SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The president of the United States has tested positive for a virus that he has publicly, openly doubted and minimized at times. Melania Trump has also tested positive, as have a number of close aides and U.S. senators. Today the president’s at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as a patient and is expected to stay there at least several days.
NPR’s Ron Elving joins us. Good morning, Ron.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: And first, what do we know about the president’s health?
ELVING: Last night, we had an update from one of his doctors, Sean Conley, saying the president is doing, quote, “very well,” unquote. He said the president was not requiring supplemental oxygen but that he had started Remdesivir therapy.
Now, last night, of course, the president was flown to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The White House said this was, quote, “out of an abundance of caution,” unquote, and that the president would be working there for a few days in the presidential office at the center where he can be monitored for further symptoms. He had reportedly experienced some coughing and congestion and a moderate fever on Friday. The diagnosis had originally been made known in the wee hours of that morning.
SIMON: Ron, certainly nobody wants or wishes the coronavirus on anyone. And President Trump certainly didn’t want to begin the last month before an election as a patient in Walter Reed with a disease that he’s often diminished.
ELVING: Clearly not. He’s been yearning to get back out on the campaign trail. He wanted to have the big events that he’s had in the past that are the wellspring for his style of politics. And while they cut back on those for months in deference to the virus, they tried to jumpstart them, of course, last June – that abortive event in Tulsa that didn’t fill the seats and resulted in some spreading of the virus. They held off again for a while, then they began again last month with a – kind of a scaled-back version – things like airplane hangar rallies, where supporters jam into a semi-indoor space, with few wearing masks or observing social distance.
It also appears, Scott, that the president should have known on Thursday or may have known on Thursday that Hope Hicks, his staff adviser, had tested positive and been in close contact with him and that that circumstance might have prompted some protective measures. But the president went on to the fundraiser in New Jersey Thursday night anyway.
SIMON: And let me ask about this spread all around the circle of the president – not just Hope Hicks, but his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, his former adviser, Kellyanne Conway, three journalists, reportedly, who worked at the White House, two Republican Senators – Mike Lee of Utah, Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Given the incubation period for this virus, testing has to continue.
ELVING: And, of course, that is essential at this point, even beyond the usual battery of testing they had been doing. Vice President Mike Pence, to be sure – he has a debate with Democratic nominee for Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday. By the way, both those candidates have tested negative so far. And also Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who has also tested negative, she has met in recent days with something like two dozen Republican senators in person, including Mike Lee. And the White House staff also needs to be checked. Some, of course, have been checked before, but others will be now.
SIMON: And, of course, Joe Biden shared the debate stage with him in Cleveland. And there was a whole lot of shouting going on, although Mr. Biden and Jill Biden have tested negative.
ELVING: Yes. Yes. So far, they have. And Biden appeared in public yesterday wearing a mask. But as NPR has reported, negative tests do not necessarily mean you’re in the clear.
SIMON: Ron, what’s it say about this country and the coronavirus that a person with matchless access to the best medical opinion and personal security still gets infected?
ELVING: It says matchless access does not guarantee immunity. You still have to do the right things and show concern for the way your actions affect others. It also shows we all need to re-examine our notions of being safe or out of the woods. No one should rely on youth or privilege or other illusions of invulnerability.
SIMON: NPR’s Ron Elving, thanks so much.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott.
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.
A longtime fixture in U.S. politics, Biden seeks to win elusive prize – Reuters Canada
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Joe Biden, a fixture in U.S. politics for a half century as a senator and vice president, is seeking to complete a long climb to the political mountaintop that includes two previous failed presidential bids by defeating President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
If Biden beats the Republican president, a fellow septuagenarian, the 77-year-old Democrat from Delaware would become the oldest person ever elected to the White House.
Biden has sought to portray his political experience as a benefit, casting himself as a tested leader up to the tasks of healing a nation battered by the coronavirus pandemic and providing steadiness after the turbulence of Trump’s presidency.
Accepting the Democratic presidential nomination in August, Biden stressed compassion and decency, seeking to draw a contrast with the pugnacious Trump.
“I’ll be an ally of the light,” Biden said, “not the darkness.”
Trump has derided him as “Sleepy Joe” and said his mental capacity was “shot” as the president’s allies sought to portray Biden as senile.
If elected, Biden would be 78 years old upon inauguration on Jan. 20. Trump, 74, was the oldest person to assume the presidency when he was sworn in at age 70 in 2017.
Biden unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008 before finally securing his party’s blessing this year with strong support among Black voters.
He brings to his political career a mix of blue-collar credentials, foreign policy experience and a compelling life story marked by family tragedy – the loss of his first wife and a daughter in a car crash, and a son to cancer.
Biden arrived in Washington as a young upstart. He was elected in 1972 at age 29 to the U.S. Senate from Delaware and remained there for 36 years before serving from 2009 to 2017 as vice president under Barack Obama, the country’s first Black president.
Trump has sought to turn Biden’s experience into a liability, denouncing him as a career politician. Trump has said Biden would become a puppet of the Democratic Party’s “radical left.”
