Biden Urges Mandatory Masks, and Trump Pushes Birtherism

Joe Biden called for mask mandates, and President Trump tried to revive the racist “birther” conspiracy against Kamala Harris. It’s Friday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

  • Joe Biden called for nationwide mask mandates for at least the next three months to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Polls show that most Americans support mask mandates, but President Trump has resisted them and has rarely worn a mask himself.

  • “It’s not about your rights,” Biden said during an appearance in Wilmington, Del. “It’s about your responsibilities as an American.”

  • Appearing alongside him, Kamala Harris questioned the Trump administration’s push to develop a vaccine, saying that what mattered was how quickly it would be available to the public.

  • “I think it’s important that the American people, looking at the election coming up, ask the current occupant of the White House: When am I going to get vaccinated?” she said.

  • It took Trump just over 48 hours after Harris had joined the Democratic ticket to revive the racist “birther” conspiracy theory he promoted against President Barack Obama and direct it at her.

  • Speaking to reporters yesterday, Trump falsely suggested that Harris, who was born in California and is eligible for the vice presidency or presidency, was not eligible because her parents were immigrants. “I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” he said.

  • “I have no idea if that’s right,” he added. “I would have thought, I would have assumed, that the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president.”

  • The president was repeating a theory that has spread rapidly among his followers and that constitutional scholars called false and irresponsible.

  • Also yesterday, Trump said he planned to deliver his Republican National Convention speech from the White House lawn, a move that raised legal questions over the use of federal property for a campaign event.

  • Trump promised unemployed Americans $400 a week in federal aid, but it will probably be less than that, and it’s unclear when it will actually arrive.

  • Trump, who opposes more funding for the U.S. Postal Service, acknowledged that widespread mail-in voting would be impossible without it before walking back his comments. He has repeatedly and falsely claimed that mail-in voting would lead to widespread fraud.

  • Democrats have been pushing for more money for the Postal Service, which has been sputtering since Trump put one of his campaign donors, Louis DeJoy, in charge.

Credit...Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Speaking in Wilmington, Del., yesterday after meeting with public health experts about the coronavirus, Harris said: “There may be some grand gestures offered by the current president about a vaccine. But it really doesn’t matter until you can answer the question: When am I going to get vaccinated?”

If Joe Biden is elected president, Kamala Harris’s rise will leave an opening in January for her seat in the Senate representing California. That pick will be made by Gov. Gavin Newsom, and it stands to be consequential for both the sprawling state and the nation.

Asked by a reporter on Wednesday whether would-be candidates had been pitching themselves for the job, Newsom paused for a rueful chuckle.

“You may be the only one who hasn’t, unless you just did — and that is only a slight exaggeration,” he said.

Political strategists say the choice will be tricky for Newsom, a white man who would be replacing a female senator who is Black and of Indian and Jamaican descent in a heavily Democratic state with no ethnic majority and innumerable factions.

A generational changing of California’s political guard has produced a deep bench of Democratic leaders with high profiles, robust egos and powerful statewide interests behind them, from big business to public employee unions. Newsom would have no shortage of names to choose from. Almost two dozen were being floated around the state capital even before the announcement that Biden’s running mate would be Harris.

Among them: Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla, popular Latinos and Newsom allies who have both won statewide office, and Representatives Karen Bass of Los Angeles and Barbara Lee of Oakland, who are Black and who were both considered as potential running mates for Biden.

Also vying for a spot on the list: popular female officeholders like Representative Katie Porter of Irvine and Toni Atkins, the State Senate president; grass-roots progressives like Representative Ro Khanna of Silicon Valley, who was a national co-chairman of Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign; and chief executives of diverse cities such as Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Mayor London Breed of San Francisco, Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland and Mayor Robert Garcia of Long Beach.

In recent days, several of the possible contenders have echoed the same sentiment.

“First let’s elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” Becerra said on Thursday. “After that, there will be lots of great candidates for Governor Newsom to consider.”

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