I never thought I would say this, but I’m almost beginning to feel sorry for Donald Trump. Whatever he has said recently seems to be wrong. Earlier, he said it was the responsibility of the state governors to take control of the pandemic and the federal government was just the backup. And the governors, both Republican and Democratic, did take control of fighting the pandemic, especially after the president said, “It’s not my responsibility.” Now, the president, seemingly fearful that he might be looking weak, decided he has the authority to overrule what the states have done and open the economy, lift all the state stay-at-home orders, overrule the governors in their own states and send everyone back to work at his pleasure. This time, he said, “The president’s authority is total,” which I suspect is a large overstatement of his constitutional powers. Few leaders since the French King Louies have said, “l’etate c’est moi,” essentially “I am the state.” It is very much out of fashion. Then there was the recent two-plus-hour coronavirus briefing at the White House with a campaign video thrown in and the conclusion I came to is that Trump’s losing it. He’s the very opposite of calm and thoughtful. Actually, calm and thoughtful would serve him well, but I get the feeling he can’t stop himself. He doesn’t know how to be noncombative. He can’t stop himself from getting into battles with reporters at each briefing. Trump has changed the unspoken rules of interaction with the press. Before, the press was respectful of the presidency—asked a question and then gave the president a chance to answer. The president, in return, didn’t attack them personally, even though many of the questions were really landmines. Trump changed the rules and now he has to live with that. Today, reporters at the briefings ask a question and, before Trump can get his full answer out, they are jumping in with a follow-up question to try and trip him up. It’s equally clear that they don’t like him any more than he likes them. This battle may work for his base, but it’s really risky in a situation like the coronavirus where people are looking for some sign of hope and stability and leadership. November is getting closer and I think we’re going to see more and more of this in the coming months. It’s looking more and more like simply a plebiscite on Trump rather than a battle between Trump and Biden.

•••

The $2.2 trillion rescue bill has yet to show up in real dollars, which is really not terribly surprising. When you consider there are 11 million people unemployed already and the number is growing, you can understand that that all government offices, at every level, federal, state and local, are swamped. In the meantime, everything appears to be frozen in place. Few are paying their mortgages or rent and even though they can’t evict you or foreclose, because of the new rules, it still makes us all very uncomfortable. Most of us are very responsible people and not having current dollars to stay responsible is making some of us very crazy. Many of the banks and mortgage companies are giving a three-month moratorium on payments but it’s not clear what happens afterward. Still, it’s better than defaults and interest and fines. Unfortunately, some banks have been a disaster. We banked for years with US Bank, which was a successor bank to Santa Monica Bank. We tried to call them to see what they were doing and after two hours on the phone, our controller finally got through to hear that they weren’t going to do a damn thing, no programs, no extensions of additional credit, blah, blah, sort of like nothing had happened. As soon as this is over, we are out of there as I would suggest to anyone else who banks with them. We don’t need a bank just to keep score. Any bank can do that. We need someone who has our back in uncertain times and, in that respect, they have totally failed us, so, goodbye, US Bank. On the insurance side, there is some good news and some bad news. On the business continuation insurance, the carriers are, of course, turning everyone down, which means, “sue us if you don’t like it.” Still, the shutdown means we aren’t driving like we did before and the California insurance commissioner says the insurance companies should refund roughly two months of our premiums because of fewer accidents.

••• 

This shutdown has forced all to find alternatives for face-to-face meetings, like Zoom. I know I should have bought some stock. Still, as we all get used to it (including my wife’s 97-year-old aunt,) I think we’ll never go back completely. We’re going to see, I suspect, more people working remotely at least part of the time. The upside is less time spent on the freeways. The downside is the loss of intimacy and the casual interactions in the workplace. It also takes more planning, but we will work out the kinks in time. Today’s Malibu Times, out on the streets this week, has been put together in a half dozen different locations, so forgive us if there are some mistakes. That’s what a correction box is for.

•••

Lastly, I want to thank you all for buying subscriptions and sponsorships and making donations. This is a difficult time for all of us in the newspaper business and particularly The Malibu Times. We’ve never missed an issue since Reeves Templeman started it in 1946 and we certainly don’t intend to break that streak now. We were just recovering from the Woolsey Fire and, boom, there is another plague (which seems appropriate at Passover time). Many of you have been more than generous, even those who said they were sending money despite not agreeing with me, but that’s perfectly all right. I’ve always considered money to be neutral, not Republican money or Democratic money, just good old fashioned American green money. So, please keep it coming. Buy those subscriptions and once this pandemic has passed, we’re going to throw a big party.

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