Mar 12, 2020

Trump addresses the nation on coronavirus.

Trump addresses the nation on coronavirus.

Plus, a question about voter turnout.

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Today’s read: 8 minutes.

Trump addresses the nation, a question about voter turnout and a story about corruption.

A message from me.

We are living in wild times. As the coronavirus spreads, global markets are being rocked, our nation grapples with unprecedented partisanship and all the regular happenings in the world continue to dominate the news, I feel more dedicated to Tangle than ever. I want to remind you why I started this newsletter: to give you a well-rounded look at what is happening in America. Every day, “What D.C. is talking about” will be a section that delivers the facts. This is the down the middle, distilled news that you need to know. “What the left is saying” and “What the right is saying” are my best attempts at communicating how that news is being framed. “My take” is my personal opinion and perspective on those arguments and what I’m seeing. “Your questions, answered” is my way of letting the readers drive the newsletter. “A story that matters” is a piece of important news I think is getting drowned out by the story of the day. “Numbers” are my way of telling you something with raw data. “Have a nice day” is my hope you can wash all of this down with a piece of feel-good news. Everything else is a bonus.

If you’ve enjoyed Tangle, and you sense the importance of this time in history we’re all witnessing together, please continue to share the newsletter. I believe this new framework for covering politics is more important than ever, and I am so grateful for everyone being a part of it.

What D.C. is talking about.

Last night, President Trump delivered just his second oval office address to the nation. Trump’s address came hours after the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global pandemic. Trump imposed a 30-day ban on foreigners who have been in the 26 countries that make up the European Union’s Schengen Area. The ban starts Friday at midnight, with exemptions for American citizens, permanent legal residents and their families. The State Department also issued a notice to “reconsider travel” to all countries because of the coronavirus, the second strongest advisory the State Department can make. Trump also announced that health insurance companies agreed to extend coverage for treatments and waive co-payments for testing. He will soon announce emergency financial relief for workers to stay home if they’re sick. Finally, he instructed the IRS to push back its April 15th tax-payment deadline for certain individuals and businesses, providing an extra $200 billion of liquidity and said the Small Business Administration would offer low-interest loans to help during the financial upheaval caused by the virus. He said he would be asking Congress to authorize $50 billion for the programs. In the hour after the president’s address, actor Tom Hanks announced he and his wife had contracted the coronavirus, and the NBA suspended its season after learning one its players had tested positive.

What the left is saying.

It’s all backward. We’re banning travel from Europe but the virus is already here. Trump is pretending he’s taken this seriously from the start but he’s been downplaying it for weeks. Nothing was updated about mass testing, which has been the single biggest factor in South Korea slowing the spread of the disease. Not only that, but Trump… kind of sounded sick? And looked nervous? The speech wasn’t reassuring at all and in the immediate aftermath the White House had to walk back three major errors from a written, prepared address: the Europe travel ban applied to foreign nationals who had been inside Europe within 14 days of arrival in the U.S. and did not apply to permanent U.S. residents or immediate family of citizens, which Trump didn’t clarify. The ban will NOT apply to goods and trade cargo, despite Trump saying “these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.” Health insurers also said they were waiving copayments for testing, not for treatment.

What the right is saying.

You asked for a response and the president delivered. The president delivered drastic measures that center on the most important thing to Americans: the economy. If Democrats can get past their hatred of Trump they will support his plan wholeheartedly, because it’s a good one. Andy Puzder emphasized the economic-centric focus Trump had, and cheered him for making the point that this isn’t an economic crisis — the fundamentals of our economy are strong. Puzder said Trump was “showing strong and effective leadership when we need it most.” When Trump banned some travel from China, liberals said it was too early and racist. Now he’s banning travel from Europe, and liberals are saying it’s too late and racist. In reality, Trump understands the economic risk of the virus and is taking appropriate — and drastic — measures to address it. The focus on payroll tax cuts, delaying the IRS tax payment and low-interest loans will give important economic relief for a lot of businesses and workers who are about to get throttled. The Wall Street Journal editorial board struck a more critical note, saying “the administration’s performance has improved” in the last week “and his speech to the nation Wednesday night was at least a step toward more realism. But the pandemic continues to build and he still understated the scope of the health risk. Travel bans are less important than mitigation efforts at home with thousands of likely cases already here.”

