Confronting the truth is hard for Trump and Sanders; a note about Jack Cookfair

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are alike in some ways and different in other ways.

Both men are septuagenarians. Both were born in New York City.  Neither has much hair on their head, but at least Bernie is more honest about it.

Both men are totally convinced that their view of the world is the one, true and only way to see things.

Both men love expressing that attitude to very large crowds of adoring fans. Or at least they did until last week, when their styles and personalities came up against the hard truth, which could not be denied, that large crowds are a potential health hazard.  The CDC now recommends no gatherings larger than 50 people.

But, of course, Trump and Sanders are different in many important ways. Trump is all in for helping the rich to get richer and in convincing his true followers that he is with them all the way, without mentioning that he is working to reduce the availability of health care and social services, things many of them desperately need.  His tough talk about how he is guarding them against demographic developments and economic challenges belies the fact that his policies are most directly aimed at hurting them and their families.  Fake Fox News provides the talking points to keep the flock in line.

Sanders tells his supporters that he will attract millions and millions of previously uninvolved followers who will bring about a revolution that will provide free government health care, free college tuition and student debt cancellation, and higher wages. That hasn’t happened, but it sounds pretty good to a lot of people – more specifically about one-quarter of the Democratic primary electorate.

For Donald Trump the truth about the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic is a pretty hard pill to swallow. So reluctantly he decided to speak to the nation, to calm things down.  That didn’t work out like he planned.  A friend of mine reports hearing a co-worker saying “I didn’t think much of the coronavirus, but last night Trump read off of a teleprompter. That never happens.  This is real.”

Well, about as real as it ever gets for Trump.

He imposed restrictions on travel from Europe. In his address to the nation Trump said “these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo but various other things as we get approval.”

 But then, “Trade will in no way be affected.   The restriction stops people not goods,” Trump tweeted, contradicting himself moments after he completed the speech.  That overlooked the fact that European nationals would be onboard the ships delivering that cargo to the US.

After the speech Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted that the travel restrictions from Europe do not actually apply “to American citizens or legal permanent residents or their families.” For those keeping score at home, from what we know about the coronavirus infections thus far in this country, many of the confirmed cases have resulted from Americans traveling home from other countries.

Trump went on to declare that health insurance companies “have agreed to waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments.”  The industry begged to differ.  They only promised to cover testing (whenever that becomes available), not the much more expensive costs of treatment of those who are found to be infected.

Trump also tried to calm the country’s economy by announcing a series of half-baked ideas for stimulating the economy, which Congress received with a bi-partisan collective yawn. Fortunately House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stepped in as the adult in the room to get some things done legislatively.

On the day after his speech the stock market, which Trump has used as a barometer of the country’s economic health, sent a more direct message with another record-breaking day of tanking. It seemed like the unofficial beginning of a recession.  And then, over the past weekend, the Federal Reserve announced they were cutting interest rates to near zero.  They also took other substantial actions to keep the economy moving along, perhaps eliminating any further action that they can take.  Trump responded: “I think that people in the market should be very thrilled.” Apparently not. The day after that tweet the market experienced its biggest drop in history.


The Democratic presidential primary has in the past two-and-a-half weeks moved in the most incredible of ways. Starting with the South Carolina primary on February 29th, Joe Biden’s campaign has developed big momentum which is overwhelmingly directed to one purpose – replacing Donald Trump.

Biden’s primary wins have moved on a parallel track with a steady stream of endorsements by former rivals. Former candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is still supporting Bernie.

Unlike what Bernie Sanders has suggested, it hasn’t been some unknown gang of Democratic elites or the Party “establishment” that have moved Biden forward. Rather, it’s been the power of the ever growing collection of Democratic voters.

As this post is being published Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio are voting and it is likely that those four contests will go strongly for Biden. The following weeks don’t hold out much hope for Sanders except in small states that will hold caucuses.

Last week, after his shellacking in five primaries, Sanders remained quiet. Then he issued a statement saying “last [Tuesday] night was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view. We lost the largest state of the night, Michigan, but we won in North Dakota…

“But what has become more and more apparent, with each passing primary, is that while we are currently trailing in the delegate count, we are strongly winning the debate about the future of our country. But while we are winning — very clearly — the ideological debate, we are losing, right now, the electability debate.”

Well Bernie, here’s a news flash – the way you tell how a candidate is really winning is by knowing how many votes the candidate has received.

I’m all for Bernie having his say and taking things a little further, but at some point he needs to bring his ship that is circling at sea into port and take a realistic count of the votes he has received.

The Biden-Sanders one-on-one debate held on Sunday broke no new policy ground. Sanders may think the debate gave his campaign a lifeline, but the event will not give him any bounce.  Biden’s announcement that he would choose a woman as the candidate for Vice President stole the news cycle.

Stubbornness seems to be Sanders’ middle name. He doesn’t take criticism well because his attitude is generally I’m right, you’re wrong.  It’s my way or the highway.  Sort of like the guy in the White House.  Not exactly what we need at this time.

Jack Cookfair

Bob McCarthy’s Buffalo News obituary for political consultant Jack Cookfair provided a good summary of Jack’s life and times.  He was many things – a politician, a baseball enthusiast, but most of all, a talented and successful consultant in the rough-and-tumble world of politics in New York State.

I first became acquainted with Jack in the mid-70’s when we were both on the staff of the Erie County Legislature. Jack wasn’t much interested in the governing part of things then, but he certainly had a talent for crafting hard-hitting campaign materials.  There were some rough spots along the way as the two parties went at it.

And those were the days when not only did the parties compete feistily in the campaigns, but then on election night needed to face one another directly after the votes were counted because the parties occupied the opposite ballrooms of the Statler Hotel. Talk about awkward.

Time passes, and even at relatively young ages we all gained some perspective on what is important in life. Many nights I shared many a drink or two at Mother’s Bakery with Jack and other politicos from both parties.  As the song goes, “those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end…” Rest in peace, Jack.

2 thoughts on “Confronting the truth is hard for Trump and Sanders; a note about Jack Cookfair

  1. I recall many of those long nights in various watering holes, Ken, with Cookfair as we “discussed” the nuances of politics. I also recall repeated (and futile) prohibitions conveyed to us by Joe Crangle about continuing such dalliances. Memories … are the chorus of our minds (Barbra Streisand)


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