The TAKE with Rick Klein
The presidential campaign is taking shape in the new realities imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, complete with ads, tweets and even campaign-style events — real-life ones as well as the new “virtual” variety.
But what that shape looks like depends on which campaign you focus on.
President Donald Trump‘s campaign is focused on seemingly everything — hoping that it will play separately from the very big thing consuming the country. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is focusing on that big thing — hoping that it remains the only thing that matters.
It makes for some jarring messaging. Trump campaign ads and social media pushes are portraying Biden as “old and out of it,” though also a friend to China and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the progressive agenda she is pushing.
The president is peddling a conspiracy theory he’s calling “Obamagate,” and flat-out declaring that Biden is “guilty” of an as-yet unspecified crime. Allies are pushing story lines related to Biden’s son, Hunter, and an unproven sexual-assault allegation against Biden — all while the country continues to face an unprecedented economic and public health crisis.
Over the weekend, one of Trump’s sons suggested Biden was a pedophile, while another suggested that Democrats would “milk” the coronavirus crisis to keep his father from having rallies. Neither had a shred of evidence.
The Biden team’s response has been to try not to respond to everything — or to respond by citing the scattershot attacks as evidence that the Trump campaign wants to change the subject.
“They’re desperate to do whatever they can to throw up a smoke screen to try to conceal his historic mismanagement of this crisis,” the Biden campaign said in a statement Sunday.
Both campaigns say they like their odds. Both parties have major players worried the campaigns and their candidates are playing it all wrong.
In the meantime, any sense of a campaign rhythm will continue to be disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump and Biden both sense a country ready to dive into politics again — yet that means very different things to both men and their campaigns.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
It took two months, but it is clear now that former President Barack Obama is ready to speak out about the current administration’s handling of this pandemic. During his address to graduates this weekend, Obama took on Trump without uttering the president’s name, saying the current crisis has “finally torn back on the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing.”
“A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge,” he said.
“Doing what feels good — what’s convenient, what’s easy — that’s how little kids think. Unfortunately a lot of so-called grownups — including some with fancy titles and important jobs — still think that way, which is why things are so screwed up,” Obama added.
Just last week, Obama had told former staffers that the government’s response to the virus had been an “absolute chaotic disaster.”
He used his time on the national stage this weekend to call out racial and economic inequities made worse in this moment, a reality that the current administration has struggled to name, let alone work on.
“Injustice like this isn’t new,” Obama said. “What is new is that so much of your generation has woken up to the fact that the status quo needs fixing, that the old ways of doing things don’t work.”
Trump fired back with nasty superlatives Sunday night, saying the Obama-Biden administration was the “most incompetent” in history. Earlier Sunday morning, his team in interviews had attempted, too, to deflect all blame toward China for the fact that a contagious virus has been devastating American towns and livelihoods.
The TIP with Benjamin Siegel
President Trump’s Friday night removal of the State Department inspector general is the latest reminder of the White House’s hostile posture toward oversight — and it underscores the challenge facing lawmakers and watchdogs attempting to monitor the federal government’s coronavirus response and stimulus efforts.
Trump moved to replace Steve Linick at the recommendation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who Democratic lawmakers claimed was under investigation. Linick played a limited role in the impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill, providing a briefing and documents to lawmakers related to Ukraine.
“The president has the right to fire any federal employee. But the fact is, if it looks like it’s in retaliation for something that the attorney — the IG, the inspector general — is doing, that could be unlawful,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Linick is the fourth inspector general Trump had sidelined or removed over the past six weeks. Earlier this month, he announced plans to replace Christi Grimm, a principal deputy inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services leading the office in an acting capacity, after the agency released a survey of more than 300 hospitals that found shortages of critical supplies and equipment at the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
In April, Trump sidelined Glenn Fine, the Pentagon inspector general who was set to play a leading role monitoring the coronavirus financial stimulus effort.
“There’s a bureaucracy out there. And there’s a lot of people in that bureaucracy who think they got elected president and not Donald J. Trump,” Peter Navarro, a White House adviser, said on “This Week with George Stephanopolous” in defense of Linick’s firing.
BRINGING AMERICA BACK
People who aren’t able to file for traditional unemployment, like Uber drivers and barbers, might be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — but many who have applied are still waiting for relief, according to a state-by-state analysis by ABC News. Read this story and more by checking out Bringing America Back, an ABC News feature that highlights the day’s top stories in economic recovery and medical preparedness amid the coronavirus pandemic.
ABC News’ “Start Here” Podcast. Monday morning’s episode features ABC News’ Trish Turner, who brings us the latest on coronavirus relief funding in Congress. Then, ABC News contributor and retired Col. Stephen Ganyard explains how the virus could reshape the air travel industry for years to come. And, Audrey Washington from WSB-TV in Atlanta explains why calls have grown louder for firings in law enforcement following the Ahmaud Arbery killing. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
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