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On Politics: ‘Politics and Cronyism Ahead of Science’ – The New York Times

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Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.

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  • Is President Trump putting “politics and cronyism ahead of science”? Those were the words chosen by Rick Bright, the doctor who had been leading the federal effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine. This week he was removed from that position at the Department of Health and Human Services and reassigned to a narrower role at the National Institutes of Health, Bright said. He had resisted Trump’s efforts to direct government money toward hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that some have pushed as a viable coronavirus treatment despite a lack of thorough vetting by medical researchers. Bright says he thinks this is what led to his ouster.

  • “I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” Bright said in a statement to The Times. Although it did not name Trump directly, the letter made clear Bright’s dissatisfaction with how he had been treated by the administration, even before he was removed from his post. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way,” he said.

  • When the House votes on a $484 billion relief package today, it will do so in person — since there is no provision in the congressional rule book allowing for voting in absentia. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had originally hoped to change that by having the House vote on a new policy that would permit future votes to be conducted remotely. It would have been the first time in the history of Congress that lawmakers were allowed to cast votes remotely. But Republicans objected, saying that Democratic leadership had not consulted them enough and insisting that their goal remained to swiftly reopen Congress for regular business. “We’ve been through war and others, and this body has still been able to meet,” said Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader. “Whatever we do, when it comes to voting and others, should be bipartisan.” But a compromise could be in the offing. McCarthy and Pelosi had an hourlong phone call on Wednesday, and agreed to convene a group of lawmakers from both parties to plan how the House will conduct its business as the pandemic continues.

  • In New York City, which has recorded over 10,000 virus-related deaths, the City Council has unveiled a broad virus relief package aimed at helping workers, renters, homeless people and small businesses. The proposal includes a “bill of rights” for workers that provides paid sick leave for so-called gig laborers and prevents essential workers from being fired without cause. The legislation also seeks to give New Yorkers affected by the virus more time to make rent payments by preventing city officials from stepping in to collect rental debts or carry out evictions until next April. Corey Johnson, the speaker and a sponsor of the bill, has said the council is pursuing a more ambitious plan to cancel rents for those affected by the virus-related shutdown. But the legislation that the council discussed yesterday, in a videoconference session, is meant as a more short-term measure. Still, it puts the city near the forefront of municipal efforts nationwide to address tenants’ rights and poverty issues badly exacerbated by the pandemic.


President Trump and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, during Wednesday’s daily briefing.


Even as some Republican governors take steps to reopen their states’ economies, most Americans remain wary of the virus’s threat and are willing to stay home to stop its spread, polls show.

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But a shift in sentiment is occurring, particularly among Republicans — most of whom now say the worst is most likely behind us, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released today.

While 51 percent of Americans said they thought the worst days of the pandemic still lay ahead, including nearly two-thirds of Democrats, a slim majority of Republicans said the opposite. That represents a change from late March, when another Kaiser poll found that two-thirds of Republicans expected things to get worse before getting better.

When it comes to shelter-in-place restrictions, most Americans in the new poll said they remained worthwhile; that was true across party lines. Even in states with Republican governors — who have generally been more willing to entertain lifting restrictions, and eight of whom never ordered statewide limitations at all — support remains relatively high for stay-at-home orders, regardless of respondents’ party affiliation.

Yet two in five Republicans nationwide now say that these kinds of restrictions are an unnecessary burden and are causing more harm than good. That makes Republicans more than twice as likely as independents — and exponentially more likely than Democrats — to express disillusionment with the restrictions.

Governors in some Southern states announced plans this week to begin lifting the restrictions on social distancing, though federal health officials have consistently said this could lead to a resurgence of the virus. Demonstrators, often with backing from conservative interest groups, have taken to the streets in various other states to protest the stay-at-home orders.

The mixed feelings of everyday Republicans reflected in the Kaiser poll are mirrored by the conflicting messages coming from national and state leaders. Trump has repeatedly encouraged governors to make their own decisions on when to reopen, and he has said he hopes that it can happen soon. But after Brian Kemp, the governor of Georgia, announced plans this week to reopen, Trump criticized him, saying, “I think it’s too soon.”

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Amid protests, US faith leaders engage racism and politics – Rimbey Review

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Amid protests, U.S. faith leaders engage racism and politics

NEW YORK — As days of anti-racism protests sparked by police killings push Americans toward a national reckoning, religious leaders are stepping more directly into the politics surrounding discrimination, entering into a dialogue that cuts across lines of faith and colour.

