK business minister

“Sir David was a thoroughly decent, kind and thoughtful man. An exemplary Member of Parliament who fought for his constituents with devotion. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this deeply tragic time.”

Simon Coveney, Irish foreign minister

“What a shocking and tragic incident. Our thoughts and sincere sympathies are with family, friends and political colleagues of Sir David Amess MP.”

Michael Gove, UK levelling up minister

“David Amess’s passing is heartbreakingly sad. Just terrible, terrible news. He was a good and gentle man, he showed charity and compassion to all, his every word and act were marked by kindness. My heart goes out to his family.”

Joao Vale de Almeida, EU ambassador to the UK

“Very shocked by the news of the death of MP Sir David Amess following a horrific attack. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and loved ones.”

Philip T. Reeker, US charge d’affair to the UK

“I’m deeply saddened to hear about the death of Sir David Amess MP. My thoughts go out to his family, friends and all those who worked with him during his distinguished parliamentary career.”

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

“Sir David Amess dedicated his life to championing causes he believed in, serving constituents and his country for almost forty years as a Member of Parliament. He was a devout Roman Catholic whose deep faith fuelled his sense of justice. We are richer for his life, and we are all the poorer for his untimely death.”

Carrie Johnson, wife of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

“Absolutely devastating news about Sir David Amess. He was hugely kind and good. An enormous animal lover and a true gent. This is so completely unjust. Thoughts are with his wife and their children.”

Keir Starmer, opposition Labour Party

“This is a dark and shocking day. The whole country will feel it acutely, perhaps the more so because we have, heartbreakingly, been here before.

“Above all else, today I am thinking of David, of the dedicated public servant that he was and of the depth of positive impact he had for the people he represented.”

Lindsay Hoyle, speaker of the House of Commons

“This is an incident that will send shockwaves across the parliamentary community and the whole country. In the coming days we will need to discuss and examine MPs’ security and any measures to be taken, but for now, our thoughts and prayers are with David’s family, friends and colleagues.”

Brendan Cox, husband of Labour lawmaker Jo Cox who was murdered in 2016

“My thoughts and love are with David’s family. They are all that matter now. This brings everything back. The pain, the loss, but also how much love the public gave us following the loss of Jo. I hope we can do the same for David now.”

Theresa May, former Conservative UK prime minister

“Heartbreaking to hear of the death of Sir David Amess. A decent man and respected parliamentarian, killed in his own community while carrying out his public duties. A tragic day for our democracy.”

Gordon Brown, former Labour UK prime minister

“Saddened and shocked to hear about the death of Sir David Amess. My condolences to his family and friends.”

David Cameron, former Conservative UK prime minister

“This is the most devastating, horrific & tragic news. David Amess was a kind & thoroughly decent man – & he was the most committed MP you could ever hope to meet. Words cannot adequately express the horror of what has happened today. Right now, my heart goes out to David’s family.”

Tony Blair, former Labour UK prime minister

“David and I came into Parliament together in 1983. Though on opposite political sides I always found him a courteous, decent and thoroughly likeable colleague who was respected across the House. This is a terrible and sad day for our democracy.”

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