The coronavirus pandemic has been front and center in the presidential race. Biden accuses Trump of surrendering in the face of the public health crisis, saying the president panicked and tried to wish away the virus rather than do the hard work needed to get it under control, leaving the economy in shambles and millions of people jobless.
Trump, who was hospitalized for three days after contracting COVID-19, has mocked Biden for regularly wearing a face mask to guard against the pathogen’s spread.
‘THE SOUL OF THIS NATION’
After serving as vice president, Biden opted not to run for president in 2016, only to watch Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. When Biden announced his 2020 candidacy in April 2019, he took aim at Trump.
“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” Biden said, adding that if re-elected Trump would “forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation – who we are – and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”
Biden selected Senator Kamala Harris – whose father is an immigrant from Jamaica and whose mother is an immigrant from India – as his running mate, making her the first Black woman and first person of Asian descent on a major-party U.S. ticket. At 56, Harris is a generation younger than Biden.
An effort by Trump to dig up dirt on Biden resulted in the president’s impeachment in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives in December 2019. The two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – stemmed from Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate Biden and his son Hunter on unsubstantiated corruption allegations.
In February, the Senate, controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, acquitted him of the charges after refusing to call any witnesses.
U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI director this year concluded that Russia, after interfering in the 2016 election to harm Trump’s opponent Clinton, was engaging in a campaign to denigrate Biden and boost Trump’s re-election chances while promoting discord in the United States.
Biden’s previous two presidential runs did not go well. He dropped out of the 1988 race after allegations that he had plagiarized some speech lines from British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. In 2008, Biden won little support and withdrew, only to be selected later as Obama’s running mate.
The folksy Biden, known for blunt talk and occasional verbal gaffes, has often referenced his working-class roots to connect with ordinary Americans. Biden also was the first Roman Catholic U.S. vice president.
Under Obama, Biden served as a troubleshooter on matters of war and foreign affairs and on domestic issues such as gun control and fiscal policy.
Obama did not always heed Biden’s advice. Obama gave the go-ahead for the 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden despite Biden’s warning that it was too risky.
Biden speaks openly about his family’s tragedies including the 1972 car crash that killed his first wife, Neilia, and their 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, weeks after his election to the Senate.
He almost abandoned his political career to care for his two young sons who survived the accident but stayed on, commuting by train from Delaware to Washington to avoid uprooting them.
In 2015, his son Joseph “Beau” Biden III, an Iraq war veteran who had served as Delaware’s attorney general, died from brain cancer at age 46. Biden’s son Hunter struggled with drug issues as an adult.
Biden himself had a health scare in 1988 when he suffered two brain aneurysms.
Biden was born in the blue-collar city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, the eldest of four siblings. His family later moved to Delaware. Biden overcame stuttering as a boy by reciting passages of poetry to a mirror.
He was practically a political novice – having served two years on a county board in Delaware – when in 1972 he became the fifth-youngest elected senator in U.S. history.
Despite years of partisan hostilities in Washington, Biden remained a believer in bipartisanship. During his time in the Senate, Biden was known for his close working relationships with some of his Republican colleagues. In addition, a number of disaffected Republicans, including former government officials and former lawmakers, alarmed at Trump’s presidency have endorsed Biden.
Biden also advocated for America’s role as a leader on the world stage at a time when Trump was abandoning international agreements and alienating longtime foreign allies.
One of Biden’s accomplishments as a senator was helping to secure passage in 1994 of a law called the Violence Against Women Act to protect victims of domestic crimes.
While in the Senate, Biden built up a specialty in foreign affairs and at one time headed the Foreign Relations Committee. He voted in favor of authorizing the 2003 Iraq invasion before becoming a critic of Republican President George W. Bush’s handling of the war.
Biden was criticized as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 for his handling of sexual harassment accusations against Republican President George H.W. Bush’s conservative Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas by former aide Anita Hill. Liberals criticized him for doing too little to defend Hill’s allegations, which Thomas had denied.
The committee held explosive televised hearings prior to Thomas’s eventual Senate confirmation. Thomas accused Biden’s committee of conducting “a high-tech lynching for uppity Blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas.”
In May of this year, Biden denied a former Senate aide’s accusation that he had sexually assaulted her in 1993, calling the claim “not true” and saying “unequivocally it never, never happened.” The allegation was made by a California woman named Tara Reade who worked as a staff assistant in Biden’s Senate office for about 10 months.
Reade was one of eight women who in 2019 came forward to say Biden had hugged, kissed or touched them in ways that made them uncomfortable, though none accused him of sexual assault. Reade publicly accused him of the assault months later.
Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Howard Goller
Neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden deserve a honeymoon from cynicism – USA TODAY
Presidents over the decades have tried to preach against cynicism in the citizenry, but cynicism is a natural blowback to deceit and corruption.
| Opinion columnist
“The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism,” declared former president Barack Obama two years ago. But as we enter the final days of another demagoguery-drenched presidential campaign, it is time to give cynicism the credit it deserves. In an era of clueless voters, conniving candidates and media bias, cynicism can be one of the most effective checks and balances on political power run amok.
