“Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power,” Trump said, “and we are grateful to President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent.”
But ever since Trump’s defeat at the hands of Joe Biden last month, the President has been anything but magnificent. He has done all he can to prevent an “orderly and peaceful” transfer to the next administration. This week, he threw his support behind an unprecedented lawsuit brought by the state of Texas which asked the US Supreme Court to throw out the votes of millions of people in states that gave Biden his victory.
Seventeen other red states and more than 100 GOP members of Congress quickly backed what would have amounted to a judicial coup d’état designed to give Trump four more years in office. But on Friday evening, the Supreme Court dismissed the assault on democracy, saying Texas had no legal standing to challenge “the manner in which another state conducts its elections.”
On Monday, electors will gather in all 50 states and it’s certain a majority will formally cast their votes in favor of Biden, who is to be sworn in on January 20. American democracy is beating back Trump’s effort to “steal an election,” wrote Frida Ghitis, as judges and election officials, both Republicans and Democrats, reject his “voter fraud” claims. “But the damage he has inflicted on the country will not end with his presidency, and this won’t be the last time we see a charismatic politician with dictatorial tendencies attack the US system of government.”
What Trump is fomenting is “crazy, authoritarian stuff,” wrote David Axelrod. “If it were occurring anywhere else, Americans would condemn it as an appalling attempt to undermine democracy. History will scorn the cowards who meekly complied with Trump’s scheme to tarnish and overturn the election — and honor the many who showed courage and fidelity to the rule of law during this time of trial.”
James Moore, a longtime writer on Texas politics, noted that Ken Paxton, the state attorney general who filed the outlandish election suit “has been indicted on securities fraud and accused by top aides of bribery, abuse of office and other potentially criminal offenses — charges that he has denied.” Paxton’s plea to the Supreme Court “might just be currying favor with Trump in an attempt to get a pardon before Paxton is potentially tried and convicted. Even a bad lawyer like our attorney general is likely to know he has no real case.”
A losing cause
Losing in court isn’t stopping Republicans from continuing to deny reality, wrote Susan Glasser in the New Yorker: “While his allies have lost fifty-plus cases since the election, Trump has convinced millions of Americans to believe that the election was rigged against him — seventy-seven percent of Republicans now say mass fraud occurred, according to a new Quinnipiac poll out Thursday — and enlisted virtually the entire national leadership of the Republican Party in his concerted attack on the legitimacy of the results.”
On December 5, Jocelyn Benson, the Michigan secretary of state, was hanging Christmas decorations with her family. Her four-year-old son was getting ready to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” when armed protesters “descended on my home … screaming falsehoods and obscenities into a bullhorn.” They were backing Trump’s fraud claims, she wrote, and disputing the Michigan election results, which gave Biden the state’s electoral votes, with a popular vote margin of more than 154,000.
It was “the latest in a string of attacks that are a direct outgrowth of the hateful rhetoric and threats of violence we’ve seen invade our public discourse here in Michigan, and throughout our country, for several months,” Benson wrote. “Since the polls closed on November 3, we’ve seen hardworking public officials and election administrators on both sides of the aisle subjected to incessant and baseless threats designed to stop us from doing our jobs.”
For more on Trump and the transition:
Dean Obeidallah: Why Republicans still refuse to accept Trump’s defeat
Peggy Drexler: What Melania Trump leaves behind
Michael D’Antonio: Does Donald Trump really believe he lost the election?
Thomas Balcerski: The uphill road that awaits Donald Trump
Norman Eisen, Christine Todd Whitman and Joanna Lydgate: Trump is not giving up on his lies about the election. We can’t let him get away with it
It was a week of milestones in the Covid-19 pandemic: On Tuesday, the UK began vaccinating its citizens. On Wednesday, the US reported more deaths from Covid-19 than any other day in the pandemic — 3,124. And on Friday, the FDA gave its emergency authorization for use of a vaccine in the US. The cascade of events comes at a time when the US is politically vulnerable, caught between an outgoing administration whose prime attention is elsewhere and an incoming one that can’t take action yet.
