MIAMI — A disaster had just struck. Dead bodies were being recovered and people were homeless. But political opportunists didn’t care about that. They were angry that a Republican governor was putting politics aside and working with a Democratic president.
The year was 2012. Hurricane Sandy had just devastated New Jersey. And the top adviser for then-Gov. Chris Christie was shocked by the calls from donors infuriated that his decision to work with Barack Obama was handing him a win just a week before the president’s reelection.
“It was so infuriating. People were saying, ‘How can Christie be doing that?’” said Mike DuHaime, who advised Christie’s successful gubernatorial campaigns and his unsuccessful 2016 bid for president. “Clearly, people of this state thought he did the right thing. Christie got reelected with 60 percent of the vote in a blue state. But years later, Republicans in Iowa didn’t like it.”
That episode serves as a stark reminder of how partisan politics can imbue even basic government responses to a disaster, a phenomenon that has renewed relevance in the wake of a new tragedy in Florida, where the terrifying collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside may have cost 140 lives or more.
On Thursday, Democrat Joe Biden will make his first trip to Florida as president to meet with the families of the dead and missing. He will likely appear beside Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen as a top-tier potential presidential candidate who might challenge Biden’s reelection in three years. Insiders in both administrations say they’re focusing on the crisis in Surfside, not on scoring political points.
But regardless of how the governor, president and staffs comport themselves, there are political pitfalls and consequences that have lasting electoral effects, as the 2012 relationship between Christie and Obama showed. Although the scope and scale of the two disasters are utterly different — Sandy killed fewer people than died in Surfside, but the storm caused wider devastation necessitating much more federal aid — the partisan political considerations are similar: Should DeSantis appear with Biden? Should they shake hands or even hug? If either man uses the occasion to make a political argument, how should the other respond?
“The irony was people were calling saying [Christie] should put politics first, not his constituents: Put politics first, don’t appear with the president, don’t ask for help,” recalled DuHaime.
The White House and Florida governor’s office in Tallahassee are in talks to figure out each man’s schedule and whether and how each man will appear together on camera — essentially, what political professionals call the “optics” of such visits — at the same time the agencies under them are coordinating their response. DeSantis isn’t expected to greet the president at the airport, as Christie did in 2012, according to those familiar with DeSantis’ thinking.
“The likeliest scenario is the president, the governor, the head of FEMA and the mayor examining the site together or meeting with first responders on scene,” said one source familiar with the discussions between Tallahassee and Washington who was granted anonymity to speak freely.
“The fact is, we can’t escape the politics and the knowledge that, especially as time passes and the context of the disaster change, people rewrite history,” the source added, noting that there’s another complication for the governor: former President Donald Trump, a close ally of DeSantis who is still bitterly opposed to Biden after losing election in November and is scheduled to hold a Saturday rally in Florida.
Another factor in the discussions are the vastly different personalities of Biden and DeSantis.
DeSantis has quickly risen to power in Florida politics and built a brand as a sharp-elbowed partisan warrior. He has been widely praised by Republicans and Democrats for his handling of the Surfside tragedy even after briefly heading to the Panhandle city of Pensacola the day after the condo collapse to announce the dispatching of state law enforcement officers to the border with Mexico. Biden, who has made bipartisanship a mantra for his administration, is primarily coming down as the Consoler-in-Chief, a man who has buried a wife, daughter and son over the years and established an identity as an avuncular figure with an instinctual empathy that connects deeply with grieving people.
“He connects with people and empathizes with their shared sense of loss and grief. He knows the families need to be consoled in these times,” said a senior White House adviser of Biden who was not authorized to speak on the record. “He’ll bring a sense of compassion and leadership. That’s the reason he’s going.”
The White House held off on announcing Biden’s trip because presidential visits are massive and complicated endeavors that can draw resources and time away from first responders, and the president did not want to hamper search-and-rescue operations in any way. His trip is a grim reminder that many of the missing are probably now presumed dead from the collapse, which state officials say is the third-largest structural failure in modern U.S. history, behind the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995.
