My favorite headline of the day

fundamentals

I loved this today, in The State.

There’s nothing funny about COVID-19, but this did make me smile.

Our lives are being turned upside-down by a global pandemic.

Many of us are out of work with no way to make up the lost play.

The stock market is tanking.

We’re almost certainly plunging into a recession.

As we increasingly hole up in our homes, the vaunted American system of food distribution is malfunctioning as people hoard all sorts of goods.

As many as 200 million Americans could be sickened by the virus, and more than a million of us could die.

But… never fear, America! The fundamentals of our toilet paper pipeline remain strong!…

Could COVID-19 give an advantage back to Bernie, contrary to most Democrats’ wishes?

biden debate

For a number of reasons, this would be a perfect time to declare a hiatus from campaigning, just as we’re putting off all sorts of aspects of our regular lives.

This would begin with Bernie Sanders dropping out. Then, it won’t even be necessary to hold the remaining primaries (which of course have no constitutional role in the selection of a president). The election can pick back up with Joe Biden being nominated at the convention.

We need to pause, and concentrate on staying alive between now and the summer.

Here are some of the reasons:

Last night’s debate illustrated the point that we’re just going through the motions now. The various things Bernie Sanders brings to the non-contest look increasingly irrelevant in light of what the nation is facing now. Here’s how Frank Bruni described the debate:

…Biden was able to portray Sanders’s grander plans for transforming the American economy as luxuries unaffordable in the face of a scourge, as distractions from the emergency upon us. “People are looking for results, not a revolution,” Biden said….

But there was something strained and strange about Sanders’s repeated pivots from the pandemic to income inequality, from the pandemic to corrupt pharmaceutical executives, from the pandemic to how many millionaires and billionaires have contributed to Biden’s campaign. The world has been transformed; the script remains the same….

This is an illustration of why I don’t believe in campaign promises. You’ve all heard the saying, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Bernie is all about his plans, as Elizabeth Warren was. But the job of president is about dealing with things that arise once you’re in office, things you can’t anticipate during the election. That’s why I always choose based on the candidate’s character and experience, not “read my lips” promises.

I think the coronavirus has made a lot of other people think more about this. Citing that same Bruni column, he also said of Sanders:

And he couldn’t claim the kind of experience that Biden repeatedly did, the intimate knowledge of what it’s like to be at the center of crucial national decisions.

Biden smartly understood that his eight years beside the last Democratic president and his foreign-policy seasoning are probably more reassuring to voters now than they were a month or even a week ago. So he marinated in them….

Odd metaphor (marinated?), but yes. That’s what I’m on about. Biden has the relevant experience.

Bernie thinks always in terms of his worldview and his plans. Talk about coronavirus, and he keeps trying to change the subject to his allegations that the system is fixed and billionayuhs are exploiting us all. Which really doesn’t help us deal with the pandemic upon us.

Nevertheless, COVID-19 could skew upcoming primaries in Bernie’s favor, contrary to the actual will of the electorate.

How’s that? Well, as we know, Bernie’s army of young voters have thus far failed to appear, which is why he’s getting pounded by Biden. But think about this: Who is more likely to show up at polling places during the coronavirus crisis? Younger voters, for two reasons:

  1. They think they’re going to live forever. Their lack of fear of consequences lead to all sorts of reckless behavior, from extreme sports to voting for Bernie Sanders. They’re constitutionally less likely to fear COVID-19, because they’re less likely to fear anything.
  2. They actually are at less risk from the virus. Younger people are less likely to die of it.
  3. The Biden majority thinks their guy is inevitable now, so they need not risk their lives turning out to vote for him.

While the numbers of young people coming out to vote still won’t match Bernie’s grandiose visions, a large enough percentage of older voters may stay home and hand Bernie a victory — even though most of the usual electorate, sitting at home, prefers Biden.

Doubt it? Think about the confusion of the last few days. I don’t know you, but I keep swinging back and forth in my mind about whether this or that activity is still OK to engage in. Of course, if it were just me, I’d turn out, because I’m that much of an obsessive about having my say. But not everyone is.

I suspect if Bernie won any of the new few primaries, the narrative would change. It could reverse, at least to some extent, the perception of Biden’s inevitability. I still don’t think Bernie could win, but he could drag the process out in a way that is destructive to the cause of beating Trump in the fall.

And of course, that’s what’s important.

I can hear some of you snorting, “Brad’s trying to rig things for his guy!” But what I’m actually doing is worrying that the coronavirus could rig the process for Bernie, contrary to the will of the great majority of Democratic voters — the majority that has turned out in such force in the last few contests before the nation started shutting down over the pandemic.

One day — tomorrow — could be enormously destructive to the cause of beating Trump, if the factors I’ve just described come into play in Illinois, Florida, Ohio and Arizona.

Maybe I’m wrong to worry. Maybe Biden will roll to easy victory in those contests tomorrow, and then it will become obvious even to Sanders that he should drop out. (And I think this is what most observers expect to happen. So would I, were I not a born worrier.) And maybe he even will, at that point..

But I confess that at this point, I’m a little concerned about what could happen tomorrow. And how it could fail to reflect the will of Democratic voters as a body, and continue to tear at party unity in a way that benefits Trump…

both Joe and Bernie

Open Thread for Saturday, March 14, 2020

The toilet paper aisle at Walmart Friday evening.

The toilet paper aisle at Walmart Friday evening.

It’s been a long couple of days for me, helping ADCO clients with various coronavirus-related communications needs. It’s been affecting members of my family far more directly. For instance, one of my daughters works at the Richland County courthouse. Others are dealing with other shutdown-related challenges at their places of work, or figuring out how to keep working with the challenges presented by the virus.