“We’re watching, like spectators, a health catastrophe of historic proportions that has already resulted in more than 280,000 deaths in the United States, economic calamity for millions and what is looking increasingly like a crippling of the nation’s health infrastructure,” wrote Merrill Brown. “And we’re doing so with a sense of helplessness as a rudderless government and an indifferent President do little more than await the public distribution of a vaccine.“
Vaccine approval came first in the UK, wrote health researcher Ines Hassan, because “an efficient but stringent approval process was used by leveraging multidisciplinary teams, advanced planning, real-time data evaluation, independent reviews and strong leadership.”
The first person vaccinated in the UK was Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week. The second was William Shakespeare, aged 81. The good news was a bit overshadowed though, wrote Holly Thomas, by a controversy over an especially British food item.
“A Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg, wrapped in miscellaneous gray sausage meat, rolled in weirdly orange breadcrumbs,” Thomas wrote. “Sometimes this concoction is tiny, sometimes almost threateningly large.” Britons going to the pub in tier two of the country’s Covid-19 restrictions are only allowed to order alcoholic drinks if they are accompanied by a “substantial meal.” And members of Boris Johnson’s government had trouble agreeing on whether a Scotch egg qualified as a meal.
While that debate “was ridiculous, it sidestepped a more important point. Thousands of pubs, bars, restaurants and other venues are still closed, and may never reopen. It’s hard to overstate how important this is on a personal level, let alone how many people’s livelihoods have been or will be destroyed.”
In the US, an enormous logistical challenge looms. “We are ready for simultaneous distribution of tens of thousands of doses of safe and effective vaccines to 50 states, eight territories and six major metropolitan cities,” wrote Gus Perna, a four-star general who is the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed. “Time is our enemy. Thousands continue to die every day from this virus. We cannot wait for perfection. We have made incredible strides to be ready.“
Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, was discharged after four days in the hospital for Covid-19 treatment.
In a triple header of unhelpful health advice, he deprecated the use of masks to prevent spreading the disease, boasted of the extra special care celebrities receive and touted the “cocktail” of drugs he received as the ones that had been given to Trump when he fell ill, lamented infectious disease expert Kent Sepkowitz.
“Giuliani’s latest nonsense will lead to many patients, those without comparable strings to pull, feeling like they didn’t receive the best treatment– the Rudy one, the real one, the one that makes you feel 100% better almost immediately.” The truth is that “we simply don’t know enough about how and why patients with Covid-19 improve,” wrote Sepkowitz.
Coping with loss
John Bare and his wife Betsy both came down with Covid-19 in August. He lost his sense of taste and felt disoriented, with low-grade fever and severe exhaustion. She progressed from a mild case to a deadly one. Betsy suffered from cancer and asthma along with other underlying conditions.
He considers himself fortunate that there was a moment they could talk, when she was in the ICU, about to go on a ventilator with a poor prognosis for survival. “We both said to each other what we wanted to say,” Bare wrote. “We were not rushed. The medical team would wait. I count this among the luckiest moments of my life. To have had this time together, for us each to say what we wanted to say, for us each to hear what the other said, was an incredible gift.”
Now, he wrote, “the tears emerge when I recall how lucky Betsy and I were to write our own ending, more or less. I cry out of guilt when my fortunes turn positive. I cry because I don’t know how to order dinner now that I’ve lost my dining companion.”
The end of a restaurant
It only took two days for a demolition crew to pull apart Tastebuds, an award-winning Cleveland restaurant that Bridget McGinty founded 19 years ago.
As the pandemic destroyed the restaurant’s business model, McGinty said she waited in vain for help from her bank and the government. When she explained the situation to her parish priest, he suggested a last resort — selling the business to the church. “He explained that they had applied for grant money to renovate a hall and commercial kitchen to better serve the community,” she wrote.
When McGinty and her co-owner talked to the couple running the church’s food pantry, they left “feeling humbled and inspired. We had been so powerless for so long and suddenly we were in a position to do something tremendous … We were no longer considering what we could sell to the church, we were donating anything and everything we could.”
Joe Biden nominated retired General Lloyd Austin as defense secretary. He would be the first Black person to hold that post, and his rise over a 40-year military career is an inspiring one. But the choice has drawn criticism — over his reserved personal style, his leadership in the Iraq War and questions about whether the choice of a retired general, as with Trump’s choice of Gen. James Mattis, weakens civilian control of the military.