A DeSantis adviser also not authorized to speak on the record said, “The governor is waiting to hear more about the schedule from the White House,” adding that “it’s no problem to appear at the site with the president. We’re here every day and welcome him.”
DeSantis, however, has canceled his planned appearance Saturday at Trump’s rally in Sarasota, on the other side of the coast, but the governor denied a recent Washington Examiner report that DeSantis is in a “feud” with the former president over the event.
“That’s not true,” DeSantis said, according to an adviser who discussed the story with him. Two sources close to Trump who are familiar with the event’s planning also disputed the account.
The politics of disaster are well-known in the hurricane-prone state. Former Gov. Jeb Bush saw his poll numbers notably rise after eight storms damaged the state in 2004 and 2005. Former Gov. Rick Scott also was a ubiquitous presence before and after hurricanes, notably wearing a blue U.S. Navy cap when out surveying damage. Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio, who lives in Miami, have been on scene in Surfside along with a host of local officials.
Yet even amid the catastrophe, there’s little trust and no connections between the administrations in Washington and Tallahassee.
“Usually, all these details get worked out between the governor’s office and the White House, but the White House and the governor’s office have no relationship. None. Zero,” said Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat who recently stepped down as the head of the Florida Department of Emergency Management under DeSantis, and who was once general counsel for the disaster-response business AshBritt, which was a major contractor cleaning up the debris from Sandy in 2012.
“DeSantis already spoke to President Biden on the phone, the first time they’ve spoken since he became president, and he thanked Biden for the federal disaster declaration at one of the first press conferences,” Moskowitz said. “While that’s not the Chris Christie hug of Obama on the tarmac — the hug felt round the world — it’s the first acknowledgment of the president by DeSantis. On display here could be the president running for reelection in three years and the Republican nominee. They’re putting politics aside. But the pressure on them from the inside and the folks on social media trying to make it about politics is always there.”
In his role as a bipartisan disaster-response expert, Moskowitz also played a behind-the-scenes shuttle-diplomacy role between the DeSantis administration and state and local Democrats, whom he advised to back off criticisms of the governor for not instantly declaring a state of emergency after the collapse of the building about 1:30 a.m. one week ago.
The political chatter began to intensify hours after the collapse when Biden said at a Thursday afternoon press conference that he was ready to approve federal help but DeSantis had not asked for it.
“I’m waiting for the governor to ask or to declare an emergency. Especially as we learn more about what might happen with the rest of the building,” Biden told reporters, prompting Twitter to light up with Democratic criticisms of DeSantis. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, a Democrat, soon tweeted that DeSantis needed to issue a state emergency declaration.
But Cava had failed to issue a local order first, which usually begins the process for disaster response that’s supposed to start locally, run through the state and then the federal government. She then issued the local order almost two hours later. DeSantis approved the declaration later that night and Biden followed up with his own order Friday.
The situation underscored the lack of trust and communication between the two partisan sides as well as a lack of understanding of the nuances of disaster response and disaster declarations — especially on social media — according to Moskowitz and Craig Fugate, the former head of FEMA under Obama who also was Florida’s emergency management chief under former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.
In this disaster, they say, the declarations essentially just make it easier for federal money to flow, but FEMA-sanctioned search-and-rescue operations had begun instantly because Miami-Dade County is the only place in the United States to have two of the nation’s 28 urban search-and-rescue task forces under FEMA authority.
When a Washington Post reporter suggested Saturday on Twitter that search-and-rescue response was hampered by DeSantis’ Thursday evening declaration, DeSantis’ press office angrily denounced it; Moskowitz took to Twitter and channeled a favorite word of Biden’s by calling the claim “malarkey.”
“It’s bullshit,” Fugate told POLITICO.
Since those initial hiccups in communication, DeSantis and Cava have stood side by side along with the congresswoman representing the area, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former head of the Democratic National Committee. Cava has earned particularly high marks, including from DeSantis allies, who credit her for informative press conference and a solutions-first style of governance in calling for an examination of all condominiums for structural problems.