I’d be interested in hearing from y’all as to how you are affected, even if it’s just inconvenience. Meanwhile, here’s some news:

  1. Trump declares ACTUAL state of emergency this time — But let’s not look upon him as the boy who cried wolf, just because he previously declared a state of emergency in order to divert billions from national defense to his border wall. This time it’s real, and the only thing wrong with his doing it now is that he didn’t do it sooner. Of course, he’s not taking responsibility for not doing it sooner. But just how much do you expect from this guy? We take what we can get. He’s done it, and we need to pitch in and do what we can to help each other get through this.
  2. Henry follows suit — Closes schools in Kershaw and Lancaster counties, among other measures.
  3. Unlikely pair of Pelosi and Mnuchin join forces as Washington’s crisis negotiators — Thought this was interesting. Nancy and Donald aren’t speaking, so she deals with Mnuchin. The House goes on to pass the relief package. Meanwhile, Sen. McConnell is AWOL…
  4. Stocks bound back, big time — I was going to say that maybe we should all give the president a pat on the back for finally getting serious — but he actually got a bigger thank you than any of us could give him. You know how important a booming stock market is to him. And not only to him, of course.
  5. Learning to Live With the Coronavirus — This is Friday’s edition of the NYT podcast, “The Daily.” I don’t know if y’all have been listening to the shows theyve been doing with Times science reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr., but they’re well worth your time. He’s very good at putting it all into perspective, and giving practical advice for dealing with the situation. If you don’t have time to listen to it, there’s a transcript. But it’s better if you listen.
  6. Companies that feed America worry about restocking stores — Look at the pictures I posted above and below, and then imagine if those were food shelves. The problem is if we don’t have enough workers to produce and deliver food, and unpack it stores.

Dang. I was looking for something fun to alleviate all of the above, but didn’t find anything right away. And this post has been delayed long enough. I meant to post it last night…

... and here's where the disinfecting wipes used to be.

… and here’s where the disinfecting wipes used to be.

Your Virtual Front Page for Thursday, March 12, 2020

I found this image of the coronavirus on Wikipedia.

I found this image of the coronavirus on Wikipedia.

Hey, you think we’ve got bad news today — tomorrow will be Friday the 13th! I might follow the CDC recommendations for Methuselahs like myself and stay home tomorrow:

  1. Stocks Plunge 10% in Dow’s Worst Day Since 1987 — That’s according to The Wall Street Journal, and I guess they oughta know. Evidently, traders were not reassured by Trump’s address to the nation last night.
  2. No March Madness, no Broadway, no Major League Baseball, no bugger all! — The cancellations keep coming like a torrent. The SC Philharmonic will perform this weekend without an audience — something that might prompt ponderings that are way existential, or lead you to ask questions about trees falling in the forest.
  3. Lindsey Graham will quarantine himself — He was at the same place where Donald Trump was also exposed to someone with COVID-19 — Mar-a-Lago.
  4. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have tested positive for coronavirus — This is an important milestone in the nation’s consciousness about the disease. We have now entered the “people we like and feel that we know” stage. I heard an expert on a podcast today say America didn’t fully take AIDS seriously until Rock Hudson died of it. He said we won’t take the measures that were effective in China and South Korea until something like that happens to someone we know and like. Is this COVID-19’s Rock Hudson moment, or a precursor of it?
  5. Biden, Sanders Deliver Coronavirus Speeches to Contrast Trump — Biden pointed to the need for steady leadership, which we definitely don’t have now, in the face of such a national crisis. That other guy also said some stuff.
  6. McMaster wants $45 million in SC surplus to go to fight coronavirus — The cash would go to DHEC. It would be used to save lives, instead of going to a vote-buying tax credit. Which is praiseworthy.

Yikes. Here’s some nice music to make you feel better. It’s the isolated vocals from a Beatles song that seems appropriate to the moment: “Help!” I never really heard the background harmonies before. I was impressed:

Shutting down the university, until… when?

The pedestrian-only portion of Greene Street in front of the Russell House today -- deserted.

The pedestrian-only portion of Greene Street in front of the Russell House today — deserted.

The last two days, I’ve sort of had the USC campus to myself as I take my daily walk through it. Which is nice, and also normal. It’s spring break.

But the students won’t be around next week, either. Which is far from normal:

The University of South Carolina has extended its spring break an additional week as a result of the rapidly-spreading coronavirus.

I stopped to use the men's room in the Thomas Cooper Library. This was on the inside of the door.

I stopped to use the men’s room in the Thomas Cooper Library. This was on the inside of the door.

Spring break will now run through March 22, and no classes will be held during that time, USC officials said on the university’s website.

“Classes and all campus events will be canceled for the week after spring break, March 16-22 as the university monitors the impact of COVID-19 in South Carolina and makes additional plans,” officials said.

Following that, all classes from March 23 to April 3 will be conducted virtually, the university said…

The thing is, how will we know the coast will be clear at that time? We don’t it seems to me.

Things are getting weird….

The empty food court in the Russell House.

The empty food court in the Russell House.

The Bernie Bros aren’t gonna let go of this thing, are they?

Note: Of course, Bernie being Bernie, he did not do what every actual Democrat has done, which is end his campaign and get behind Biden. That is reflected in updates below. We did not yet know when I wrote this post what he would do with the free media he conned everyone into giving him this afternoon. Now we know…

You probably know that Bernie will be making a live appearance in a few minutes:

The timing and choice of venue would suggest a candidate who’s about to drop out. At least, that would be the case with a conventional political candidate. With Bernie, who knows? Well, we will in a few minutes.

Meanwhile, I wanted to point to the way his fans are reacting. There’s this congressional candidate, who I suppose is eager to join The Squad:

Really? Have you met Joe Biden, or heard him talk? Are you familiar at all with the Democratic Party, of which he is a born standard-bearer? Or have you spoken to any of the actual working-class people who have been voting for him and not your guy, because they know Joe’s heart and they know he’s for them?

Sheesh.

Then there’s this:

Yeah. Right. That’s exactly what we need. Because otherwise Biden might beat Trump in the fall, and we don’t want that, do we?

If Bernie does drop out, and commit to the Democratic ticket, he’s going to have to move heaven and earth to get these people to go along with him…

bernie live

Open Thread for Tuesday, March 10, 2020 (with possible live updates)

one column

The “possible live updates” is because I might post some additional stuff about the primaries today, if I feel like it. I might not, though. It’s really an awesome feeling to be able to say that, after all those decades when the paper had to come out every day no matter what, or else… or else… well, I don’t know what else, because we always got the paper out.

