The other day I referred to the current debates as a "horror show."
Then came Wednesday night's Democratic slap-down from Las Vegas, with all the candidates greeting Mike Bloomberg with all the ear-ringing civility of the old Jerry Springer show, or maybe a Trump stalk-a-thon from 2016.
It's all a reality show now. What would happen if, say, Adlai Stevenson and Robert Taft, prominent candidates of the left and right from the 1950's, wandered into that raucous scrum?
Hard to maintain dignity in this melee. Rip Van Bloomberg blinked and shrugged and pursed his lips at the political Billingsgate being heaved at him. Rotten fish and unkind verbiage. Didn't they know who he is?
I'm typing this in mid-morning on Thursday. It wouldn't surprise me if Mayor Mike said "screw this" before noon and fired up his private carbon-burner for a weekend in his mansion in London. (Beats the hell out of Mar-a-Lago.) What does he need this for?
I'll leave the ratings and snide points to the paid observers in the media.
I only want to add that Joe Biden maintained his avuncular posture while people around him were tossing verbal chamber pots around the stage.
Maybe that means Uncle Joe is irrelevant? Or he is going to wait for Senator Amy and Mayor Pete to be led away for mutual assault? It's a battle of attrition out there while Trump pardons body-double criminals who remind him of, well, himself.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden stayed on his feet, hair and syntax in place.
(Here's what I wrote about him the other day, before Mayor Mike wandered onto the stage, stunningly unprepared:)
* * *
On Monday I strolled past an active television screen and saw a poised gent making sense (at least, to me) and I paused to take a look.
Omigosh, it was Joe Biden, the candidate that the national hangin' jury has consigned to oblivion.
Time to take Grandpa to the Dog Track.
Biden sounded and looked healthy, focused, experienced and decent -- not the distracted old-timer out in public beyond his bedtime in this circus of primaries, outdoors in small, snowbound states.
He spoke rationally about the danger of the disturbed man currently defiling the post of President,. He spoke in some detail about the right way to run his country.
"Wait a minute," I said out loud. He sounded like somebody who could pick a cabinet much better than the current collection of self-serving ghouls. He sounded as if he had some job experience, could absorb facts, as opposed to the illiterate and sadistic buffoon we currently have.
Joe Biden was being interviewed by Nicolle Wallace, the reforming Republican who has become one of the very best hosts on MSNBC. She asked good questions, did not interrupt or blather like some people I could mention.
So he's old. So are most of the other leading candidates. I'm three-plus years older than Biden, blessed to be in good shape, but I can easily imagine a president wanting to sneak off for a nap. Then again, look at the bloated, addled oaf we have now.
(Old president? Get a younger running mate. Stacey Abrams, age 46, jobbed out of the Senate by Georgia's establishment, would be a perfect running mate.)
So Biden stutters a bit -- a lifelong condition he has mostly overcome, which sounds worse in the circus carnival of primaries. Listening to him the other day, I could see him making sense with leaders of other countries, members of both parties, corporate executives, union officials, as well as citizens of all political leanings. I could see him delegating chores to responsible assistants.
The former Veep has been there, done that.
(I know, I know, the "borrowed" speech, Anita Hill, the vote on Iraq, his unqualified son taking a cushy "job" in Ukraine, complaints that Biden is a bit too old-school hands-on.)
For 14-plus minutes, Joe Biden looked and sounded presidential -- perhaps more than anybody else in this mad roller-coaster of a campaign.
For that moment, I was once again ready to reconsider the potential candidates to save this country.
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.