Something has been lacking all through this silly season of debates, and I finally figured out what it is.
We need an alarm system that will go off when the malodorous material gets piled too high.
We need a referee who will flash the yellow cards and the red cards when the elbows and the knees are being wielded too freely.
We need that guy from Oct. 10, 2008, who reminded the whole country that there must be limits to the rabid fantasies being tossed around.
Remember him? It was like a scene out of Awakenings, the movie in which Robert DeNiro briefly emerges from a coma. In Lakeville, Minn., somebody looking a lot like John McCain was making a public appearance. According to The New York Times:
When a man told him he was “scared” of an Obama presidency, Mr. McCain replied, “I want to be president of the United States and obviously I do not want Senator Obama to be, but I have to tell you -- I have to tell you -- he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared' of as president of the United States.'' The crowd booed loudly at Mr. McCain’s response.
Later, a woman stood up at the meeting, held at Lakeville South High School in a far suburb of Minneapolis, and told Mr. McCain that she could not trust Mr. Obama because he was an ''Arab.''
Mr. McCain replied: ''No, ma'am, he's a decent family man, citizen who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that's what this campaign is all about.'' At that, the crowd applauded.
That man resembled the John McCain I interviewed in his office in 1999 during a hearing into Olympic business, the same John McCain who led a bunch of vets who shipped materials over to Vietnam. When I asked him why he did that, after his suffering during captivity, McCain shrugged and said it was the right thing to do.
We need somebody like that John McCain now, when a Franklin Graham can decide who is a Christian and who is not, when a Rick Santorum can talk about a “phony theology” and when a Newt Gingrich can accuse a president of being “dangerous.” Americans know the code words; we understand what is going down.
We need an arbiter who can draw some kind of line with the words: “I have to tell you.”
We only saw that guy once in the 2008 campaign. Wouldn’t it be nice if he could have another awakening this spring, to inject a note of decency into the silly season?
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.