Today is a relatively mild news day, one in which the NYT is answering the question “Is Your World Safe?” with a “Yes, relatively so.” You can tell this by the fact that the lede story — the “Coronavirus Updates” one, is just one column(well, one wide column, more like a column and a half), with a small-font headline. (I explained the theory behind all of this in my very first Virtual Front Page post, back in 2009. Before I started calling it that.)

  1. Coronavirus Updates: Stocks Rebound as Washington Moves to Bolster the Economy — They led with it; I’ll lead with it. Here’s something you might find interesting: When stocks recover, the NYT sees it as worthy of one column. The WSJ sees the same news as worth two extra-wide columns. But before you jump to the conclusion that this is a liberal-vs.-conservative thing, I don’t think so, for two reasons: First, the WSJ has a totally different philosophy of front-page play, having nothing to do with ideology. You’re not comparing apple to apples. Second, financial news is the WSJ’s thing. They will always overplay it (from my perspective). Just as The Washington Post will always overplay stuff inside the Beltway.
  2. N.Y. governor orders containment zone in New Rochelle — I can see it now: Rob and Laura Petrie are getting on each other’s nerves. Rob is tripping over the ottoman and Laura keeps saying, “Oh, Rob!” She’s worried that with Richie’s school closed, he’s going to fall behind academically. Sorry. The only thing I know about New Rochelle is that it was the fictional home of the head writer of the Alan Brady show.
  3. Apparently, I shouldn’t have come in to work today — Have you seen the advisory from the CDC saying people over 60 should stay home, and prepare to stay there a really long time? Oh, come on. I mean, few of us like to think we’re old, but this is ridiculous. My parents, whom I’m about to go check on on my way home, are elderly and I worry about them — although you’d never guess it of my mom the way she gets around, and my dad always seemed closer to my age than his until the last couple of years. But come on. Does this mean I shouldn’t do my 10,000 to 15,000 steps every day? Or is it OK if I do them outside?
  4. Biden, Sanders duel in six states on another key day of voting — This is what I might add live updates about. Actually, it will probably be more like Tweets turned into comments. If I feel like it. This is an awkward, blah day of voting for headline writers. When we had the South Carolina primary, they could say “S.C.” A week ago today, they could say “Super Tuesday.” This time, it’s “another key day of voting.” Not much of a ring to it. Doesn’t really get your blood going, does it?
  5. The doubt of a ‘Bernie Bro’: A hard-charging Sanders supporter questions whether his tactics help or hurt — I found this fascinating: A Bernie Bro getting all introspective and having actual doubts! Oh, and let me point something out: Remember people getting on Joe for saying “Bernie Brothers,” like this was some indication of senility or something (perhaps the weakest example of Biden gotcha-ism I’ve seen)? Well, this guy says he prefers to be called a “Bernard Brother.” Really. So there, Twitter.

 

WSJ

 

Open Thread for Monday, March 9, 2020

Von Sydow's knight place chess against Death in 'The Seventh Seal.'

Von Sydow’s knight plays chess against Death in ‘The Seventh Seal.’

We are living with a Chinese curse. And no, I don’t mean what some call the “Wuhan virus.” I mean the one about, “May you live in interesting times.” (Although it might be wrong to call that saying “Chinese,” too.) At least, it’s an interesting day, to those who follow Wall Street:

  1. U.S. markets crater, forcing temporary halt to trading — That’s the Washington Post headline. The Wall Street Journal chose more, well, conservative wording: Free Fall in Oil Sends Shudders Through Markets. Actually, I don’t guess “free fall” is all that conservative; it’s just not quite as bad as saying the whole market has cratered
  2. Here’s how you can prepare for the coronavirus — From the “news you can use” department. Step No. 1, of course, is to wash your hands. Lady Macbeth would have been totally prepared for that eventuality.
  3. 6 More States Vote Tuesday. Here’s Your Guide To Michigan And The Rest — Here’s hoping Joe can put it away tomorrow. Of course, Bernie won Michigan in 2016. Which is why it would be great for Joe to win it tomorrow.
  4. Question: Who got the most votes ON Super Tuesday? — As see, no link on this one. I’m sort of hoping y’all can find one for me. This is something I’m curious about, but I can’t seem to find what I keep Googling for. In particular, I want to know how Joe did in California if you don’t count early voting. Has anyone seen any figures along those lines? Or is it impossible? Do they not report voting results that way?
  5. Biden will pick a woman as his running mate. But who? — This is a Fred Hiatt column. Of course, y’all know what I think: Amy Klobuchar all the way. None of the others who ran would do. This column widens the field by citing some female governors and mayors. But I don’t know them. At least those who ran for president have had some vetting…
  6. Max von Sydow, Star of ‘Seventh Seal’ and ‘Exorcist,’ Dies at 90 — OK, which are your favorite von Sydow movies? I’ve got to say that while I’ve seen him in such highbrow stuff as “The Seventh Seal” and found them good, my favorite performance is as the freelance assassin in “Three Days of the Condor.” Best scene: When he and Redford are trapped on an elevator together. Redford knows he’s there to kill him, and von Sydow’s character knows he knows, but they’re both trying to act like everything is normal. The tension is made greater by some smart aleck kids who hit all the buttons before getting off. Von Sydow smiles wryly at Redford and just says, “Kids… probably the same everywhere…” Here’s where you can stream some of his best films.

Finally, Michelle Goldberg gets it! For a moment…

argument

For close to a year, I’ve been listening regularly to the NYT’s podcast “The Argument,” starring three of the paper’s op-ed writers.

There are two people on the left — David Leonhardt and Michelle Goldberg — and one on the right, Ross Douthat.

That may sound a bit lopsided, and for me it is, but not in the way you think. Week after week, I agree to varying degrees with liberal Leonhardt and conservative Douthat, and get really frustrated and turned off by the views of Michelle Goldberg.

One reason for that is that she’s always dissing my man Joe. It started before he got into the race last year, with her strongly expressing her wish that he NOT get in the race. After that, she continued to be a prominent voice among the nattering nabobs of the left competing to see who could be more dismissive of the former VP.

