The main complaint lodged against Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic is that he didn’t “follow the science.” Joe Biden has promised repeatedly to do so. But when it comes to the pandemic, there is a catch: there are conflicting scientific opinions, and our main governmental institutions in charge are having trouble deciding among them. Faced in the last months with the Delta variant, the Biden administration has not performed so well.
From TPM Reader MV …
I’m a regular reader, writing in from Australia. I really enjoy reading your analysis and thoughts at TPM. Most of the time I think it’s spot on. But on the topic of the Aukus deal, I think you are missing quite a bit of the picture. So, I thought I’d write in with a contrary view.
First off, this is not really just a choice of submarine propulsion technology. The French offer initially *was* for nuclear boats; the Australian government specifically requested a downgraded diesel/electric version, on the grounds that Australia did not (and still does not) have domestic nuclear capability to build or keep them operational. If our govt had simply decided we needed nuclear after all, they could have just upgraded to the nuclear version of the Barracuda (already in production, and I believe even an option in the contract).
From TPM Reader HP …
I was surprised to read Josh’ last edblogs on the French dispute with US and Australia (note:as French foreign minister said, they did not spat with the UK as “they were already used of their duplicity”). Josh’s inputs are usually well balanced and offer interesting arguments and perspective. But these last two articles are instead showing contempt and lack of curiosity. They sound as if Josh was only paraphrasing what a prejudiced friend at the State Department just told him.
From TPM Reader AL …
France is upset because it seems that Boris Johnson will be rewarded for his faithlessness by a Biden administration that turns out not to represent the return to sober, reliable allyship that France had expected. Instead it turns out that the international rifts signaled by Brexit and Trump are more permanent than they’d realized, as is the potential for Anglo-European conflict, an insight France gained in an instant — a coup de tonnerre. Of course they’re freaked.
I’ve now read up a bit more on the particulars of the blow up between the US and France. It basically comports with my original understanding. Australia feels increasingly threatened by China. The Australians contracted with the French five years ago, in a significantly different and less threatening security environment. There were already significant delays and cost overruns with the French subs. But the key is that what the US could offer was demonstrably and critically better technology. A central attribute of attack submarines is that your adversary doesn’t know where they are. The French subs are louder. The Australians had good reason to believe they’d be obsolete on delivery.
To the Australians this must have seemed an open and shut case of critical national security interests against which the anger of the French was an unfortunate but inevitable and acceptable byproduct. A more capably armed Australia, meanwhile, fits neatly into what the Biden White House has made a central feature of its national security policy: countering Chinese ambitions to challenge or displace the US Navy as the dominant naval power in East Asia.
France has recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia in what amounts to a tantrum over the newly announced strategic partnership uniting the US with Australia and the United Kingdom. Critically, it means scuttling a deal under which France would provide conventional submarines to Australia for one under which the US will provide nuclear submarines to Australia. As a Great Power the US can do and provide what France simply cannot. And as tensions rise in East Asia, Australia feels it needs the real thing.
This is partly over losing a weapons deal but it seems more a fit of pique over France facing the reality that it is in fact no longer or a Great Power or a Pacific power. Most people have realized this for decades. The whole dust up is at once deeply stupid and yet feels far more consequential and significant than the meagerness of the actual controversy. It seems like one of those moments where the whole global firmament shifts, even though the trigger is risible, the hurt pride of a country which hasn’t come to grips with the 1950s.
Follow-on reporting about General Mark Milley’s crisis talks with his counterpart in the PLA just add more confirmation that these communications were entirely appropriate. We should be thankful they happened. We now know the calls were coordinated with the current and later the acting Secretaries of Defense. So it’s all very much by the book. As Tom Nichols explains here, the US military – and most professional militaries – invest great resources, often over decades, in military to military talks and liaison precisely for moments like this. If you need to make direct contact to defuse a potential crisis it helps a lot to have preexisting relationships in place. All of that investment is geared to moments like the ones described in the Woodward and Costa book.
There are reports that Trump, Mike Pompeo and the then-National Security Advisor didn’t know about Milley’s calls. If that’s true, then that is on the Secretaries of Defense, not Milley.
Especially since the withdrawal from Afghanistan the insider sheets have been relentlessly hostile to President Biden. Last night the Axios evening headline was “Biden’s China Fail”. Tonight it’s “Scoop: Biden Bombs”. Apparently Biden didn’t convince Joe Manchin to drop his opposition to a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package in their well-publicized-in-advance sit-down at the White House.
Axios’s gloss aside, this does not surprise me. At the most optimistic this is Manchin’s bargaining position going into a critical 6 weeks or so of negotiating within the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate. Manchin’s just going to give way in advance because Biden asks him to? That makes no sense to me at all.
Facing a wave of COVID hospitalizations Idaho today activated its ‘crisis standards of care’ for the entire state. In effect this means a system of rationing care based on who is most likely to survive rather than who is in most immediate need of medical care.
“The situation is dire — we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for COVID-19 or a heart attack or because of a car accident,” state health director Dave Jeppesen said in an afternoon press release.
From a distance, I hadn’t focused on the importance of mail-in voting for the result of Tuesday’s California recall election. I am not saying that Newsom owes his win to that. I think the more important factors are the ones we discussed yesterday. But it clearly played some role in sky-high turnout for an off-schedule election. Articles in the LA Times and NY Times illustrate some of the dynamics.
California has continued with a temporary, COVID-era mail-in voting regime. In the recall every registered voter who had voted in a recent election was mailed a ballot. You could also vote in person. But basically every regular voter could vote by dropping a ballot in the mail – a very easy choice and easy lift for anyone who wanted to.
The initial reports on the contents of the new book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa came trickling in this afternoon.
In May, a federal judge dismissed a Trumpy lawsuit over the 2020 election results in Antrim County, Michigan, where a clerk’s error had briefly resulted in a miscount of the vote. “Expert” witnesses in the suit had seized on the discrepancy, which they claimed was the result of Dominion voting machine technology “purposefully designed” to tamper with vote totals.
As the U.S.’s two decade war in Afghanistan draws to a close, very few former officials involved in prosecuting it have publicly struggled with the consequences.
Mike Lindell, QAnon, And A Pro Surfer: The Story Of One County’s Stolen Election Data Has Only Gotten Crazier
It was Sept. 12, 2019.
Congress was asking why the Trump administration appeared to be concealing a whistleblower complaint, as the White House lifted a mysterious block on $350 million in military aid to Ukraine.
And Attorney General Bill Barr, then-head of federal law enforcement in the Trump administration, was watching a Downton Abbey screening at the British Embassy.