A top Democrat who advised Biden’s campaign and political operation said a political focus group they coincidentally conducted Thursday night was consumed by the discussion of the condo collapse and the policy and political questions it raised.
“There’s a contrast between problem-solvers and deniers here, which is a long-term contrast that could emerge looking to 2024,” the adviser said. “This is raising a series of fundamental questions. How do you deny the need for regulation and tough enforcement? How do you deny the need for infrastructure investment, both private and public? How do you deny the existence of climate change? That is a very vivid contrast. It won’t play out in this meeting but it will be set up by this meeting and what follows.”
For now, though, those issues are playing out behind the scenes privately or among partisans on social media.
“The bottom line is they’re doing the right thing, and if people criticize them for it, the politics will take care of themselves,” said DuHaime, the Christie adviser. “Why not do the right thing? Helping people in a building collapse is not a partisan thing.”
Politics Briefing: Pallister apologizes for remarks on Canadian history, reconciliation – The Globe and Mail
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. 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.
BREAKING – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is apologizing for remarks on reconciliation that have caused a cabinet resignation and other turmoil in his province.
“I feel awful about the reaction and the misunderstanding I created with my comments,” the Progressive Conservative Premier told a news conference in Winnipeg on Tuesday.
“I am going to issue a statement later today, ask for forgiveness and understanding and ask that we unite,” he said.
In July, Mr. Pallister criticized protesters who had toppled statues of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria on the grounds of the legislature, then made remarks that have been widely criticized,
“The people who came here to this country before it was a country, and since, didn’t come here to destroy anything,” Mr. Pallister said. “They came here to build.”
With his earlier statement, Mr. Pallister said he was trying to unite people to build “as our Indigenous people have done for millennia, as our Metis population has done, as our more recent immigrants have done.”
On reflection, Mr. Pallister said he understood he was misunderstood. “I apologize for that. I should have been clearer in my comments, but my heart was in the right place and so that’s why I am offering this statement of apology today, and asking for people’s understanding. Let’s move forward.”
The Premier’s comments were criticized by Indigenous leaders for downplaying the impact of colonialism. Indigenous and Northern Relations Minister Eileen Clarke quit her cabinet post, saying she and other cabinet ministers had not been listened to. Some caucus members have distanced themselves from Mr. Pallister’s remarks. Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman urged Mr. Pallister to apologize.
Also, Alan Lagimodiere, named as a replacement for Ms. Clarke, defended some intentions behind residential schools, and was called out on the spot by Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew. Mr. Lagimodiere later apologized.
“Alan is a fine man,” Mr. Pallister said Tuesday, noting he immediately apologized. “I stand by him.”
Asked directly if he was thinking of resigning, Mr. Pallister said, to the journalist who asked, “You’ll be among the first to know if that’s the decision.”
MUSICAL CALL FOR MICHAEL’S RELEASE – The former bandmates of the Hungarian punk band that Michael Kovrig founded in 1996 have put out a song calling on all governments involved to work toward the release of Mr. Kovrig and Michael Spavor, both arrested in China in December, 2018. The two men were taken into custody soon after the detention in Vancouver of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. Justice Department extradition request.
SCORES IN REFUGEE CAMP DESPITE CANADIAN PLEDGES – Three years after Canada promised to find permanent homes for hundreds of rescue workers and their family members who were evacuated from Syria during its civil war, dozens of adults and children remain stuck in a Middle East refugee camp where their mental and physical health is deteriorating, according to federal officials.
CONCERNS RAISED ABOUT RACIAL PROFILING – Two organizations representing academics of Chinese origin in Canada are warning that new mandatory national security assessments for federal funding of university research could lead to “racial profiling Chinese researchers as foreign agents.”
DEFENCE CHIEF NOTES CHRONICLE FORTIN TURMOIL – An extraordinary set of handwritten notes by Canada’s acting defence chief appear to reveal a behind-the-scenes struggle between due process, political optics and support for the complainant after a sexual misconduct allegation emerged against Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin.
