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Assault on America, Day 463: Easter reminds us that some tragic stories do have happy endings

The Masters
The Masters was supposed to start today.

But now, thanks to the Chinese coronavirus (and resultant fear explosion), we won’t see the world’s best golfers strolling the fairways of Augusta National (in Georgia, about two hours northeast of Atlanta) or huge galleries marveling at their every drive, chip and putt. And there won’t be thunderous roars echoing through the tall pines at America’s most celebrated and revered golf links either. The TV booths will be empty too (assuming they were set up at all) and strangely absent are the usual throng of technical trucks outside the grounds bouncing electronic signals off satellites to every nook and cranny on earth. Instead, the interview rooms are silent and the enormous anticipation of who will don the famous Green Jacket at the end of the day on Sunday is replaced by reruns from yesteryear.

It's weird. For as long as I can remember, the first or second weekend of April has meant gluing myself to the Masters telecast and watching the legends take on more than a golf course. Golf’s best players vie each year for a slice of immortality.

Unfortunately for us, mortality is very much on the minds of everyone these days.

Needless to say, Americans won’t be attending Easter services this year either. For many it’ll be the first such annual commemoration where they won’t find themselves in church. There’s always much to celebrate on that day regardless -- the gift of eternal life as made possible through the savior’s sacrifice and joyous resurrection. Even in the midst of one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history, our faith shines a ray of light.

Not many folks will think about politics on Sunday either, and perhaps the significance of the occasion will engender further reflection on positive things rather than the constant drumbeat of negativity we’ve grown too accustomed to accepting during the coronavirus panic. Many are exhausted from worry and anxiety over the threat of illness -- and the economic strains of being instructed to shutter businesses as though a hurricane was imminent and we must stay away from family, neighbors and friends.

As for the 2020 presidential race, it’s on hiatus too. But that hasn’t stopped some forward-thinking people from contemplating what’s to come when life returns to “normal” and everyone emerges from their COVID-19 induced semi-seclusion. Will Joe Biden come away from this stronger or weaker? How will he fare when compared with Hillary Clinton four years ago?

Just as Hillary did last time around, Grampa Joe leads in every national head-to-head polling matchup, yet there is plenty of reason to doubt the sturdiness of his position. Byron York wrote at The Washington Examiner, “[I]f the polls are a snapshot, then why is Biden's lead today smaller than Clinton's was at a comparable time in the last campaign?

“Some might point to the coronavirus crisis and the tendency of voters to rally around a leader against a common threat. Trump's job approval rating has indeed gone up during the crisis. It currently stands at a 47% approval and 49.8% disapproval in the RealClearPolitics average. Before the virus crisis, Trump had never in his entire presidency risen above 46% approval. In other words, his rating was never very high. That is part of Trump's unique relationship with the electorate: His approval has never skyrocketed for any reason, but it has also never sunk to the floor. In the last few days, the rating has been ticking down a bit, but it will likely stay among the highest of Trump's presidency, at least for a while.

“Biden's lead over Trump has been fairly stable, somewhere in the 4-6 point range, since last December. Before that, in late fall 2019, it rose as high as 10 points. But it has been in the same place since before the coronavirus crisis began and does not seem to have been affected by the outbreak.”

Which certainly calls into question whether the polls themselves have any merit. Common sense and cold reality insinuates Trump is enjoying enormous political advantages from all of this, not the least of which is his opportunity to command the nation’s undivided attention for two to three hours every day (and yes, the briefings are a bit lengthy, aren’t they?). As I’ve argued a lot lately, it’s a time where Trump gets to be at his best, touting the effectiveness of American ingenuity (drastically stepping up production of medicines and equipment to battle the coronavirus) while conveying a hopeful message to the good news-starved citizenry.

Liberals and Democrats would probably much prefer Trump stay away from the issue entirely and solely let the health professionals brief the public with cold, hard facts and figures with no commentary whatsoever. But Trump wouldn’t give his critics the satisfaction of backing away. As a result, he’s become the face of hope.

Only the media’s monotonous question and answer sessions could be construed as dreary. Here’s a summation of the typical questions: “President Trump, expert X in country Y said mobilizing the health forces 2.7 days earlier would’ve saved thousands of lives in nation Z. With projections of the apex of the curve arriving very soon, it means your government has much to answer for. Isn’t that right?” Or, “Consistently naming the coronavirus the ‘Wuhan virus’ or ‘Chinese virus’ is racist. Don’t you care about what Chinese people think?”

“What about Governor Cuomo’s claim that the federal government isn’t moving fast enough to help his state. Why are you sending ventilators to North Dakota when Gotham City needs them now? And a related question, why the heck are you allowing governors and mayors to make their own decisions when you should act more like our constant false depictions of your leadership style and just take over the whole world?” (Translation: Don’t you know how dumb Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is?)