Groups from multiple denominations across Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths have publicly called for action against racism, aligning with peaceful demonstrators’ goals following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Even beyond those statements, the amount and diversity of religious involvement in the ongoing protests suggests a possible sea change for faith-driven engagement in racial justice issues.

“I’ve seen people of different faiths coming out and saying ‘this was wrong’ in ways I didn’t see before,” said Rev. Traci Blackmon, associate general minister of justice at the United Church of Christ and an early spiritual leader in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Religion’s role in struggles against racial bias long predates Floyd’s killing, which sparked mass demonstrations across the United States and even in other countries. But a notable shift has taken place this week.

Among those who’ve publicly backed protesters are clergy from the Southern Baptist Convention, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Orthodox and Reform Judaism.

Meanwhile Catholic and Episcopal leaders openly criticized President Donald Trump after peaceful demonstrators were forcefully cleared to make way for his brief visit and photo-op outside the historic St. John’s Church near the White House.

On Wednesday, Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, leader of the United Methodist Church’s Washington-area conference, joined Rev. Mariann Budde, the bishop of Washington’s Episcopal diocese, which includes St. Johns, and other faith leaders for a prayer vigil that aimed to orient the religious conversation around fighting racism.

“I think that all leaders that consider themselves to be religious or moral leaders have an obligation to rise and to speak to this moment, because institutional racism and supremacy cannot be dismantled by African American leaders alone,” said Easterling, who is African American. “Those who enjoy the privilege of those systems must rise.”

The vigil was initially set to take place at St. John’s but had to move to a nearby block after local law enforcement extended the security perimeter around the White House.

Budde, who expressed outrage Monday over Trump’s use of St. John’s as a backdrop, said white Americans need to engage more in “the realities of this country that we … are allowed to be blind to in ways that cost people of colour.”

Trump’s visit, in which he held up a Bible and said “we have a great country,” was at least in part intended as a show of solidarity with faith, according to the White House. But the manoeuvr nudged Budde and other religious leaders to wade further into the political realm, airing their disagreement.

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Polarized Politics Has Infected American Diplomacy – The Atlantic

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The Atlantic

Moments of national crisis ought to bring Americans together. Instead, led by a divisive president, our society is being ripped apart, as the country is battered by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and centuries-old pathologies of racism and inequality. The consequences of our division are profoundly troubling at home, but no less worrisome abroad.

The style and substance of our polarized politics have infected American diplomacy. Policies lurch between parties, commitments expire at the end of each administration, institutions are politicized, and disagreements are tribal. The inability to compromise at home is becoming the modus operandi overseas. In the past, a sense of common domestic purpose gave ballast to U.S. diplomacy; now its absence enfeebles it.

Partisan divides about foreign policy are hardly new. I saw my share of them as a career diplomat, from the battles over Central America policy in the Reagan era to the war in Iraq two decades later. We’ve had plenty of painful fractures, bitter policy fights, and dramatic about-faces between administrations.

But as Stanford University’s Kenneth Schultz demonstrates in an important study, partisan animus and schizophrenia are more and more the rule, not the exception. Once a regular phenomenon, Senate approval of international treaties grew ever more tenuous over the last few decades. By the Obama administration, it had become nearly impossible. Even when Bob Dole—grievously wounded in World War II, and later a Senate majority leader and GOP presidential candidate—sat in his wheelchair on the Senate floor in 2012 and asked his fellow Republicans to ratify an international disability treaty modeled on U.S. law—nearly all of them walked past him to vote nay, bent on denying Barack Obama a victory of any kind.

If that seemed like a new low in reflexive partisan opposition, President Donald Trump—as with most everything else he does—proved he could dig even deeper. He has scrapped one agreement after another, with disruptive glee and no regard for Plan B. The Iran nuclear deal (“an embarrassment”), the Paris climate accord (“very unfair”), and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“a rape of our country”), all negotiated by the administration of his Democratic predecessor, wound up on the trash heap. New START, following the president’s exit from the Open Skies Treaty, may be next. Meanwhile, the administration is channeling General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove, threatening to resume nuclear testing and spend rivals “into oblivion” in a new arms race.

If Representative Mike Pompeo’s Benghazi hearings showed the power of weaponizing foreign policy for domestic purposes (where polarization is the end, not the means), Secretary of State Pompeo’s tenure has been marked by the weaponization of domestic politics on the world stage. The impeachment scandal—the distortion of Ukraine policy to pursue what Fiona Hill aptly termed “domestic political errands”—is not the only example, just the most dramatic.