It’s not that she hated him. It’s just that she, you know… dismissed him. She was all like, Oh, good old Uncle Joe; he’s a sweet guy and I can put up with him at the family gatherings, but we all know he’s past it, and he has no business getting back in the game — the poor guy’s going to break a hip or something. And he just doesn’t get the world of today…

And as I walk about downtown listening to these podcasts, I’m like, No, YOU don’t get it…

But today, I finally got around to listening to yesterday’s podcast, which was about Joe’s triumphs of the last few days, and finally, she got it! She was awesome in the degree to which she got it, and how well she expressed it. I had to go back and listen again to write down some of the great things she was saying, starting with…

Michelle Goldberg

Michelle Goldberg

So much of what we’ve been talking about the last few months, especially in the debates, has been irrelevant.

People… care less about the details of, you know, how we’re going to pay for universal healthcare, or Medicare for all vs. Medicare for all who want it.

There are people who really care about that stuff. But what most people care about is, you know, the house is on fire; how are you going to put it out, not how are you going to rebuild afterwards….

Yes! Absolutely! I’ve been so impatient with all the idiots out there talking about this process in terms of who got off the greatest zingers in last night’s debate, or how Elizabeth “I’ve got a plan for that” Warren was going to pay for those plans, or whatever…

Who cared? I didn’t. Because the house is on fire! Stop talking about rearranging the furniture!

Also, too many people fail to get that the problem isn’t this plan or that plan of Bernie Sanders. The problem is Bernie Sanders, and the way he and too many of his followers conduct themselves. And a moment later, Ms. Goldberg said some awesome things about that:

I don’t think the Sanders movement understands how alienating it is to people who aren’t already on board with it, or maybe to people who are on board with maybe 85 percent or 90 percent of what they believe.

There’s a sort of paranoid style in that movement…

I’ve been around the left long enough to know that the left has always attracted a certain number of people who, um… you know, who are sort of just in it for the reeducation camps, right?…

Left-wing movements kind of succeed or fail to the degree that they can, you know, marginalize or quarantine those figures…

Yes! Absolutely! You get it! Paranoid style!

When she made that crack about the re-education camps, I laughed out loud, right there in the middle of the household goods department in Belk. (On rainy days, I tend to go do my afternoon walk in the nearly empty Richland Mall, rather than walking across the USC campus and around the Statehouse.)

And one of the guys on the show — I think it was Leonhardt — laughed, too. It was so perfect, so dead-on.

You go, Michelle!

But then, later in the show, she said she was going to vote for Bernie instead of Joe.

And suddenly the member of the trio I love to boo was back. I’m just briskly walking into Barnes and Noble shaking my head. I can’t believe it…

It’s alright, I guess. Most of the world came around and backed Joe this past week. Some people just take a little longer. No way to speed it up without, you know, re-educations camps…

Elizabeth Warren has to THINK about it? Really?

Warren before quitting, in an image from her Twitter feed.

Warren before quitting, in an image from her Twitter feed.

So Elizabeth Warren has dropped out.

But she has not endorsed anyone.

She says,

Not today. I need some space around this and want to take a little time to think a little more.

REALLY? You have to think about whether you want to back Joe Biden… or a guy who would lead to four more years of Trump, loss of the House, and zero chance of dumping the Senate majority that refused even to consider evidence in the impeachment “trial”?

What is this about? Angling for an offer from one camp or the other?

Speaking of which: There are people out there saying Warren should be Joe’s running mate. The old “balance the ticket” nonsense.

Absolutely not, Joe. Go with Amy Klobuchar.

In case you haven’t noticed, Democrats are rejecting the left wing of the party. Pick a representative of that faction, and you’ll lose large chunks of the coalition that’s assembled behind you these last few days, the coalition that will take you to victory over Trump. They’ll want someone else like you, and that’s Amy Klobuchar. Or some other moderate who didn’t run.

For that matter, the fact that she had to think about whom to support should disqualify her as a running mate, without considering anything else. Amy Klobuchar didn’t have to ponder it.

Anyway, I thought I’d better say that now…

Turns out American voters aren’t crazy after all (except in, you know, California…)

Joe at 701

Just kidding (kinda) with the California thing. Think about it: If Bloomberg had just dropped out and endorsed Joe 24 hours sooner, Sanders wouldn’t be winning in La-La Land, either.

This is just a day for celebrating the good, common sense of the American people.

After the insanity of 2016, after a year in which voters kept insisting on attaching themselves to anyone, anyone at all, except the obvious, sensible choice… after a year of “oh, but my ideology!” nonsense… everybody got together and realized that they’d always loved Joe, so, you know, let’s go with Joe.

And not a second too soon. The nation was babbling hysterically. We South Carolinians gave it a good, tough-love slap in the face. And on Super Tuesday, the nation said, “Thanks. We needed that…”

I don’t know about you, but for me, it feels great to see things taking their proper shape around me. Finally. It’s kind of like waking up from a nightmare, realizing it was a dream, and thinking: “Oh, it’s alright then…”

Suddenly, people remember what was obvious — no one else who was running had the ability to connect in a positive way not only with most Democrats, but with independents. And not only them…

Some of you will rain on my parade by saying, “Yeah, but Trump voters… they’re still crazy…”

Maybe. But maybe that won’t matter in November. Haven’t you seen those analyses that say Joe is winning on the strength of support from, not only African-Americans (whom the pundits ignored and dissed until South Carolina), but also white suburbanites? That means he’s winning the people who gave Democrats their 2018 wins in the House — people who are key to beating Trump.

Still, as I’ve said before, there is still a problem in the country, and it won’t be gone just because Trump loses the election. The fact that so many voted for him in 2016 — something the American electorate would NEVER have done before that — points to something being profoundly wrong out there. The Bernie Bros, who crave revolution, are another indicator of the same thing. The nation has to find a way to heal that disaffection.

But there’s no better way to do that than by lining up behind a decent guy most Americans can find it in themselves to actually like. That’s a good first step.