In modern American history, the most audacious liars have been the greatest self-proclaimed enemies of cynicism. “The only deadly sin I know is cynicism,” declared President Lyndon Johnson in a 1967 press conference on how the Vietnam War was going great. In a 1973 nationally-televised speech, President Richard Nixon declared, “I reject the cynical view that politics is inevitably, or even usually, a dirty business” prior to deluging viewers with false claims on the burgeoning Watergate scandal.
In 1994, President Clinton derided citizens who “indulge themselves in the luxury of cynicism” for betraying the American soldiers who died on D-Day in 1944. In 1997, Clinton declared that people can make America “better if we will suspend our cynicism.” This is the Peter Pan theory of public service: if only people believed government has magical powers, politicians could achieve miracles. After his impeachment, Clinton castigated “fashionable cynicism” as “self-indulgent arrogance that has no place in America.” But it wasn’t cynics’ fault that Clinton helped make presidential candor an endangered species.
Cynicism is a natural blowback to deceit
George W. Bush exploited the revulsion against Clinton, promising America “a fresh start after a season of cynicism” when he launched his presidential campaign in 1999. In his first inaugural address, President Bush touted positive thinking about politicians as civic duty, lecturing Americans of their “calling” to make a “determined choice of trust over cynicism.” In the same 2002 State of the Union where he uncorked “the Axis of Evil” to pave the way to war with Iraq, Bush declared, “Deep in the American character, there is honor, and it is stronger than cynicism.” Bush repeatedly rebuked the cynicism of anyone who refused to cheer his invasion of Iraq.
Barack Obama exploited the revulsion against Bush, proclaiming in 2007 that “my rival in this [presidential] race is not other candidates. It’s cynicism.” Six years later, President Obama exhorted college graduates to beware of the “creeping cynicism” and people who “warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.” He did not seize that opportunity to how he acquired the prerogative to order drone killings of American citizens on his own decree.
Politicians denouncing cynicism are akin to used car salesmen telling customers to ignore the clunking sound from the engine during a test drive. Cynicism is blowback from decades of deceit. Most of the major political power grabs in modern history have been propelled by official falsehoods, as have all the major wars since 1950. Perpetual bipartisan chicanery explains why only 20% of Americans trust the federal government nowadays.
Cynicism often arises because politicians judge themselves by their rhetoric while citizens judge them by their (mis)deeds. The alternative to cynicism is pretending that politicians are more honest than they sound. Are politicians, like underage delinquents, entitled to have all their prior offenses expunged?
Cynicism is necessary because the political playing field is often tilted in favor of servility. Politicians are almost never held personally responsible for their falsehoods, follies and fiascos. Thanks to pervasive federal secrecy and surveillance, rulers hold far more cards than citizens. People have been schooled and hectored to submit, to believe and to reflexively defer to officialdom. Scores of millions of people will unquestioningly obey no matter what Washington commands.
Cynicism is a form of political damage control. An ounce of cynicism can save a pound of repenting. Cynicism functions as a brake on political steamrollers. Timely doubts loudly expressed can stop presidents from driving a nation over a cliff or into a foreign quagmire.
Don’t intellectually disarm yourself for political aggressors
Politicians seek to banish cynicism without repenting their rascally ways. Why should citizens intellectually disarm themselves in the face of political aggressors? Why should they accept the passive obedience that was preached for centuries to the politically downtrodden? Are citizens obliged to continually cast their common sense and memories overboard as if they were seeking to placate an angry pagan god?
The derision of cynicism goes to heart of citizens’ role in a democracy. If citizens have a duty to believe, then politicians are entitled to deceive. If citizens are obliged to trust, they become sacrificial offerings for the next political con job. A cynic is often merely someone who trusts politicians as little as politicians trust each other.
Cynicism is simply a discount rate for political honesty. Even cynics should not presume that all politicians are perfidious all the time. There are decent folks in every profession. Instead, citizens should judge politicians like federal judges treat accused criminals — 97% of whom are convicted.
Cynicism can be pro-freedom, spurring resistance rather than resignation. Stalwart citizens should be cynical when politicians concoct new pretexts to subvert freedom of speech and press, cynical when politicians conspire to violate the Constitution, cynical when politicians seek to drag America into new foreign conflicts, and cynical when politicians propose sweeping new federal programs to replace disgraced boondoggles. Most importantly, citizens should be cynical when politicians absolve themselves for all the damage they have inflicted on this nation.
Winning politicians often enjoy a honeymoon after Election Day, but neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden deserve any honeymoon from cynicism. “Think well of your masters” will be the death of democracy. The more cynical Americans become, the less power politicians can seize.
Politics Podcast: There Just Isn’t Good Evidence That ‘Shy’ Trump Voters Exist – FiveThirtyEight
This is the final(!) preelection installment of Model Talk on the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast. Galen Druke talks to editor-in-chief Nate Silver about the latest polling shifts in key battleground states and whether there is any reason to believe that “shy Trump voters” will deliver an upset win for the president on Election Day. (The evidence suggests there isn’t.)
You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.
The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.
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