The erosion of the bipartisan foreign-policy consensus in itself is not a tragedy, given its innumerable flaws, blind spots, and uneven track record. But the intense divisiveness and scorched-earth tactics that have poisoned our domestic politics over the past decade are crippling American diplomacy as well. The consequences are severe. Three in particular stand out.

First, America’s credibility, reliability, and reputation for competence are damaged. Credibility is an overused term in Washington, a town prone to badgering presidents into using force or clinging to collapsing positions to prop up our global currency. But it matters in diplomacy, especially when America’s ability to mobilize other countries around common concerns is becoming more crucial, in a world in which the U.S. can no longer get its way on its own, or by force alone.

If our elected representatives won’t give a negotiated agreement a fair hearing, support it, or at a minimum avoid undercutting it even before the ink dries, why would any friend or foe enter into any kind of good-faith negotiations with the U.S.? And why should they have any confidence that the American government will deliver on its commitments if they do? I remember an Iranian diplomat asking me during an especially difficult moment in the nuclear talks why he should believe that an agreement wouldn’t simply be thrown overboard in a different administration. With less than total conviction, I replied that if all parties complied with their obligations, our system would uphold it. I certainly got that wrong.

The U.S. is stuck in the mud of its own polarized dysfunction, its already-bruised reputation for getting big things done suffering badly. Others around the world have always had grievances with America’s policies and its geopolitical weight, but they usually had a grudging respect for our competence, and for the power of our example. Today, the U.S. government can’t pass a budget, let alone bring the world together to stop the spread of a ruinous pandemic. Trump once claimed that foreigners were laughing at us. The reality today is far worse—they pity and discount us.

A second effect of polarization is the demolition of diplomacy’s apolitical role. I served 10 secretaries of state. They all had finely tuned political antennae, or they wouldn’t have gotten the job in the first place. All of them, however, were scrupulous about keeping domestic politics out of foreign policy. Pompeo, by contrast, has been the most partisan secretary of state in living memory—systematically sidelining career professionals in favor of political allies, waging a war against an imagined “deep state,” relishing political skirmishes, attacking “opposition” media, stripping away safeguards (like firing the State Department’s independent watchdog last month), and barely concealing his use of the department as a platform for future political ambition.

If the world gets used to dealing with distinct brands of Democratic and Republican foreign policies, the temptation to ignore career diplomats, meddle in our politics, and wait out the clock on seemingly adversarial administrations will grow at the expense of our national interests.

Finally, leaders undercut diplomacy’s potential when the “no compromise” feature of our domestic politics becomes a feature of our diplomacy as well. I remember a story about a mistranslated U.S.-military pamphlet released over Saddam Hussein’s forces during the 2003 invasion. It mistakenly read “Surrender and die” as opposed to “Surrender or die.” The former is a pretty good slogan for much of the Trump administration’s approach to diplomatic negotiations, embodied most fancifully in its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

The Trump White House is not the first to embrace lazy maximalism. That has been a ruinous habit of American diplomacy for some time. But in fanning the flames of polarization in foreign policy, the administration has done more than any of its predecessors to suffocate the potential of American diplomacy when we need it most.

Depolarization is hard. As my colleague Thomas Carothers has argued, it’ll be an especially tough challenge in the United States. Ours is a particularly acute form of polarization—it has been around longer than in most other countries, and it’s more deeply rooted and more multifaceted, an amalgam of ethnic, ideological, and religious divides.

The polarization of our foreign policy is still largely confined to the political elite, not the general public. That’s the good news. The bad news is that while polarization may start among elites, it rarely ends there. And once it spreads, it becomes nearly impossible to extinguish.

Partisan divides are stark today over a number of foreign-policy issues, such as climate change and immigration. But on some foundational policy questions, public opinion is far less fractured than it is in Washington. Despite President Trump’s “America First” rhetoric, a growing majority of Americans support an active, disciplined role for the United States on the world stage; strong alliances; and open trading arrangements. More important, there is an increasing appreciation for the need to root foreign policy more firmly in the needs and aspirations of the American middle class.

A foreign policy more representative of the American public’s concerns than those of an inbred foreign-policy elite is a good start toward depolarization, but it’s not enough. American leaders will also have to deliver results—with far greater discipline abroad, and the kind of political skill at home that goes beyond just playing to the predispositions and passions of a partisan base.

