By David DeAngelo
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
The last time the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorsed a Republican for president, it was November of 1972. The nation was at war, bell-bottoms were all the rage and the candidate in question was Richard Milhous Nixon.
While President Nixon has glaring faults which we have pointed out, we still think that on the basis of experience, competence and toughness, he offers a better choice than the Democratic challenger, Senator McGovern.
And while we all know how that turned out, they could not have known what happened next (the war would continue, Nixon would resign in disgrace over Watergate and Saigon would fall soon after).
But back then most of the nation’s newspapers endorsed Nixon over McGovern and that year Nixon produced one of the text-book definitions of “landslide” in American Politics. He won 520 electoral votes to McGovern’s 17.
Endorsing Nixon looked like a good idea at the time but after a while, maybe not so much.
On the other hand, the P-G’s Nov. 1 endorsement of the impeached incumbent Donald Trump is an insult of Galactus-sized proportions. Interestingly, the endorsement uses roughly the same argument now that they used back then:
This newspaper has not supported a Republican for president since 1972. But we believe Mr. Trump, for all his faults, is the better choice this year.
So let’s look at how the P-G Editorial Board (run on the whims of Publisher John Block and Editorial Director Keith Burris) judges Trump and, in doing so, perhaps ponder what it would take to steer their forgiving gaze away from the orange vulgarity now (probably) tweet-squatting in one of the White House toilets. Or maybe he’s at Mar-A-Lago, who can tell?
Notably, Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus gets a rather terse dismissal in the endorsement:
Has Mr. Trump handled the pandemic perfectly? No. But no one masters a pandemic. And the president was and is right that we must not cower before the disease and we have to keep America open and working.
That’s it. More than 225,000 dead citizens and the P-G editorial board sanitizes his guilt with a shrugging, “no one masters a pandemic.” Oh well. Lots of folks died. Shit happens, amirite? What’re ya gonna do?
True, no one “masters” a pandemic but some may be more masterful at mitigating its effects. Take for example Canada, our hockey-loving neighbor to the north. They’ve been far more successful in dealing with the virus, while not at all “mastering” it. According to Johns Hopkins University, the current US death rate per hundred thousand is about 70.75. The current rate in Canada is about 20.5. Had we done something like what Canada did, we’d be looking at about 68,000 deaths instead of about 225,000. That’s almost 160,000 US citizens who’d be alive today had Donald Trump acted differently. Is this level of death acceptable as long as “keeping America open and working” is of primary importance? Apparently, the answer is yes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Shame on them.
Then there’s the P-G’s defense of Trump’s treatment of the economy:
Under Donald Trump, the economy, pre-COVID, boomed, like no time since the 1950s. Look at your 401(k) over the past three years.
Reality looks a little more nuanced. The Washington Post reported that:
The United States experienced some of its best years of job gains in 2014 and 2015 in Obama’s second term when the economy added more than 225,000 jobs a month. Employment continued to be strong under Trump — until the pandemic hit.
Average monthly job gains under Trump peaked at 193,000 in 2018. Economists call this very robust, especially given the recovery was nearly a decade old by then.
So he was continuing the recovery that started by the previous (Obama) administration. Huh. Interesting.
Trump benefited from the continuation of trends that had been in place under the Obama recovery.
“While Trump can take some credit, I see it like the relief pitcher who comes in during the 9th inning with a seven-run lead, then boasts about winning the game,” said Dean Baker, co-founder of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research. “It’s fine to get some credit for holding the lead, but this is much more an Obama story than a Trump story.”
Then there’s this defense of Trump’s trade policy from our friends at the P-G:
Under Mr. Trump, our trade relationships have vastly improved and our trade deals have been rewritten. Thanks to him, middle America is on the map again and the Appalachian and hourly worker has some hope.
Not so fast, my friends. The New York Times reported:
Within two years of President Trump’s taking office, one of his key political constituencies — America’s farmers — were reeling from his trade war with China.
Mr. Trump had waged his fight to try to eliminate the trade deficit with China and bring manufacturing back to the United States. But American farmers — among the country’s largest exporters, and a key part of the president’s political base — soon became collateral damage in that effort.
With every other reason they give, be it energy policy or how now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett is the best appointment he’s made to the Supreme Court (the “best of all” in fact), the editorial board praises Trump for successes that turn out to be less than at best, or viral pandemic horrors at worst.
During his campaign, Sean Parnell, GOP Candidate for PA-17, asserted with a clear voice and steely eye that if you don’t denounce something, you’ve endorsed it.
Fine. Let’s do this.
In failing to denounce Trump’s dogwhistle to white supremacists (“stand back and stand by”), the P-G editorial board has endorsed it.
In failing to denounce Trump’s misogyny (“you can grab them by the pussy”), the P-G editorial board has endorsed it.
In failing to denounce Trump’s dishonesty in dealing with the coronavirus (“And by the way, the virus. … It looks like by April, you know in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away”), the P-G editorial board endorsed it.
Does the P-G really want us to believe that what they chide as his “unpresidential manners and character” and the huge numbers of dead are acceptable simply because our 401(k)s were swelling a bit?
At another presidential election, Ronald Reagan once famously asked, “Are you better off today than you were 4 years ago?”
For the members of those 225,000 families who lost someone to the virus, to those who’ll suffer long term disabilities due to their time battling the virus, to those fighting the racism or sexism made resurgent by Trump’s reluctance to denounce both, to the countless others whose lives have been made unquestionably worse by this failed businessman’s frenzied time in the White House, the answer has unquestionably the same, “Oh, hell no!”
But for Trump’s defenders on the P-G editorial board, all Trump’s bad manners and character flaws are OK just as long as there’s a tad more money in their pockets.
Shame on them.