A West Point classmate, Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, wrote of Austin that “no one has attempted to give him a colorful combat nickname such as ‘Mad Dog’ or even ‘Chaos’. But in talking to those who know him — like Biden and those who served beside Austin — you’ll likely hear about how Lloyd cares for people, no matter the size of the organization. You’ll also hear about his pragmatic and succinct approach to solving complex problems, which comes from reasoned and serious reflection. Those who know him understand he has the personal courage to speak truth to power and provide valuable insight to his President — and to our allies and partners – because we have seen him do just that, in the toughest of situations.”
Racial justice is a vital issue for America in the age of Biden, wrote Peniel E. Joseph, noting that this week marks the 155th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, with a glaring loophole for those behind bars. “This defect helped institutionalize the system of mass incarceration that 21st century freedom dreamers are now working so hard to dismantle,” Joseph observed.
Biden has promised to pick the most diverse cabinet ever, a step beyond what Bill Clinton promised: “a cabinet that looks like America.” Paul Begala, who served in the Clinton White House, wrote that some conservatives “think people like Biden insist on diversity because of some politically correct White liberal guilt … (but) the commitment to diversity is far more practical, besides being fundamentally just. When you broaden the pool of talent, you get more talented people. That seems simple, and yet some on the right simply can’t grasp it. Baseball got better when Black players were included. The NBA got better when the Houston Rockets signed a 7-foot-6 center from China. And the Army improved when Colin Powell was made a general. More immediately, Dr. Anthony Fauci has noted that one of the vaccines for Covid-19 was developed through the leadership of a Black woman: Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, one of the lead scientists for coronavirus research at the National Institutes of Health.”
For more on Biden and his administration:
Julian Zelizer: Expect big things from Kamala Harris
Cindy McCain and Heidi Heitkamp: Bring America together now
Edward J. McCaffery: What’s different about the Hunter Biden investigation
Charles Koch and Brian Hooks: One thing we should all agree on
Laurence Tubiana: Paris Agreement architect: 2021 will dawn with hope
Dr. Kee B. Park and Katharine H.S. Moon: How Biden can use ‘Covid diplomacy’ to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program
RIP Chuck Yeager
Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager was immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s book “The Right Stuff” and the movie, in which he was played by Sam Shepard.
Yeager, who died this week at 97, was not only a celebrated World War II fighter pilot but “the first person to break the sound barrier, going 700 miles an hour, which he did with a busted rib after a fall from a horse” in 1947, as John Avlon noted.
“Yeager was a direct connection to an American ethos that we’ve lost sight of — one before the narcissistic need for attention, the shallow materialism full of phony tough bluster and the fetishization of victimhood took hold and began to define our country, from the Oval Office on down.”
Brynn Gingras: How Santa and brave women, like Meghan Markle, are helping me process an unimaginable loss
Ximena N. Larkin: Selena’s enduring legacy is a reminder to dream
Clayton Kershaw: Ending child marriage in the Dominican Republic
Surreal world of sports in 2020
The 2020 Olympics: postponed. Wimbledon, March Madness and the Boston Marathon? As Amy Bass pointed out, they were canceled. And the rest of the sports calendar was scrambled by the pandemic:
“Horse racing’s Triple Crown started with its third leg, the Belmont Stakes, and finished with the second, the Preakness; the French Open, traditionally a harbinger of summer, took place after the US Open, which held its traditional Labor Day weekend spot, albeit without spectators. The Indy 500, a Memorial Day staple, took place at the end of August, alongside a delayed Tour de France.”
Many of the most memorable moments of the year, Bass wrote, came when the world outside sports was allowed to forcefully intrude into the games. Naomi Osaka, who won the US Open, wore “to each match a mask emblazoned with the name of a Black victim of violence — seven names chosen from a tragic number of possibilities.” It showed “how individual stances can morph into significant acts of solidarity, reinforcing, perhaps more powerfully than ever before, why we need to listen to athletes for a change.”
What will sports look like in 2021?
“This is what we do know,” Bass wrote. “There is a vaccine on the horizon, and we can look to sports to tell a story of its distribution and its efficacy. Will athletes be prioritized? Will fans — fans who didn’t always tune in even when baseball and basketball did get their seasons up and running — come back to the seats?”