I hope those of my friends who supported other candidates in this process can forgive my enjoying this moment. I’m not enjoying your candidates’ losing. I’m celebrating their getting behind Joe. I already liked Amy and Pete. Now I like them more. I even like Bloomberg today — in spite of that if-he’d-dropped-out-before-Joe-would-have-won-California thing.

Today, I am hopeful — more so than I’ve been in awhile. We still have a long road ahead of us. Bernie, who as we all know doesn’t play well with others, is not going to quit. But now, there’s a clear path for the candidate who far better reflects what most of the country wants. And I feel good about that…

Top Five Coolest Airplanes Ever

F-4

I’m trying to keep my mind off of Super Tuesday today. The last three days have been wonderful, from Joe’s stunning win here, through the endorsements of Amy, Pete and Beto. But while Joe was concentrating on South Carolina, Bernie was getting a huge head start everywhere else, especially California. And Bloomberg was spending half a billion dollars to try to win the very voters Joe needs to stop Bernie.

Burl with one of his early models.

Burl with one of his early models.

So… how about a Top Five List? I’m feeling kind of basic today (I’m in a “Top Five Side One, Track Ones” mood), so let’s make this the sort of list we could have made when we were 11 years old and building model airplanes. Back when we weren’t cool (yet), but we had a keen sense of what we thought was cool. We can make it a sort of tribute list to our friend Burl Burlingame, who along with many other accomplishments was the best modeler any one of us ever knew.

And just to head off the “war-monger” cries from some of my friends, I’m sorry, but warplanes have always been cooler than civilian aircraft. Not because they’re warplanes, but, well, just look at them. Built for speed and performance, they’ll always be cooler than, say, a 707. The way a 1964½ Ford Mustang or a 1962 Jaguar XK-E is way cooler than a minivan.

This was inspired by a video YouTube suggested to me this morning. I had called up Cream’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” and YouTube suggested something called “Best Rock Songs Vietnam War Music.” And again, it’s not “War” that makes it cool. Think about the Vietnam War movies you’ve seen. Don’t they tend to have awesome soundtracks?

So, intending to just leave it playing while I worked, I called it up. And the first image on the screen was the above one, of an F-4 Phantom taking off. (No, wait — the flaps are down, so I think it’s landing. But I don’t know. Bob Amundson, can you give us a ruling?) It showed while CCR’s “Fortunate Son” was playing.

So I got to thinking, and here’s the list. And not in order of coolness — more chronological:

  1. Fokker DR.I Triplane. The Red Baron‘s plane, it was both wicked and ungainly looking — but all planes looked awkward back then, right? The SPAD was all right, and the Sopwith Camel had a great name, but the Fokker was cooler. Also, 11-year-olds who build airplane models like to say “Fokker.” Almost as good as saying the full name of the Fw 190.
  2. P-51 Mustang. Maybe the nicest-looking, solid-but-sleek design in aviation history. And quite a formidable fighter. Also, it looked so modern. (Weirdly, the P-47 Thurderbolt came later, but looked 20 years older — at least to my eye.) I had trouble on this one. I was torn between this and the Spitfire, which won the Battle of Britain (OK, the Hurricanes helped) — the ultimate emblem of British pluck. But as big an Anglophile as I am, I went with the American plane.
  3. C-47 Skytrain. Or Dakota. Or Gooney-Bird. OK, it’s not fast, and it’s not sleek. Definitely the Plain Jane of the bunch. But it was so awesome in its plainness. One of the main instruments that won the war for us. The Band of Brothers jumped out of them, they saved Berlin in the Cold War, and… It was the first plane I ever flew in, hopping over the Andes, up and down the Pacific coast of South America. An unbelievable amount of noise and vibration, but a real thrill for a kid. So I’m playing favorites here.
  4. F-4 Phantom. My generation’s version of the P-51. It had a solid look to it, like nothing could knock it out of the sky (a handy attribute when flying Wild Weasel missions), but also looked like it could fly like a bat out of hell. And it sorta could. These also loom large in my legend, from the ones that flew out of MacDill AFB when I lived there in high school to the ones the Kansas Air Guard flew over our house (we were under the takeoff pattern) when I worked in Wichita.
  5. X-15. The world’s first operational spaceplane, the futuristic great-grandchild of Yeager’s X-1. This was another one I had to think about a bit. It was competing with the SR-71, another sci-fi sort of aircraft. But the X-15 was the one I thought was cool when I was a kid, and it wins on sheer speed. The Blackbird could cruise at Mach 3.2, but in 1967, the X-15 set the speed record that still stands: Mach 6.70.

I almost put the Navy’s ultimate WWII plane, the F4U Corsair, on the list (foldable gull wings! Pappy Boyington!). But the P-51 beat that out as well as the Spitfire.

The North American X-15 rocket plane, made to fly to the edge of space.

The North American X-15 rocket plane, made to fly to the edge of space.

How did your precinct vote? NYT has a cool interactive map

big map

I find that the most convenient place to find that hyperlocal information, right down to my neighborhood level, is…

The New York Times. I tried finding it at thestate.com, and maybe it’s there (in fact, I feel like it MUST be), but I couldn’t find it.

Anyway, they have an awesome interactive map. And I see that in my neighborhood, my man Joe cleaned up, with a higher percentage of the vote than he got overall in Lexington County.

Here are the numbers for my precinct:

Quail Hollow

 

To get your precinct, just go to the link, zoom in on your county, and roll the cursor around until you see your own polling station.

