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Opinion: On politics and the pandemic, the U.S. begins to turn the tide – The Globe and Mail



The great Republican George Shultz turned 100 years old last Sunday.

He marked the occasion by pointing to the most important thing he had discovered in all those years, during which he had served in combat as a marine, in the Eisenhower government as an economics adviser, in the Nixon and Reagan administrations as a cabinet secretary and later in many other significant roles.

“I’m struck that there is one lesson I learned early and then relearned over and over: Trust is the coin of the realm.”

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A man of character, a big, steady-eyed pragmatist, Mr. Shultz always looked for opportunities to build trust. “When trust was in the room,” he wrote, “… good things happened. When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen. Everything else is details.”

John F. Kennedy once said, “I don’t believe in personal feuds. There is no percentage in them.” It’s a wise thought, and a perspective from which Mr. Shultz operated.

As the second secretary of state to Ronald Reagan, he helped build trust with many nations, Canada included. Relations had grown strained partly on account of prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s ornery attitude to Mr. Reagan, who he didn’t think was very bright. Mr. Shultz worked to calm things down with the Liberals and was a central player in completely refashioning bilateral relations when the Tory government of Brian Mulroney took over.

Indicative of his style were some of his memoranda to the president I saw while doing book research. He urged the president, as one of the notes stated, to handle disagreements “in a manner that avoids embarrassing Mr. Mulroney with his public.”

Despite being consumed by Cold War issues, Mr. Shultz conferred with foreign minister Joe Clark so often that he claimed no other administration had devoted more time to bilateral relations than Reagan’s.

In his 100th birthday observations in The Washington Post, Mr. Shultz did not have to provide chapter and verse on how, in relations at home and abroad, trust has come to be replaced by rancour and antagonism by Donald Trump’s administration.

But he is likely to be encouraged by what happened in tandem with his words. On Monday, Joe Biden was certified by the electoral college as the duly elected president – this, after trust in even something as sacrosanct as a democratic election had been shorn by wild charges of vote-rigging from the Trump tribe.

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On the very same day, the first vaccination to immunize Americans against the novel coronavirus that was ravaging the country was administered. Following months and months of faulty, failed efforts to contain the virus, the U.S. came through in the clutch, producing vaccines in record time.

On both counts, trust in the American way was restored. Some observers went so far as to claim that the day constituted a historic turning point for the country.

That may be a bit excessive. The numbers dying from the pandemic are appalling. And there isn’t exactly peace on the Potomac: Mr. Trump is still tweeting that the election was rigged, claiming that there was “tremendous evidence pouring in on voter fraud,” even after Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Mr. Biden on his victory on Tuesday, And there is still some drama to be played out when the House and Senate meet together on Jan. 6 to confirm or dispute the electoral college vote.

But the die appears cast. The country has begun moving in the right direction on politics and the pandemic.

Though it was the private sector in the form of Pfizer and Moderna that produced the vaccine, Mr. Trump could take some credit for his government’s role in forging Operation Warp Speed, as it is called. It turned out to be exactly that fast. Mr. Trump vowed the vaccine could come before the end of the year. Critics didn’t believe him. They were wrong.

But rather than celebrate the vaccine’s arrival while conceding the election, Mr. Trump appears set on continuing to foment division. He will have a powerful voice when he leaves the presidency, but nowhere near the megaphone power that the Oval Office provided.

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Mr. Biden, meanwhile, is trying to keep things on an even keel. While impugning Mr. Trump for obvious reasons, he has avoided inflaming tensions with unduly provocative rhetoric.

He is most fortunate with the timing of the vaccine’s arrival as he can begin his presidency with a remedy for the heinous affliction in hand.

Rebuilding that vital ingredient of trust that George Shultz talks about will be a monumental task. But this week provided hope. The two things that had to happen did happen.

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Week In Politics: President Biden's First Days – NPR



We look at the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the many executive orders he’s already signed and the choice he has between unity and supporting the second impeachment of President Donald Trump.