Finally, a comment. “Why are you advocating doctors try experimental and unproven drugs when there’s a smidgen of a chance it might accelerate the patient’s sickness?”

Biden is apart from all of this, of course, so it’s very questionable as to how his poll numbers remain steady when practically every media appearance he makes is a gaffe-filled brain frozen disaster. There are people out there who wouldn’t gravitate to Trump no matter how effective and capable he presents himself, but come on, Grampa Joe is doddering on the edge of senility, isn’t he?

To his credit, Obama’s veep did call Trump on Monday to shed light on the previous administration’s efforts to battle the Swine Flu in 2009 (and Ebola from 2014-2016), but one can only speculate whether Joe’s recollection of events eleven years ago is any better than his ability to get facts straight in his contemporary campaign appearances.

If you were on a phone call with Joe, wouldn’t you question everything he says? For all he accurately remembers -- or lies about -- he might tell you he was there with mission control during the Apollo moon landings, or that he was sitting right next to Ronald Reagan feeding him quotes during The Gipper’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech. Joe possesses an uncanny talent for inflating his own role in everything, doesn’t he? Biden didn’t even have to be there in order to relay his own particular (distorted) renditions of history.

But as York pointed out in his piece, despite Biden’s relatively strong poll numbers vis-à-vis Trump now, he's still not as well placed as Crooked Hillary was at this point in 2016. Why? The Washington Examiner writer offered his theories, but it likely boils down to a good old-fashioned credibility gap. Add the fact that America has put its political focus to the side until they’re allowed to come out of their houses, and opinion surveys don’t mean squat at the moment.

For better or worse, Biden’s being deprived of one of the most valuable assets of every successful party presidential candidate -- the chance to win the nomination through the nationwide nominating process. Like the empty golf holes at Augusta national this weekend, the airwaves are devoid of vote totals, pundit pontifications and victory speeches that accompany each weekly triumph by the frontrunner. Poor Joe isn’t even earning the gratification of humiliating Bernie Sanders every so often.

Assuming the canceled or postponed state primaries resume at a later date, no one will be paying attention since the punditry (and let’s be honest, the delegate numbers and vote totals themselves) has already declared Biden the winner. Hillary may not have been the best campaigner in the world but at least she got on TV and could make her pitch to the party faithful. In contrast, now the news outlets only feature people talking about coronavirus, hospital beds and… death.

Some speculate Biden is actually benefitting from his time away from the fray, but how can that be? Americans don’t have the longest of attention spans as it is -- and it’s safe to say many won’t be nearly as focused on politics as they otherwise would when COVID-19 exits the national consciousness.

By then, Grampa Joe will almost seem like a stranger, and you can bet he’ll be hard pressed to ramp up enthusiasm for a potential Biden presidency in the coming months. If the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise -- but hospitalizations and deaths remain much lower than projections -- Trump will benefit handsomely from the public’s gratitude. If Democrats can’t pin tens of thousands of deaths on Trump, what will they talk about in reference to the once-in-a-century pandemic? That Trump didn’t act quickly enough?

Hillary probably would’ve been a better bet for Democrats this year than Sleepy Joe. At least she’s got (or has the appearance of) credibility on the healthcare issue. Time will tell.

For now, with the COVID-19 numbers escalating but much below the doomsday forecasts of the “experts,” some are calling to remember the forgotten people in this crisis. Andrew Mark Miller reported at The Washington Examiner, “Fox News host Tucker Carlson questioned the logic behind a prolonged national shutdown during a Monday night monologue...

“Carlson said that the country has decided that ‘offices are somehow more dangerous than supermarkets,’ and the result is 17 million unemployed people in the United States.

“’A year from now, we should think about this. How will we feel about all this, about our decisions in the face of this pandemic?’ Tucker asked his audience. ‘For most people, going to work cannot be more dangerous than buying produce at Safeway twice a week. And if it is more dangerous, tell us how it’s more dangerous, and be specific when you describe that. Otherwise, it’s time to start caring about the entire population. Healthy people are suffering badly too.’”

As usual, Carlson asks some poignant questions. We’re essentially receiving only one side of the story, the tales of people who contracted the virus and were hospitalized or died. The less headlining struggles of the recovered -- or those who never contracted the virus in the first place -- aren’t being afforded sufficient notoriety.

What will we think at Masters time in 2021? Will we remember these days only for being bored and deprived, or be grateful for the chance to gain perspective?

Each spring, the Lenten season and Easter are times to reflect and self-assess our lives and to offer thanks for Jesus’s sacrifice and for God’s gift of eternal life. This year will be particularly meaningful for many, remembering what we’ve given up or lost, but also the multitude of good things that still lie ahead.

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