VOICES FROM MICHIGAN ON LINE 5 – The Globe and Mail’s U.S. Correspondent Adrian Morrow visits the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan to talk to residents about discontent relating to Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, which has the United States and Canada at odds. Story here.
WERNICK HAS WRITTEN GOVERNING GUIDE – Former top federal civil servant Michael Wernick says he has written a non-fiction book drawn from his more than three decades of experience in Ottawa, including time spent in cabinet rooms with ministers and prime ministers. Governing Canada: A Guide to the Tradecraft of Politics, is a “modest contribution” to Canada’s political literature, intended give people who are studying Canadian government, or those generally interested in it, another resource, says Mr. Wernick.
MCLACHLIN REUPS WITH HONG-KONG COURT – Despite Beijing’s tightening grip on Hong Kong, Beverley McLachlin, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, has agreed to serve another three-year term as a foreign judge on Hong Kong’s highest court. Story here. From The Montreal Gazette.
THE LOOMING ELECTION
-The Hill Times suggests here that Liberal candidates, and campaign managers are preparing for an election campaign to get started on Aug. 8 or Aug. 15, with the election date set to be Sept. 13 or Sept. 20.
-Federal political parties say they hope to hold lively in-person campaign rallies if an election is called – but, with pandemic restrictions still in place, they acknowledge that the events won’t look the same as they have in the past. Story here.
Writing in Maclean’s, Philippe J. Fourner says the Liberals are intent on an election despite data suggesting the likely outcome would be a Liberal-led minority government – and not a majority -“Because [they] could potentially secure a majority and may not have another window to do so in the foreseeable future.” Story here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
“Personal” according to the advisory issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet visits the riding of Salaberry—Suroîtand Châteauguay—Lacolle
Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole – No schedule provided by Mr. O’Toole’s office.
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul – No schedule provided by Ms. Paul’s office.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh celebrates the 60th anniversary of the NDP, and holds a media availability.
André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on whether you need to worry about breakthrough COVID-19 infections after getting vaccinated?: “Don’t be duped by the “news” that infections and hospitalizations are up among the vaccinated. Of course they are. A lot of people are getting vaccinated. But, relatively, way fewer vaccinated people are ending up sick or in hospital and, here, relativity matters. The pandemic has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Kluane Adamek (Contributor to The Globe and Mail) on why Canada should Indigenize the Senate: “Transforming the Senate to truly reflect and include a majority Indigenous representation would be a significant gesture toward reconciliation. It would have natural legitimacy as a custodial body safeguarding the land and all peoples. In using his discretion to establish this new convention, Mr. Trudeau would set Canada on a new and more equitable constitutional path. “Indigenizing” the Senate could be among the Prime Minister’s most consequential legacies.”
Andrew MacDougall (The Ottawa Citizen) on how little (or how much) Justin Trudeau talks about Erin O’Toole during the pending election campaign will be a sign of the Liberal leader’s confidence: “The Opposition Leader will rail about how much Trudeau has burdened the country with debt. He’ll moan about how Trudeau has loaded families up with extra costs. And he’ll no doubt remind Canadians of how Trudeau has let the country down with his various ethical lapses, whether that be WE, SNC, or blackface (times three). And what can Mr. O’Toole expect to hear back from Justin Trudeau? Well, if the Prime Minister is confident about his prospects, very little. Very little at all. If the Liberals are liking their chances they’ll go back to “sunny ways” and once again promote the power of positivity.”
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.
35 words that almost certainly will end Andrew Cuomo's political career – CNN
Analysis | How to reverse the politics of coronavirus vaccines, as demonstrated by Fox News – The Washington Post
Why? Well, because a lot of people live in big cities, and big cities are often heavily Democratic. While 55 percent of Republicans live in counties that voted for Trump, 55 percent also live in the 300-odd places that are the most heavily populated 10 percent of counties in the United States. (More than three-quarters of Democrats live in those counties; as a corollary, about 73 percent of Democrats live in counties won by Biden.)