That will require working with new constituencies—including mayors and governors, who have a decidedly more practical approach to foreign affairs—and renovating institutions charged with advancing our interests. Leaders will need to reinvent a foreign-policy consensus that reflects new global realities and domestic priorities, and avoid the temptation to solve foreign-policy polarization by shoehorning all our concerns into one unifying global crusade—even as central a challenge as our rivalry with China.

Polarization was a pre-existing condition in America, well before Trumpism. Change at the ballot box in November will be a powerful therapeutic, but not a cure. Reaching across the fissures laid bare by pandemic and protests will take time, vision, and hard work. And now, with an unforgiving international landscape, there is far less margin for error.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

William J. Burns is a contributing writer at The Atlantic, the President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former deputy secretary of state, and author of The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for its Renewal.

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View: As fear of defeat rises, Trump ups politics of division – Economic Times

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By Bhairavi Singh

President Donald Trump is fighting a pitched battle with his own people, five months before the U.S. goes to polls. Trump is facing an unprecedented backlash, first for his erratic response to the coronavirus and then for his strongman approach to protests that have erupted over the death of George Floyd.

In the world’s oldest democracy, there has been a long history of racism but Trump’s response has been like no other president’s. In over ten days, America — which was looking to recover from the pandemic and its economic fallout — has been plunged into chaos with the president’s outbursts merely fueling more violence and division. Republican lawmakers in an election year have little choice other than to stay silent or actively promote Trump’s line.

At least four latest opinion polls in America, including one by rightwing network Fox News, show Trump clearly trailing Joe Biden. The latest Post-ABC poll of registered voters showed the presumptive Democratic nominee ahead 53% to 43%, a clear 10 per cent points, whereas it was a dead heat just over two months ago.

But that hasn’t stopped Trump in his tracks. He has always seen his political rise beholden to his hawkish policies and his abrasive attacks on critics, and he is not likely to change tack with just months to go for the polls.

Trump started the week, four days after Floyd was killed, with a tweet which called protesters ‘’thugs’’, and adding that ‘’when the looting starts, the shooting starts’’. It was subsequently taken down by Twitter for violating its policy against promoting violence. Since then, Trump has called the protesters ‘’rioters, looters, arsonists’, provoking more people to come out and protest in city after city. More than 10,000 people – no mean number – have been arrested over the course of a week and eight have died in police action or violence. But protests have continued in cities despite a night curfew.

Over these days, rights groups have slammed Trump, his former aides have spoken up against him, former presidents have shown dismay, military veterans have warned of consequences of involving the forces in civilian action, and his own daughter Tiffany has supported protesters on social media. But has that stopped Trump? No.

Earlier this week, Trump’s former defense secretary James Mattis issued a statement against treating American cities as ‘’battlespaces” saying the “use of military against its own civilian population, militarizing our response, sets a conflict- a false conflict between the military and the civilian society’’. Truer words could not have been spoken. A vibrant democracy like America bringing out troops to guard cities against its own people is without precedent. Mattis’ statement was followed by Trump’s own defence chief Mark Esper publicly saying he was not in favour of using the military to quell protests.

On June 1st, true to character, Trump announced he was talking to state governors to bring in the military. Since then several Republican states have agreed to the measure. The National Guard was sent to Washington, while its mayor warned that ‘’out of state troops must leave’’ the country’s capital. Three Democrat states of New York, Delaware and Virginia refused to use the National Guard to support the police.

The Floyd protests have shown deep divisions within the Republican party, the Centrists and the police force. For the Republicans, it’s a peculiar situation. The GOP is nervous about Trump’s handling of the Floyd protests- they want him to play a more compassionate note. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican senator recently supported Mattis’ statement as “true, honest and necessary”, while Tim Scott, another Republican called Trump’s church visit a photo op. However, many top Republican faces, like Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, chose to stay silent.

White supremacy transcended from racism to segregation over the years, but its weaponisation for political gains has now led to a dangerous tipping point. Already African Americans and other minorities there were disproportionately hit by the coronavirus and its economic aftermath. Trump’s mismanagement has redefined those divisions — white, black, Hispanic, Muslim, extreme left, extreme right. America’s response to this crisis would carry a larger message to the rest of the free world.

(Bhairavi Singh has been a television journalist for 12 years, she covers foreign policy and current affairs)

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