Open Thread for Monday, March 2, 2020

amy

Image from her campaign website…

You know, after this weekend, I just feel better about the whole world, and I’m in a generous mood. So instead of a Virtual Front Page, let’s go with an Open Thread, because they’re more fun:

  1. Klobuchar dropping out of 2020 race and endorsing Biden — You go, girl. Pete showed her the right thing to do, and she did it — and then went Pete one better. She remains my top choice for veep. What else can I say, except what David Leonhardt had to say today (see item No. 3.)
  2. Pete Buttigieg Will Endorse Joe Biden for Democratic Nomination — And then Pete followed suit. I’m reminded of what Frank Bruni said in his column in the NYT after Pete dropped out yesterday: that “the youngest of the Democratic aspirants did the grown-up thing.”
  3. Bernie or Biden. Period. — That’s the headline on David Leonhardt’s column today, and that’s where we stand. There are no other real choices. So it’s time to decide, Democrats: Go down the tubes with Bernie, or take back the White House with Joe. As Joe said Saturday night, after South Carolina had done its bit to make everything devastatingly clear, “win big or lose, that’s the choice.” At this point, the only likely role of Bloomberg would be to continue to split the moderate vote, and deliver the nomination to Bernie. So he needs to get out, too.
  4. Coronavirus: 2nd Person Dies In U.S.; New Cases Reported In Florida And New York — In this area, unlike in politics, the bad news keeps coming.
  5. Stocks Rally on Hopes for Stimulus Amid Virus Fears — Let’s hope the uptick continues.
  6. What popular chain businesses is Columbia missing? The State raises this question, and offers a lot of silly answers, but to its credit includes the one that matters: an Apple store. It raises doubt that we’ll get one, but come on, gimme a break: Augusta’s got an Apple store…
  7. Jack Welch, corporate America’s ‘manager of the century,’ dies at 84 — OK, I feel guilty about this, but as a guy who follows popular culture and not business, I confess that my first thought was, “Does this clear Jack Donaghy’s way to the chairmanship?”

Why’s Pete dropping out now? Because he was always the smart one

With Pete Buttigieg dropping out, one my favorite NYT features now looks like this:

no pete

So, Pete’s out, but sooner than I expected it.

This seems precipitous. Why didn’t he wait until after Tuesday?

Still, as Michael Corleone said about Tessio, Pete was always the smart one. He gets out now, making room for the eventual nominee, and the party will be grateful to him, which helps when he runs again.

He’s got all the time in the world. If he waits 20 years, he’d still be a young candidate — prime presidential age. For that matter, he could wait 40 years, and he’d still be no older than some of the top contenders today. And life expectancy will be so much longer then.

It’s such a smart move, so lacking in emotion or ego, that it makes Pete a little scary — kind of like Michael Corleone himself. Such perspective and self-control is remarkable in the young.

You know, Pete is the first candidate who I think I’m actually going to miss. Most of the rest, I was glad to see go. He was my third favorite — a distant third, just as Amy Klobuchar was a distant second. But still, one of my top three.

Speaking of Amy… ahem. Pete was doing better than you were. You got 3 percent in South Carolina. When my man Joe Lieberman got 3 percent in South Carolina, he dropped out. Better get while the getting’s good, if you want to be Joe’s running mate. He’ll be grateful, because with Pete also out, his only rival for the role of The Man Who Stopped Liberty Valance (I mean, Bernie) will be Bloomberg.

And I don’t even know what Tulsi Gabbard thinks she’s doing…

Did ‘Operation Chaos’ actually deploy on Saturday?

NBC

Yes, I think it did. It just wasn’t enough to stop Joe Biden’s huge victory.

Of course, I can’t be sure.

There are some indications that Operation Chaos DID turn out a few Republicans who tried to sabotage the Democrats by voting for Bernie Sanders.

(At this point, I would normally launch into an indignant sermon about how evil such an effort is — a deliberate attempt to undermine our democracy, and even worse, an attempt to make sure Americans have NO good choice in November. That’s something I can get pretty worked up about. But it failed pretty spectacularly, so never mind. Turns out most people aren’t jerks.)

Take a look at the results for our two neighboring counties:

  • In Richland, a strongly Democratic county, Joe got 51.9 percent of the vote, and Sanders got 17.7 percent.
  • In Lexington, one of the most Republican counties anywhere, Joe only got 39.9 percent of the vote — still a big win, but 12 points lower than in Richland. And Bernie got 23.6 — 6 points higher than in Richland.

Bernie did even better in Greenville, while still getting pummeled — 24.7 percent to Joe’s 38.2.

Makes you wonder how big Joe’s victory margin would have been without Republican interference… Or, for that matter, without Steyer spending $23 million on media alone in our state trying to steal Joe’s black support.

I would love to think that some Republicans turned out because they were Never Trumpers, trying to help the Democrats come up with someone who might beat Trump by voting for Joe. I think that’s possible. But there’s no way to be sure of that, either.

By the way, I’m very proud to point out that in my home county, Marlboro, Joe got 61.3 percent of the vote, and Bernie didn’t even come in second! Steyer did, with 20.2 percent. Which is an indicator that Steyer did make slight inroads into Joe’s African-American base. (Marlboro is a black-majority county.)

But it’s not that simple, either. Joe did even better in neighboring Chesterfield County, with 64.1 percent. But less than a third of that county is black. Which could explain why Sanders beat Steyer there.

Fun with numbers. (Mine came from The New York Times.)

The best of all possible primary results!

Post Joe

I was really hopeful, but I never would have guessed that, once South Carolina FINALLY got to have its say, things would have gone as wonderfully as this.

JOE WINS

The best shot I could get from where I was standing.

Joe CRUSHED it.

South Carolina DELIVERED.

Now, finally, you can see national media — who have seized every opportunity to be as dismissive of Joe as possible — saying that he has emerged as the man to stop Bernie Sanders.

Joe was always the candidate for real Democrats wanting to save their party, and beat Trump. (And he was the candidate for a lot of us independents, too.) People — especially African-American voters — in South Carolina knew that. Today, they told the rest of the country.

And the rest of the country is taking note.

Will it be easy? No. This helps on Super Tuesday, but it’s impossible to predict anything with so many variables. But right now, at this moment, the race has taken on its proper shape, and I am hopeful.