The point is straightforward: Places with more people have more people. This is not what one would call a staggering insight, but it’s worth reiterating since people tend to think of heavily populated places as overwhelmingly Democratic. In fact, the most populous counties in the country are less robustly Democratic than the least populous ones are Republican. The 623 least populous counties preferred Trump by 46 points. The 623 most populous counties preferred Biden by less than one-third of that margin.
(The chart below looks at deciles of counties; that is, one-tenth of all counties, ranked from the least to the most populous.)
He said this on Friday, even as he (thankfully) encouraged getting more people vaccinated. But he did so while clearly attempting to cast blame for the surge on Democrats — trying to reverse the recent emphasis on the surge of infections in heavily Republican areas, since those places are less likely to be heavily vaccinated. In a statement provided to Mediaite, he tried to defend the claim.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s categorization of places with substantial rates of transmission “applies to nearly every major metropolitan area in the United States … Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Miami, St. Louis, etc. … according to the ‘hot spot’ county map highlighted on the CDC website,” the statement said. “Plus, anyone with common sense understands that 3.5M unvaccinated New York residents living within 300 square miles of each other, is more of a so-called ‘hot spot,’ than just 388,000 unvaccinated Wyoming residents living within 98,000 square miles of each other.”
This is pretty lazy stuff, even for Watters. He first cites the CDC’s definition, pointing out that applies to big cities — though without pointing out that it also applies to hundreds of small counties. Then he throws out the CDC’s definition of a hot spot in favor of his own, in which he begs the question by declaring a hot spot to depend on population density.
So let’s look at the actual numbers, shall we?
There is, in fact, a relationship between the average number of new cases in a county and the county population, according to counties for which we have data. Los Angeles County has seen a lot of new cases in the past two weeks (which is the time period indicated on the graph below), but it also has millions of residents.
But the CDC, not new to this, is familiar with how population works. So it defines community transmission relative to population. It uses two metrics — the rate of cases per 100,000 residents and the rate of positive tests — to determine the places with “substantial” or “high” transmission.
If we plot population against the rate of cases per 100,000 residents, the picture shifts. In the least-populated decile of counties, 69 percent have transmission rates above the median. In the most-populated decile, 54 percent do.
We can look at this another way. Over the past two weeks, most new cases have been in the most populous places for the same reason that so many Trump voters live in Biden counties. Adjusted for population, though, the hardest-hit places shift to the middle of the pack.
If Los Angeles was seeing the same rate of infections as the hardest-hit small county — Sullivan County, Mo. — it would be seeing ten times the number of new cases each day.
It’s true, as Watters points out, that more unvaccinated people live in blue states, since those states have more people. But as of two weeks ago, more unvaccinated adults lived in red states even though those states have fewer adult residents. This issue of vaccination is entirely the point, of course, with places that have lower rates of vaccination seeing more new cases per resident.
The vaccination data, compiled by the CDC, are imperfect, but you can clearly see the pattern below. More than a third of the country lives in the 2,300-odd counties in which more than half the population hasn’t received at least one dose of the vaccine.
What’s particularly alarming is how many seniors have not been fully vaccinated. In more than half of counties, according to the CDC data, fewer than half of those over age 65 have been fully vaccinated.
But this is just running Watters’s playbook in reverse. In the most densely populated counties, home to two-thirds of the population, more than three-quarters of those aged 65 and over have been fully vaccinated.
The risk remains high in places with lower vaccination rates, not just places with more unvaccinated people. Those places are generally places that voted more heavily for Trump in 2020. And the correlation between the two makes sense, given Trump’s — and Fox News’s — rhetoric.
“We have to do away with all the politics and just try to get people vaxxed,” Watters said on Friday. Fine. Let’s.
Vaccinated? You’re 10x less likely to catch and transmit COVID-19, but risk remains – Boundary Creek Times
Nikkei: Google Tensor is a 5nm chip and Samsung is handling production – 9to5Google
One of the brightest meteor showers of the year is set to dazzle Vancouver skies – Vancouver Is Awesome
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
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