My take.

There are a few different things to break down here related to Trump’s address. One is how the administration has handled this up until the address. Another is the address itself. And the final thing is the details of the plan he laid out. Given this is “my take,” I’m going to be quite subjective here and give separate grades for each:

The administration’s actions up until last night: D+. Trump gets credit for shutting down travel from China back when people were calling that decision racist or too much — it was neither, and it probably held outbreaks off for another week. Unfortunately, the administration didn’t exactly use that time wisely. As McKay Coppins documented in The Atlantic, Trump has been spreading dangerously effective coronavirus propaganda for weeks. He’s told supporters that the panic was being spread by Democrats, that everything was fine, that the administration had it under control and that the virus was no worse than the seasonal flu. All of that was patently false. It’s impossible to quantitatively analyze how damaging a month of that rhetoric was, but it’s safe to assume it — and the delays and mistakes made while trying to launch testing — have seriously hurt our chances of stopping this before it started.

Trump’s actual address to the nation: C. As John Kasich said: “It was fine.” It wasn’t horrible, it wasn’t great, and it wasn’t particularly reassuring. It was unfortunate that he sounded like he had a cold and there were a few moments that made me think he was nervous, but overall the tone was appropriate. The huge docking of points, though, is that he gave out fundamentally bad information on three occasions (as documented above in “What the left is saying”). That’s unacceptable for an address of this magnitude, and it’s impossible to give him anything above a C when some of the most important information he gave out was fundamentally wrong or misrepresented.

The real details of the plan he laid out: B+. There are going to be some dire economic implications from the virus if it heads where it looks like it’s heading, and Trump’s plan is a holistic approach to addressing those. The small business loans will be a huge boon for companies in need. The IRS tax payment delays will provide real money for Americans, as will the payroll tax cut (if it goes through). Copayment coverage is great and the amount of money requested ($50 billion) looks appropriate (remember: the Trump admin initially signed off $8.3 billion of funding, which harkens back to the poor initial response). The only reason this plan doesn’t get an A is that it didn’t address one of the single most important things there is: testing. Where are tests going to be available? How many will be available? How much will they cost? How can Americans test? Other countries have shown that broad, free testing is a great way to slow the virus, but America still doesn’t have a coherent plan. We need one. Fast.


There were two hot mic moments during the address last night. The first was before Trump came on and he’s cursing about a “pen mark” somewhere on his shirt. The second was after the address ended, and C-SPAN accidentally let the cameras roll. Trump lets out a relieved “ooookkaaayyyy” when the address is over.

Your questions, answered.

Reminder: Tangle is all about reader questions. To ask something, all you have to do is reply to this email and write in.

Q: Why didn't the youth vote come out for the primaries yesterday? Bernie said he was disappointed in youth turn out at the polls which appears to be significantly less than the youth turn out in 2016 and it definitely hurt him. What is different about 2020 vs. 2016 that resulted in lower turnout for the 18-29 demographic? Can anything motivate this demographic ahead of the general election?

- Gwenn, Philadelphia, PA

Tangle: So far, few things have perplexed me as much as the low young voter turnout in this election. I really suspected that given the candidates (Bernie, Warren, Buttigieg) and the current state of things (Trump is more disliked amongst young votes than just about any voting group) that they would be at the polls in droves. But it simply hasn’t happened. There have been a lot of studies over the years trying to figure out how and why young people vote so infrequently, and there’s one thing has emerged above all else: the process.