Just a few thoughts before I sign off for the night:

  • Now, the only person who might be able to contest for the role of moderate savior of the party is Mike Bloomberg, who has been spending like crazy trying to win Super Tuesday while everyone else was campaigning. After Tuesday, we’ll know whether he’ll still be a factor or not. But even though he wasn’t on our ballot, South Carolina has passed judgment on him — only about a fourth of voters viewed him favorably in exit polls. Biden was favored by about three-fourths of respondents.
  • Tom Steyer, the guy who spent $23 million just on media trying to be a spoiler in South Carolina, has dropped out. I don’t know why he was disappointed at the result. He got third place. But he won’t be terribly missed as we go forward.
  • Will one of the other moderates — say Amy Klobuchar — drop out and throw her support to Joe? Or just drop out, in which case Joe is the most likely beneficiary anyway.
  • Pete Buttigieg will probably wait and see if he does better on Tuesday. If he doesn’t, he will likely quit. And when he does, he should leave the race feeling pretty good about how well he did. He made a tremendous, positive impression on the country, and has laid a good foundation for a stronger run when he has more life experience under his belt.
  • Thank you, Jim Clyburn. The country owes you one. I think Joe would have won without your endorsement, but he wouldn’t have won like THIS.
  • Joe got more votes than Sanders, Steyer, Buttigieg and Warren combined. Just in case you didn’t notice…
  • Also, notice the map of South Carolina in the screenshot below. You can take a closer look here. Joe won every single county in the state.

That’s all for now.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited to see what happens next…

NYT SC

If you live 100 years, you may never again have a chance like this to influence the course of the nation

JRB-about-11

The last few days, I’ve been increasingly conscious of just how momentous this primary is today. I’ve felt the weight of it more and more.

I can’t think of a time when South Carolina played such a dramatic role in the selection of a president. Which is a big deal in and of itself. But the possible effects go far, far beyond that, sending ripples through our national politics that could be felt for a generation and more.

In the short term, one of two things will happen, depending completely on what my fellow South Carolinians do:

  1. Joe Biden will emerge as THE moderate that mainstream Democrats can get behind and stop Bernie Sanders from capturing the nomination. He’d still have a long road to travel to get there, even if his momentum from South Carolina leads to significant rewards nationally on Tuesday. But at least someone — and you know I believe he’s the best someone for this purpose — will be a position to deny the nomination to Sanders.
  2. Sanders will cement his standing as the front-runner, the majority of the Democratic electorate will remain fatally divided still among too many candidates, and Sanders will cruise to nomination on the strength of his passionate support among a minority of the party.

The second option, of course, will almost certainly lead to the re-election of Donald Trump, possibly with the kind of historic win that he lied about having in 2016.

Oh, it would be possible that enough Americans could die of coronavirus, and enough fortunes be wiped out on Wall Street as a result, for anybody, even Bernie, to beat Trump. But I certainly don’t want to see such a disaster. I don’t know about you.

And if something along those lines did happen, it’s extremely unlikely that Bernie will have a Democratic majority in either the House or the Senate. While voters might reject Trump personally over a pandemic, those moderate-to-conservative voters who elected moderate Democrats in 2018, giving that party its majority, will be sufficiently horrified at the prospect of President Sanders that they’ll vote to switch those districts back into the red.

Even if — and this is impossible — Democrats could keep the House while electing Bernie, and miraculously win the Senate, Bernie won’t be able to get his agenda through Congress. With both chambers being Republican, and the Republican base up in arms (in some cases possibly even literally) because of the defeat of Trump, he’ll get nothing but the back of the legislative branch’s hand. He’ll sit there in the Oval Office with his face getting redder and his arms flailing about, fulminating at how the system is rigged against him.

And he will keep his base as stirred up and angry as Trump keeps his. Because he promised them things, and they actually believed he could deliver. Nothing left to do but hate the billionayuhs even more, because obviously, obviously it will be their fault — in the Bernieverse.

But that wouldn’t be the worst news for the Democratic Party. The worst news is that it would be as dead as the GOP, and from basically the same kind of cause — its capture by someone who is not actually a Democrat, and who has crushed real Democrats on his way to nomination.

And in a way, the situation would be more overt than outsider Trump’s capture of the other party. Trump had always been kind of all over the place about his affiliation until just before the 2016 campaign. Bernie Sanders has made no bones about the fact that he is not a Democrat, and has refused to called one. And since calling himself a Social Democrat would be too tame, too mainstream, he has gone with the label “Democratic Socialist.” More in-your-face. More I-dare-you-to-vote-for-me. That’s Bernie.

You might think that after making such a strong run at the nomination in 2016, and obviously intending to try again, he might have softened a bit on his insistence that he was not a Democrat. But he didn’t; quite the contrary. It’s either Bernie’s way or the highway; he doesn’t bend even to appear to be a team player.

After Trump’s election, decent people who care about the country could at least place some hope in the Democratic Party, which had not yet gone off the rails. Surely the Democrats could find a way to beat this guy, and return our nation to the standards of decency and sanity that we were able to expect with our first 44 presidents.

Knowing the stakes, Joe Biden — a guy who had done his duty for his country for longer, and gone higher in public service, than any other member of the party — stepped forward to offer himself as the vehicle for that national return to sanity. He did so when almost anyone else would have sat back and enjoyed his grandchildren full time.

And if South Carolina comes through for him today, he’ll have a shot at accomplishing the mission. Just a shot, mind you. Nothing is guaranteed, but the alternative is to be resisted with all our might.

The stakes just couldn’t be higher. And it’s all in our hands. We will decide the course of the nation.

Inez Tenenbaum speaks up for Joe Biden

Joe Biden swears in Inez Tenenbaum as chair of the Consumer Products Safety Commission. That's Samuel in the middle looking justly proud.

Joe Biden swearing in Inez Tenenbaum as chair of the Consumer Products Safety Commission in 2009. That’s Samuel in the middle looking justly proud.

My good friend Samuel Tenenbaum shared with me a link to the radio ad Inez did for Joe.

It helps drive home my point in my previous post, about the folks Democrats have backed in the past pretty much all being for Joe — something I hope Democratic voters take to heart tomorrow.

Here’s the link, and here’s a transcript I just typed up, so blame any errors on me:

This is Inez Tenenbaum, your former state superintendent of education.

When I was chosen to lead the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, the person who swore me into office was Joe Biden.

In the Obama-Biden administration, we worked together to keep our children safe, and Joe Biden was a champion for families all across our country, and South Carolina.

