Ron Elving

It now seems apparent that COVID-19 will dominate American life for months to come, quite possibly through the national election in November.

That means the disease, and efforts to respond to it, will likewise dominate the 2020 campaign and make it largely about something it has never been about before.

That something is science.

President Trump's nightly briefings on COVID-19 this week have featured stunning pronouncements and reversals.

Take the widespread response to the president's assertion on Monday that he could reopen local businesses by fiat — even against the wishes of governors: "When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total."

That sentence looks like a true-false question on a test in constitutional law class. (Answer: False.)

Perhaps the last thing we needed in this hyperpartisan election year was another reminder of what divides us as a nation. Then the COVID-19 crisis arrived and gave us one.

The virus is affecting everyone, in one way or another, but in terms of actual sickness and death, it is disproportionately afflicting people of color. So far, at least, it is afflicting primarily those people of color who live in the most densely populated cores of our metropolitan centers.

Mention government financing public works projects and sooner or later someone's going to bring up the Works Progress Administration.

That conjures scenes from the 1930s, the breadlines and soup kitchens and the wan-faced men selling apples on the street. And also the image of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the man elected president in 1932 promising a "New Deal" to end the Great Depression.

Let us all have a moment of sympathy – and perhaps even understanding — for Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky.

Massie was the guy who caught hell from all sides Friday when he tried to force a roll call vote on the coronavirus relief bill in the House of Representatives. He said he wanted every individual member to record his or her vote on the gargantuan $2 trillion package, which he called the biggest relief bill in the history of mankind.

On March 18, in the midst of a presidential news conference on the coronavirus, Donald Trump compared himself to a "wartime president."

This president has never been shy about casting himself in heroic roles. But his attempt to adopt the military mien raised more than a few eyebrows under the circumstances.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Aside from times of genuine national crisis, it is hard to recall a week with as many events of political significance as the one we have all just witnessed.

As a kickoff for the re-election year of a president, it could scarcely have been more fraught. And as always, our perception of events was subject to our differing political perspectives.

Book-length critiques of the presidency of Donald Trump keep piling up on American reading tables, so it seems time for a one-volume wrapup on what we have learned so far.

Imagine, for a moment, a high-octane courtroom prosecutor summing up for the jury a case built on the vivid testimony of multiple eyewitnesses.

Updated at 12:25 p.m. ET

Viewers tuning in for the latest Democratic presidential candidates' debate Tuesday night may sense something missing in Des Moines.

Don't put too much stock in all those New Year's predictions you're hearing and seeing about American politics in 2020. Anyone saying they know what will happen is probably just trying to get our attention.

And probably succeeding. We've all fallen for headlines and clickbait proclaiming foreknowledge of events. We do it for sports, the stock market and just about any other outcome that cannot be foreseen.

That goes for elections — especially for elections — and particularly in a high-stakes, pivotal cycle such as we are in now.

When it was announced Wednesday night in the House of Representatives that all of the time allotted for debate on impeachment had expired, a cheer went up within the chamber. After a dozen hours of rancor and wrangling, there seemed for a moment to be an end in sight.

The spirit of that cheer was generally shared by the nation at large. But alas, that night, there would be closure only for the House and not the nation.

How big a deal was this week's House vote formalizing the ongoing impeachment inquiry against President Trump?

It could be quite a big deal indeed.

As has been noted, the vote opens the impeachment inquiry to public view and responds to complaints about its secrecy. The vote also may, in the view of legal scholars, strengthen the case for courts to enforce congressional subpoenas that have been issued — or soon will be.

President Trump will present the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor Tuesday, to a former top aide to President Ronald Reagan who has been a stalwart of the conservative movement for the past half-century.

Edwin Meese III, always known as Ed, is a native Californian and a living reminder of the time when the Republican Party counted on the Golden State as the cornerstone of its Electoral College majorities.

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