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Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 10/5/20

Let’s start with ironic events of the week:  One, POTUS and First Lady test positive for the fake disease; two, Mr. McConnell says Judge Barrett’s confirmation will only be delayed by COVID – several Senators are sick; third, Dr. Conley appears to be a political hack and a quack.

Brexit is back in the news with dire predictions coming from the UK government that when Britain exits the EU they foresee 7,000 trucks stuck at the border because they have inadequate paperwork to meet the new regulations.  Obviously, when you create a border you create many more rules and regulations that will have to be complied with, and the need for substantial additional documentation.  Whether this is a warning borne out of concern for truckers and the economy, or simply a scare tactic is hard to know, given the leader of the British government, Mr. Johnson, I go with the scare tactic.

It has been reported that many top generals at the Pentagon fear that President Trump would attempt to use federal troops to quell post-election unrest.  These generals are at least contemplating, according to the reports in the New York Times that they would resign rather than engage in that activity.  General Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I would note, a former Division Commander at Fort Drum, made it very clear that he does not intend to participate in political activities inside the United States.  This is very reassuring as Mr. Trump appears to be attempting to rally unrest – excuse the pun, however, I think it is appropriately apt under the circumstances. 

The black lives matter protests that have responded to a number of tragic events throughout the country are troubling on many levels.  First, the fact that the need for them exists at all, and second, that violence has erupted.  I think it is now time for people to sit back and reflect, understanding I am saying this as an older white male, and think about the solutions that they want, rather than coming up with, relatively speaking, theoretical phrases that don’t really address the issues.  Do they want greater police training, do they want the police and others to recognize that there is racial bias in the system, are they prepared to offer solutions as to how they eliminate that racial bias?  There is clearly also a need for the police to become involved substantively in the discussion in terms of what their experiences are, and how that impacts how they act.  I am not suggesting, in any way, that there are right or wrong answers, or that there is a simple solution, but if we don’t start working towards solutions, this entire effort will be wasted. 

Much of the conversation about voting has centered around mail-in ballots with the President claiming they are fraudulent, while Democrats are supportive and see little if any fraud.  Unfortunately, I beg to differ, on mail-in voting, the most important thing voters can do at this point is get to the polls, preferably during early voting where it exists to limit the number of votes that have to be counted on election night.  The more mail-in ballots and absentee ballots that flood the election offices, the longer the process will take.  My hope is that enough people go to the polls, that the result will be clear on election night, even if all the absentee and mail-in ballots have not been counted.  One can just see the irony if Mr. Trump is behind on election night, him claiming that we must wait for absentee ballots and mail-in ballots to be counted, when previously, I am sure he would have said they are all fraudulent.  This means that Democrats may have to change their get out the vote strategy, focusing on when states open up early in-person voting.  I intend to vote on October 24th, whereas before I had intended to vote by absentee ballot because of the COVID virus.  This, in my view, is extremely important so that we get a result on election night and avoid all of the threatened bad actions that are being forecast. 

There have been some articles written indicating that the way to unhorse Mr. Trump is to mock him in the same way he mocks others, so that if he should engage in things like slow Joe, sleepy Joe, etc., a response is needed.  For instance, based upon the recent disclosure of his tax returns, how “good” businessman are you, when was the last time you got a tan, you look pale. Things like that which would likely really make him angry, and throw him off during the debate.  I doubt Mr. Biden will take that tact, but I think that Mr. Trump has used it to rally his base so successfully, and they pick-up the chant, it is appropriate for Democrats to do the same thing.  The ones I suggested might be a little weak, but I am sure Mr. Biden has staff who can come up with much better ways to mock Mr. Trump.  If he can do it, so can we. 

Canadians can still travel to the US during the pandemic by air, but not by land.  Americans cannot do the same, as Canada is not reciprocating with this apparent loophole in the US immigration process.  It is also interesting to note that if one looks at the quarantine lists, Canada is not listed but it seems improbable that a Canadian could escape a quarantine obligation.  Interestingly, Canada on the other hand, requires quarantine even for Canadians returning home (with some exceptions).  Maybe we should create charter flights from Montreal to Plattsburgh and/or Albany, as an incentive for the Canadians to visit with us since Plattsburgh now has the capacity to handle international travelers, this may be a way to create some interesting opportunities, although it might be a tad expensive.

An editorial in the Press Republican by Roger Black discusses Canada and the liberal party being at a crossroads.  It is an interesting insight into Canadian politics, and how the Canadian psyche works.  The question being presented is how does Canada respond to its surge in COVID cases, which, of course, is interesting to know, but from my perspective, what is really important is that it is likely that Canada will further delay any opening of the border. 

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that China’s export machine is now looking inward.  The supposition is that China recognizes that international growth is going to be difficult as many countries are beginning to look inward and faces resistance from the US whether Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden is President.  In addition, given the size of their internal market, this makes a great deal of sense both from a political perspective – increasing the living standard for its people – as well as generating additional revenue without the shipping costs.  It will be interesting to see how this evolves over time, but it could very well impact the number of exports to the US and other countries that we have seen in the recent past.

Bill Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford, Owens, Piller, Murnane, Kelleher and Trombley in Plattsburgh, NY and a Strategic Advisor at Dentons to Washington, DC.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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