Several surveys, including ones from Harvard, have demonstrated a legitimate interest in politics from young people. Lots of young people in these surveys, though, complain about missing their registration deadlines or struggling to get absentee ballots to vote in their home states when they’re abroad or at college. The BBC interviewed one student in Italy who explained that he struggled to vote because he had to print out a specific kind of envelope. Another voter said she registered for an absentee ballot in February but didn’t actually get it until three days after Super Tuesday. Lines at polling stations across the country were extraordinarily long, and unless a young voter is extremely bought in it’s hard to imagine them spending their evening sitting around waiting to cast a ballot.

My research assistant also found this awesome Duke study about why young people don’t turn out. One study found 55% of college students “messed up filling out their voter registration form, e.g., they left a question blank or didn’t know their Social Security number.” The Duke team suggested that high school civics classes teach students about how many justices are on the Supreme Court but don’t teach them about how to hit voting registration deadlines. One of the study’s authors suggested young people lack the “grit” to follow through on voting or registering. She also suggested automatic registration in high school or college would ramp up the voter turnout more than just about anything.

There’s also the mass disillusionment that even Sanders can’t shake. When asked if "elected officials who are part of the Baby Boomer generation care about people like me,” just 16% of Americans aged 18 to 29 said yes. I’m not sure Bernie can cut through that. Even the young Americans who are politically engaged say it’s really difficult to find accurate information about candidates.

As for a specific difference between 2020 and 2016, the best answer to that I found was from CNN analyst Zach Wolf. He posited that the lower turnout this year is more about the field. In 2016, it was Sanders vs. Clinton, who young people didn’t really like. This time around, there were more candidates to rally behind (like Yang or Mayor Pete) that got some young voters excited and then dropped out. That’s left the youth vote fractured among candidates, some of whom aren’t even in the race anymore.

Personally, I think a lot of it has to do with this just being primary elections and all the focus on the general election. I’m a political reporter who lives and breathes this stuff every day and even I almost missed my voter registration deadline. It’s just hard to keep track of it, especially amidst the cacophony of news. My bet would be the 2020 general election still sees historic youth voter turnout, especially when Democrats are down to one candidate and can focus in a more coalesced way on turning those voters out.

A story that matters.

The Charlotte Observer has released secret recordings that show a billionaire mogul bribing a public official to help shake regulators from his company. Greg Lindberg was convicted on March 5th in a corruption case where he tried to bribe North Carolina’s insurance commissioner Mike Causey. As part of a sting operation, Causey wore a clandestine recording device in which Lindberg repeatedly asked Causey to replace a regulator overseeing one of Lindberg’s companies. Causey asked Lindberg what was in it for him, and Lindberg suggested opening up an independent expenditure committee to support Causey’s re-election campaign where he could funnel a million or more dollars to the insurance commissioner. The story, and the recordings, confirm many of the negative biases “regular” Americans have about how billionaires and the wealthy buy our politicians to cheat the system. You can read more about it here.


  • 33.6 million. The number of people who didn’t receive paid sick leave from their employer last year, according to the Labor Department.
  • 70 to 150 million. The estimated number of people who will contract the coronavirus, roughly a third of the country, according to Congress’ in-house doctor.
  • 21 million. The estimated number of Americans who lack access to high-speed broadband internet, a gap that could impact people’s ability to work from home.
  • 23. The number of years Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to prison yesterday.
  • 3. The number of days coronavirus can survive on some surfaces, according to a study done by the U.S. government.
  • 9,000. The number of materials Procter & Gamble receives from suppliers in China alone, all at-risk of running into a shortage because of coronavirus.
  • 2. The number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq yesterday after a rocket attack that the U.S. says was “most likely” carried out by Iran.

Have a nice day.

Pakistan has finally passed its first-ever child abuse law in the wake of rape and murder that shocked the country two years ago. While it took a nauseating tragedy, the new law introduces a penalty of life in prison for child abuse. In Pakistan, sex education is a topic that struggles to get through because of the country’s conservative religious majority. But the new law is a comprehensive effort to address abuses and established a dedicated hotline, a new agency to issue alerts for missing children and amendments to speed up the process of reporting cases of child abuse. You can read more from The Guardian here.

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