Joe Biden knows South Carolina. When our economy was in crisis, Joe Biden oversaw the Recovery Act, getting hundreds of millions of dollars for South Carolina schools.

For eight years, Joe Biden was loyal to President Obama. He had President Obama’s back, and stood by his side.

Now we have the opportunity to build on President Obama’s legacy, and beat Donald Trump. But that starts with nominating Joe Biden.

South Carolina, you can vote for Joe Biden on Saturday, February the 29th.

See you there!

[I’m Joe Biden, and I approved this message.”]

[Paid for by Biden for President.]

Thanks for taking the time to share those thoughts with us, Inez!

If you voted for James Smith — or any of these other top SC Democrats — then you should be voting for Joe Biden

Joe Biden campaigning with us in October 2018.

Joe Biden campaigning with us in October 2018.

In some very important ways, the Joe Biden campaign for president in South Carolina is, in my view, a continuation of the James Smith for governor campaign.

It’s not just that James himself is supporting Joe, as Joe supported him. At the recent Biden event at 701 Whaley, I was struck by how many of our key people from the 2018 campaign were continuing the mission by supporting Joe. It’s something I’d been aware of for some time, but hadn’t really thought about for a simple reason — it just seemed the most natural thing in the world.

At the top, you have Kendall Corley — who was our political director in 2018 — heading up Biden’s campaign in South Carolina. And Biden’s state political director is Scott Harriford, who was James’ driver and “body man” in 2018, and held the title of deputy political director. Scott was the first person James hired for the campaign, back in the summer of 2017, and was right there at his side from then through Election Day. (I thought I had an intense, whirlwind experience those last eight days on “the bus,” but Scott had been doing it for way over a year.)

Smith campaign alumni Ashley Medbery Floyd, me, and Noah Barker at a Biden event on Feb. 11.

Smith campaign alumni Ashley Medbery Floyd, me, and Noah Barker at a Biden event on Feb. 11.

At the 701 Whaley event I ran into Noah Barker, who assisted me with social media in 2018. Noah, who I think has reached the ripe old age of 19, is now working for the Biden campaign while attending college.

And while she’s not actually working in the Biden operation — she’s helping Jaime Harrison run against Lindsey Graham instead — Ashley Medbery Floyd, our finance directer in 2018, was at the 701 event, too. She and Noah and I marked the occasion with a selfie.

All this is natural because, well, there is such a bond between Joe and James. Their shared values are such that I don’t see how anyone who really believed in James in 2018 — and as his communications director, I certainly did and do — could possibly do anything but support Joe.

One of the things that drove me nuts back during the campaign was the way the political reporters went ape over anything having to do with 2020 presidential candidates coming through the state. They’d call me and ask what we’d be doing together with so-and-so on his or her swing through the state, or what we had to say about it, and it would put me in a bind. We didn’t want to say anything unkind about these national Democrats, but at the same time, we couldn’t have cared less about their visits. They were here for themselves, not for us.

But not Joe. Joe was our guy, and we couldn’t wait to see him. We knew he was coming, and we were really disappointed when he had to postpone his initially planned event because of complications related to the hurricane. But finally, on Oct. 13, he came down to Charleston to do a fund-raiser for us, and it was possibly the best day of my time on the campaign. And I could tell it was a high point for everyone else. (It was such a big deal that upon arriving in Charleston, Campaign Manager Scott Hogan went to a shop on King Street and bought himself a suit, and wore it to the event. You have to know Hogan to get what a big deal that was. He normally dressed like a guy about to go out and mow the lawn.)

Anyway, I could go on and on about the way one campaign flows into the other, but I have a point to make here, and it is this: If you voted for James, if you believed in James, you should believe in Joe Biden, and vote for him. I don’t see how you work it out any other way.

James is not authorizing me to say this (I haven’t asked him). I’m saying it myself.

As communications director, I think I have as good a grasp of what the Smith campaign was about as anyone does. It was a campaign for all the people of South Carolina — black, white, old young, male, female, Democratic, Republican and independent. It was a campaign that would Leave No One Behind.

And Joe is running the exact same kind of campaign for the soul of the nation.

One more point, an elaboration on that one: Maybe James Smith isn’t your favorite Democrat. He should be, but maybe he isn’t.

Still, if you are a Democrat, or someone who frequently votes for Democrats, you should take note that pretty much every Democrat you have nominated and/or voted into statewide office in the past 20 years and more is supporting Joe Biden for president. And for good reason.

I’m talking not just James, but Vincent Sheheen, who was your standard-bearer twice.

And Jim Hodges, our state’s last Democratic governor.

And Dick Riley, the last Democratic governor before Hodges. (And speaking of great public servants with that name, the greatest mayor of his generation in the country, Joe Riley.)

And Inez Tenenbaum, the last superintendent of education who was (and still is) a Democrat.

Now, Jim Clyburn — the current highest-ranking Democrat in the state, and one of the most powerful in the country — has joined that list. And it’s a long list. The Post and Courier put most of it together a few weeks ago, before Hodges had come out for Joe.

These are people who embody the heart, the core, of what it means to be a Democrat in South Carolina. No one could be more in touch with what South Carolina Democrats care about.

Still speaking to Democrats and people who sometimes vote for them here (let’s call you DAPWSVFTs for short)… These are all people you have believed in in the past, in whom you have placed your trust. Scoff at endorsements all you like, but I’m telling you these are smart people who know these candidates, who know the country and its needs, who know South Carolina, and they are for Joe. They’re putting their reputations out there in support of him, and you might think that’s a small thing, but it isn’t.

These people know what they’re about, and they’re for Joe. And most of you DAPWSVFTs have indicated your respect and support for these people in the past. These are people who share your values.

So it makes all the sense in the world that you would join them in voting for Joe Biden for POTUS on Saturday.

That's Smith campaign veteran Kendall Corley whispering in Joe's ear as he works a crowd on MLK Day in Columbia.

That’s Smith campaign veteran Kendall Corley whispering in Joe’s ear as he works a crowd on MLK Day in Columbia.