Joe Biden is now president of the United States. He’s called for national unity and knows that will be a test.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep, and they are real. But I also know they are not new.

SIMON: And with the House sending at the Senate an article of impeachment against President Trump on Monday, it’s one of the more immediate challenges.

With us now is NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: So, Ron, how does President Biden pursue unity while Democratic senators are actively pursuing President Trump’s impeachment over his role in causing the January 6 riot at the Capitol?

ELVING: We’ve got a couple of weeks before the actual impeachment trial begins in the Senate. And President Biden can do those things, but it’s going to take extraordinary skill. The challenge is to move in more than one direction at once, not just multitasking, but multitracking. He’s got to work with one side sometimes and sometimes with the other, keeping the necessary relationships open and operating, reaching out for compromise, but without selling out the people who got you elected. It’s a tall order, to be sure, but it’s what Biden asked for, and it’s what the Democrats asked for. And it’s what the country needs right now.

SIMON: And let me ask you about this extraordinary report from The New York Times last night that President Trump was plotting to get rid of the acting Justice Department attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, and replace him with a loyalist who would pressure Georgia lawmakers into overturning the state’s presidential election results, obviously with no proof. Tell us about this story.

ELVING: It’s an amazing story, Scott. It shows how far Trump was willing to go. It tells us that in the final days of his presidency, he was not only pressing those state officials you mentioned to produce different results, and he was not only pressuring Vice President Pence to reject certified electoral votes from states, but he was trying to install a new attorney general who would contradict his own Justice Department findings and tell the states that there was evidence of fraud when there was not – all this before the day he incited the riot at the Capitol, and all this in an unlawful effort to overturn the results of the election and remain in office. And that matters, especially because in two weeks, the most important question before the Senate is whether to bar Trump from future office.

SIMON: But let’s get to President Biden – a multitude of pens to sign executive orders almost as soon as he was sworn in. President Trump once called – disdained executive orders as the easy way. But, boy, he signed a lot. Are executive orders President Biden’s best options to get things done to both undo what he wants to do that President Trump did – and President Trump, who was largely trying to undo what President Obama did?

ELVING: Yes, and that’s not the best way to run a railroad, I think everyone would agree. But it may be the best that you can do right now, given how little you can expect Congress to do in the usual way, how difficult it is to get the contemporary Congress to do anything other than taxes and budgeting. And you can understand why a president who wants to make a difference or even to just make a mark feels he has to use these quickie policy measures in place of actual laws that are barred by the Senate’s filibuster rules, among other things, especially in a moment of crisis.

And right now, everything has to begin with the pandemic response. That has to be ramped up to wartime levels of effort and focus. That’s the key to restoring the economy, to restoring confidence. But during the campaign, Biden made many statements about what he would do on his first day in office – getting the U.S. back into the Paris climate accords to combat climate change, stopping the wall with Mexico, redefining our response to immigration, especially redefining our policies on asylum, talking about lifting restrictions on people from Muslim countries, ending the deportation threat against the DREAMers. All these were touchstones of Trumpism, and Biden went after them all on Day 1.

SIMON: NPR’s Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott.

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Mandryk: Keystone XL fight is just sad old politics with a new twist – Regina Leader-Post



Article content continued

Alas, much of this is about both new-style virtue signalling and old-style politics.

Much has been made about how KXL’s cancellation — tied to the U.S. environmental left’s rhetoric about “dirty tarsands” oil — has always been about Biden consolidating the left of the Democratic party/ the coalition that helped oust Trump. Cancelling KXL — a move that doesn’t reduce current greenhouse gas emission levels but creates the need for more offshore oil — may be the ultimate virtue signalling.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of not having this pipeline will be U.S. railways. And one of the biggest American railways investors is billionaire Warren Buffet. What often gets missed isBuffet’s political interest as a big-time Democratic donor and his willingness to use his position to sway policies.

Sadly, we seem to be right back where we were before Trump. Even more sad is that how we react may make things worse.

