(This piece was written 12 hours before John McCain cast a deciding vote in defeating the bill that would have taken health care from over 20 million people. I have read Paul Krugman's perceptive column in the NYT, also written earlier Thursday, long before McCain's vote, depicting the senator's erratic stances.
It's tricky to write about a moving story. On Thursday, Laura Vecsey wrote a glimpse of the Scaramucci family from our town. Later, Anthony became Trump's Trump via his vile rant to the New Yorker. It's a moving spectacle. I think I know where this is all going -- sooner rather than later, one can only hope. GV.)
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This is not the role anybody wanted for John McCain – appearing in public with a red raw line above his eye, from the recent incursion toward his brain.
I have been writing for over six months that I fully expected Sen. McCain to be a pivotal figure in the inevitable dumpsterization of Donald Trump.
I spent a few hours with Sen. McCain in his office for a column during an Olympic hearing in 1999, seeing the cranky side and the generous side.
Sen. McCain remains enigmatic – coming back from an awful diagnosis to cast a vote on health care, temporarily siding with the president who once declared him not a hero, and also supporting the amoral Mitch McConnell, to prolong this foolishness.
But then John McCain did what I have expected of him on his good-John-McCain days: he plainly called the Republican health-care “plan” meaningless, empty.
Now he has viscerally reacted to the pathetic tweeter of the White House by criticizing the call to bar transgender people from the military. This pilot served, was tortured. He knows how things actually work in the service, as opposed to the poseur from military school.
The same goes for Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who lost parts of her legs while serving as a pilot in Iraq. I saw her on TV the other night, talking about the foolish gesture toward transgender military people. She was, as always, so smart, so dignified. So presidential.
John McCain did not get to be president. His best moment during the campaign was to take the microphone back from the bigot in red who labelled Barack Obama “an A-rab.”
It was hard, recently, to watch John McCain stumble while asking questions in a Senate hearing. Now we know what is happening. But I am counting on him to exercise the just part of him. His pals in the mute White Citizens Council posse that materializes behind McConnell cannot pretend things are just fine, when John McCain is reacting viscerally to the disorder.
Unlike Trump, Sen. McCain felt no need to pander to the religious right on the transgender issue.
I originally thought it would take 18 rational months to rid the country of the buffoon, but now I think it could happen by Labor Day. This can’t go on. John McCain can help by calling out a disturbed man.
He flew many missions, but when he and Lindsay Graham pay that visit to the White House one of these months, it will be John McCain’s greatest mission.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.