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Commentary & Opinion

Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 11/16/20

The election results in the US, although still being contested by Republicans clearly shows that Mr. Biden won the popular vote and electoral college votes. 

Boris Johnson’s status in Great Britain has been weakened both visa vie the Brexit talks, and also by his restrictions against COVID.  Is he the next orange head to fall. 

COVID keeps going, even though Mr. Trump said it would end on November 4, 2020, and apparently his supporters who thought the same are ignoring the reality of what is happening.  Unfortunately, I think it is going to take significantly greater sickness, hospitalizations and deaths before Mr. Trump’s supporters will take this seriously and do what is necessary.  Their inability to connect the dots between the number of cases and the subsequent increase in hospitalizations and deaths prevents them from taking rational steps.  It looks like Mr. Biden is going to push hard on the issue of individuals wearing masks, and I wonder, if in fact, he will go so far as to put in a national mandate, or will governors do it for him – both Republican and Democrats.  

This past Friday another Trump prediction failed as the S&P closed at a record high even with a Biden victory. 

According to the Wall Street Journal it’s important because businesses hope for more predictability, even if tax rates go up.  Business does prefer stability and predictability which Mr. Trump has not provided on any level.  Business was certainly happy with the tax cuts, but I suspect are prepared to give some back in exchange for the more important stability factors.

Mitch McConnell has come out forcefully in challenging election results throughout the country, while the two Republican Senators in Georgia – involved in a runoff - have now attacked the Republican Secretary of State of Georgia as essentially running an incompetent, if not, corrupt election.  As I observed last week, there is a certain inconsistency in those attacks, in that, in effect they are challenging votes that went to both Democrats and Republicans, as many Republicans were elected throughout the country.  I am not sure how this makes sense other than they are throwing it against the wall and hope that something sticks.  It also strikes me that people like Mitch McConnell and other Republicans, are playing it safe because they don’t want to anger the base which is very significant by turning against Trump now or angering him, so there are just going to ride it out and let Trump, if you will, eventually do his own dirty work as they don’t want to stand up and be counted, excuse the pun, under these circumstances or under any circumstances. 

Congress and the President actually have some work to do in the next sixty or so days, with the primary job being the enactment of spending legislation/appropriations.  I don’t think we are going to see any other substantive activity and may not see any until after the Georgia run-off election.  This is going to be another bit of stalemate that will go on for some period of time unless President elect Biden, Mr. McConnell and Speaker Pelosi can reach some type of working arrangement.  I think they have a responsibility to do that, but we will see. 

Mr. Trump fired Secretary Esper this week, and Mr. Esper’s parting comment was to the effect that he going to put in a yes man, God help us.  Following Esper’s firing there were more changes instituted by the White House in the Defense Department, purportedly in order to move along the withdrawal of troops around the world.  We will see if that is their only angle. 

State election leaders, both Democrat and Republicans have affirmatively stated that there was no election fraud, nor irregularities in the Presidential election.  Nonetheless, Mr. Trump keeps pushing his theory that the election was stolen from him.  Unfortunately, his supporters are unable to follow the facts which are that he led on election night because they counted the ballots cast that day first, and legally submitted mail-in ballots and absentee ballots later in the process.  It also appears that in most states they have abandoned any attempt to count votes which came in after Election Day, and given the spread in votes between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, it further appears that there is no impact on the outcome even if some votes were discarded because they came in after Election Day.  Wake up folks.

Job openings increased last month to almost the same level as existed pre-COVID which is certainly a good sign, and it means the economy is at least making a valiant attempt to come back.  Unfortunately, as COVID surges, those gains may well be reversed and it is not clear from the information provided that the number of job openings equals the total numbers of jobs lost.  Later reports still showed new applications for benefits topping 700,000 for the week.

Last week I gave the four words which hurt Democrats, but unfortunately, I can only come up with two words that hurt the Trump campaign, and they are “Trump” and “COVID”.  The reasons why the word Trump was problematic for Republicans is many faceted, as some object to his policies (immigrations, the endorsement, education, etc.), some to his personality, others to his erratic actions.

Later this week Governors stepped up to reimpose a variety of restrictions on their states.  Mr. Trump has and continues to say said that the only people having COVID surges were states run by Democrats.  A quick look at the COVID map tells you otherwise as at least 26 are Republican run and all have COVID surges.  In particularly, Iowa, Utah and Maryland all run by Republican Governors are moving along with New York and several other Blue states to impose restrictions.  Mr. Trump and his supporters continue outrageous positions that are refuted by Republicans, so what is going on.  As much as we all hate the idea of wearing masks/social distancing, and limiting ourselves to small groups, etc., I just cannot believe that people are continuing to ignore these warnings.  

Mr. Trump, at least as of Friday of last week, is refusing to give Mr. Biden access to information that is essential to a smooth transition.  Several Republican Senators are now stepping up, but I would note that our local member of the Armed Services Committee has remained silent. Obviously she sees no National Security threat only because its Trump driven, if it were Biden she’d be all over it.  So much for REAL bi-partisanship.

My last thought for this week.  If I assert a constitutional right not to wear a mask or take other precautions and I’m infected with COVID, do I have a constitutional right to care.  Maybe those asserting the claim should give that some thought. 

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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