Kenney’s talk about retaliatory trade action aimed at our biggest trading partner is unhelpful. Moe — presumably understanding our agriculture trade interests — wisely didn’t go quite that far.

But if this is now about the old politics of both sides ginning up their base, it gets us nowhere.

Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Regina Leader-Post has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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Newfoundland ex-pat makes waves pairing politicians with their cartoon doubles –



An effort to shake off some homesickness led Adam DuBourdieu to mix pop culture and provincial politics — namely, taking politicians involved in this election and matching them with their visual counterparts on “The Simpsons.”

Originally from Kippens on the province’s west coast, DuBourdieu, 30, moved to Edmonton just before the COVID-19 pandemic set in.

As with many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, he experienced homesickness in the months that follow such a move.

A keen follower of local politics, DuBourdieu set about combatting his traveller’s lament by having some fun with the upcoming provincial election.

“Let’s have a laugh with it, It’s a good thing. It’s a bit of good fun.” — Jim Dinn (aka Principal Skinner)

Combining his love for “The Simpsons” and politics, he matched the politicians running in the upcoming election with the Simpsons character he saw as their cartoon counterparts.

“It is something people are familiar with,” DuBourdieu said about why he chose to use “The Simpsons” as a reference point.

Some matchups were tough, while others were easy fits, such as the NDP’s Jim Dinn, a former schoolteacher, and his match with Principal Skinner.

“You can’t take yourself too seriously. Being a teacher, that’s par for the course,” Dinn said of that character match.

Dinn has seen the rather large social media thread containing the pictures.

He said that as a teacher, he learned long ago that you have to have a sense of humour, and it’s a lesson he’s taken with him to politics. Seeing the thread, he took it in good fun.

He said it could be worse. It could turn into a meme like a recent picture of United States Senator Bernie Sanders.

“Let’s have a laugh with it,” said Dinn. “It’s a good thing. It’s a bit of good fun.”

Kippens native Adam DuBourdieu generated plenty of interest when he started matching Newfoundland and Labrador politicians with characters from The Simpsons earlier this week. Contributed photo — Contributed

The result was a 47-part thread on Twitter filled with pictures of the politicians placed alongside images of characters from the show. It involves a mixture of retiring MHAs, incumbents and party leaders of all political stripes.

“The Simpsons” and politics have a bit of history. Across its 32 seasons, the show has mixed humour and politics.

The show seemingly predicted the start of the United States presidency of Donald J. Trump, and the Lisa Simpson presidency that followed him.

“I hope people get a good chuckle out of it.” — Adam DuBourdieu

Coincidentally, Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans is paired with the presidential Lisa.

The relationship, however, between “The Simpsons” and the political arena doesn’t stop at a coincidental presidential prediction.

The show has often tackled topics of the day, such as same-sex marriage and gun control, and it has often been accused of having a liberal bias. Springfield’s Mayor Quimby is a regularly appearing character, and DuBourdieu saw him as a perfect match for Conception Bay East-Bell Island incumbent David Brazil.

NDP Leader Alison Coffin and Bette Midler were paired together during the exercise. Midler made a cameo on the show in Season 4. Photo courtesy Twitter
NDP Leader Alison Coffin and Bette Midler were paired together during the exercise. Midler made a cameo on the show in Season 4. Photo courtesy Twitter

Homer Simpson — coupled with Topsail-Paradise MHA Paul Dinn — once fought former U.S. president George H.W. Bush after the two became neighbours. Former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford have also made cameo appearances on the show.

DuBourdieu tabbed Ford as the right match with Mount Pearl North MHA Jim Lester.

“Politics has always been in ‘The Simpsons,’ and Newfoundland politics has some characters,” said DuBourdieu, who says he always the show.

“I watched it with my dad.”

Some of his political subjects have a similar appreciation of the show,

Harbour Grace-Port de Grave MHA Pam Parsons knew at once who voiced Bart Simpsons’ former babysitter, Laura Powers.

“That’s the one where Darlene from Roseanne voiced the character. Sara Gilbert,” she said.

