Biden-Trump 'Debate'; Senate Majority; Quote of the Week

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Good morning. It’s Friday, March 13, 2020. Yes, Friday the 13th. I’ve never considered this an unlucky day, especially during this particular month: My mother was born on March 13. This year, I may reconsider. No March Madness? No hockey? No St. Patrick’s Day parades? Disneyland closed? The National Zoo? No church services at National Cathedral? No baseball!

In March 1935, the year my mom was born, her hometown team -- the San Francisco Seals -- was managed by the great Lefty O’Doul. The Seals’ star was another native San Franciscan, only 20 years old. “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely its lonely eyes to you.”

Friday is the day when I offer a quotation meant to be uplifting or entertaining. Under other circumstances, I would wax eloquent about San Francisco in the 1930s and Joltin’ Joe. But yesterday I promised a sequel to my musings on the deadly influenza epidemic of 1918, and I’ll rely on John M. Barry, the author of the brilliant book on that pandemic, to fulfill both obligations.

First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters, columnists, and contributors, including the following:

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Coronavirus Is Starting Gun for Biden-Trump Debates. The former vice president’s national address Thursday sounded a lot like round 1 of the 2020 faceoff for the White House, Philip Wegmann and Susan Crabtree report.

A New Threat to the Senate GOP Majority -- Joe Biden. A.B. Stoddard lays out polling data showing the presumptive nominee has drawn a broad and deep coalition that threatens Republicans’ ability to hold the upper chamber.

Is Coronavirus Trump's 9/11 and ’08 Financial Crisis Combined? Myra Adams writes that the current crisis is testing the president in unprecedented ways.

Biased Media Spin Biden’s Tirade Into Triumph. Mark Hemingway rips journalists who put a positive face on the former vice president’s invective against a gun-rights advocate.

How to Get the Stock Market Back. Amity Shlaes and Brian Wesbury outline ways to boost the eventual rebound while also addressing the nation’s long-term fiscal weaknesses.

Leonora O’Reilly: “We Need the Vote for Self-Protection.” In Part 10 of our month-long series, “A Woman Spoke Today,” a suffragist takes congressmen to task for doing a lousy job of looking out for working women.

Small Businesses Can Help Power Climate Change Fight. In RealClearEnergy, a trio of authors spotlight meetings this week between the overlooked sector and policymakers on Capitol Hill.

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Democrats and their comrades in the media may be motivated less by a love of science than by animus for Donald Trump when they keep stressing that global pandemics don’t differentiate their victims based on geography or ethnicity. But they are certainly not wrong. The president (finally) emphasized that point himself this week. Furthermore, while it’s legitimate to criticize China for not being immediately forthright about the current medical scourge, history teaches us to be circumspect when pointing fingers.

As I mentioned yesterday, the “Spanish flu” of 1918 did not originate in Spain. It almost certainly originated here in the United States, in middle America, somehow migrating from animals to humans. We’re not even sure which animals. The pigs or chickens penned on small family farms seem most likely. It could have been from birds flying overhead. But if we don’t know how or what, scholars are pretty certain they know where: Haskell County in western Kansas.

“No one knows for sure what farm, what family may have first fallen ill,” Beccy Tanner wrote in the Wichita Eagle two years ago on the 100th anniversary of the pandemic. “The community was most likely Santa Fe, now a ghost town in Haskell County.”

Ghost town seems fitting, but how did the pathogen migrate out of that remote and sparsely populated place to every corner of the globe? The answer seems like something out of a terrible human morality play -- one so grim it would take some 50 million lives: Young men answering their country’s call to arms carried the virus to Camp Funston, now Fort Riley, some 300 miles away.

In January and February, an alert local physician in Haskell took notice of a virulent new strain of the flu. His name was Loring Miner and he became alarmed that this flu was felling young, strong, and otherwise healthy people. It was, he wrote, an “influenza of the severe type,” and it was often fatal. Loring Miner may have been a country doctor, but he was well-educated and astute. He took pains to write up his findings and submit them to the U.S. Public Health Service. They weren’t published until April, however, and by then it may have been too late.

This wasn’t apparent immediately. On this date in 1918, Haskell men were reporting to duty at Camp Funston, a sprawling base housing 56,000 soldiers, with men kept in close quarters, 250 each inside tented barracks. The new influenza spread through the camp that February and March, but the epidemic waned as the weather turned warmer. “[A]s abruptly as it came, it disappeared,” John M. Barry wrote. “Men and women returned to work. Children returned to school. And the war regained its hold on people’s thoughts.”

But countless U.S. Army soldiers shipped out to France had passed through Camp Funston. In its eagerness to help America’s European allies, the Army sent men overseas who had flu-like symptoms. “Funston fed a constant stream of men to other American locations and to Europe, men whose business was killing,” John Barry noted. “They would be more proficient at it than they knew.”

The virus they took with them did not disappear. It remained, dormant for a while, before mutating in the trenches. Talk about a morality lesson: It jumped the battle lines, too. The disease that by autumn 1918 would become known as the “Spanish flu” or the “Spanish death,” was called by the German troops “Flanders fever.”

“The fact that the 1918 pandemic likely began in the United States matters because it tells investigators where to look for a new virus,” Barry wrote in 2004. “They must look everywhere.”

And that’s your quote of the week. 

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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