Like other children of the ’80s and early ’90s, Parsons grew up in the early years of “The Simpsons.” She saw the show move from animated shorts on “The Tracy Ullman Show” to a pop culture phenomenon on Fox.

“Growing up as a child, I certainly watched ‘The Simpsons.’ I loved Bart Simpson. I think we all did,” said Parsons. “I even had the little toys that McDonald’s was putting out.”

Newfoundland and Labrador Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote found her Simpsons doppelganger in Mrs. Hoover. Photo courtesy Twitter
Newfoundland and Labrador Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote found her Simpsons doppelganger in Mrs. Hoover. Photo courtesy Twitter

Parsons is one of 10 women featured in the long Twitter thread. Of the 10, nine are incumbent MHAs and their animated doppelgangers. The other is Newfoundland and Labrador Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote.

She was paired with Springfield Elementary second-grade teacher, Mrs. Hoover.

“I like that (Dubourdieu) was non-partisan (in his choices),” said Parsons, who appreciated the comedic break it offered.

Liberal MHA Pam Parsons was paired with former babysitter Laura Powers. Photo courtesy Twitter  — File Photo
Liberal MHA Pam Parsons was paired with former babysitter Laura Powers. Photo courtesy Twitter — File Photo

“I got a good chuckle out of it.”

The response to the sizeable thread has been favourable online.

It was something that surprised DuBourdieu at first.

“I like that (Dubourdieu) was non-partisan (in his choices). I got a good chuckle out of it.” — Pam Parsons (aka Mrs. Hoover)

Since it went online, there have been dozens of interactions between politicians and the public. People have marvelled at how spot-on some of the comparisons are, such as independent MHA Eddie Joyce being matched with oil tycoon Rich Texan.

Still, there have been alternative suggestions, including by the subjects themselves. Liberal candidate George Murphy tweeted he thought of himself as the lovable barfly Barney Gumble instead of Police Chief Wiggum, his chosen match by Dubourdieu.

Other candidates, such as Progressive Conservative candidate Kristina Ennis and the NDP’s Jenn Deon, have expressed interest in being connected to animated doubles.

Lake Melville NDP candidate Amy Hogan even went ahead and did her own. It was Jerri Mackleberry, the mother of notable twins Sherri and Terri.

“I think I’m probably the twins, Sherri and Terri’s mom, Jerri. It’s is the purple hair and the glasses,” Hogan tweeted.

Monorail salesman Lyle Lanley made the perfect visual double for Liberal Leader Andrew Furey. Photo courtesy Twitter
Monorail salesman Lyle Lanley made the perfect visual double for Liberal Leader Andrew Furey. Photo courtesy Twitter

DuBourdieu pledged to add a third part to the thread if there is enough interest.

In the days since the original post, a link to the thread made its way around the Progressive Conservative email chain.

“We got a good kick out of it,” said Conservative MHA Barry Petten. “You can’t help but laugh.”

“We got a good kick out of it. You can’t help but laugh.” — Barry Petten (aka Superintendent Chalmers)

The Conception Bay South representative readily admitted he wasn’t much of a Simpsons watcher and had little background on Superintendent Chalmers or why he was paired with him.

Still, Petten said he appreciated the work and the humour it brought to the election.

“It’s all good humour,” he said.

 DuBourdieu has enjoyed the work that’s gone into his humourous entry into the Newfoundland and Labrador political scene,

Some comparisons were easy, while others required a bit more thought, he said, and he learned a little along the way, including how male-dominated this province’s legislature is.

Labrador West MHA Jordan Brown and Bart Simpson sidekick Milhouse got paired together. — Photo courtesy Twitter
Labrador West MHA Jordan Brown and Bart Simpson sidekick Milhouse got paired together. — Photo courtesy Twitter

As the province rolls toward the Feb. 13 election, DuBourdieu will watch from his home in Alberta.

In the meantime, he is glad he got to contribute to the run-up in some way.

“I’m glad I did it and I hope people get a good chuckle out of it,” said DuBourdieu.

Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering central Newfoundland for SaltWire Network.


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