Craig Simpson [CC BY 2.0])">CC by 2.0

Straddling the COVID-19 Barbed Wire Fence in Kansas

Pro Tip: Don’t sit on this fence. (photo h/t to Craig Simpson [CC BY 2.0])

The Democratic governor of Kansas, Laura Kelly, has put her finger in the eye of conservatives in Kansas by issuing a state-wide stay-at-home order yesterday in the face of the growing COVID-19 epidemic. Out in the western part of the state, the wingnuts have already been saying “this is an urban problem – we’re just fine – we don’t have any Chinese people here – why did she close all our schools?” and now they’ll scream just a little harder.

Note, however, that Kelly does not have the last word on this. When she issued her initial state of emergency declaration at the end of February, it lasted for 30 days. To extend it, the GOP-dominated legislature had to consent . . . which they did, but not without a fight. From the AP’s John Hanna in Topeka:

The [KS] Senate voted 39-0 and the House 115-0 to approve a resolution to extend the state of emergency until May 1 and to allow legislative leaders to extend it further every 30 days. Kelly declared a state of emergency last week, and without the resolution, it would have expired March 27.

But the resolution also requires legislative leaders to review all of Kelly’s executive orders and allows them to overturn many of them within days. It also prohibits Kelly from having guns and ammunition seized or blocking their sale.

The unanimity of those two votes is almost unheard of these days in Topeka, and it was a sign that the GOP was willing to go along with closing the schools for the rest of the year and take other measures as the COVID-19 outbreak began to surface across the state. But they sure didn’t like it, and wanted to make damn sure that they could shut down an out of control governor (in other words, a Democrat) when they did something they considered outrageous. The guns and ammo provision is another sign of how fearful the rightwing is of folks coming for their weaponry.
That was ten days ago. As soon as Kelly’s Stay-At-Home order came out yesterday, so did the folks on the right, waving around that provision that provides for a veto those orders. Again from John Hanna:

Conservatives in the Republican-controlled Legislature said Kelly overreached this month when she ordered public schools closed for the rest of the semester and complained that the state’s economy was being damaged too much. Legislative leaders have the power to revoke her orders related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Majority Leader Dan Hawkins and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch, all Republicans, said in a joint statement that the new order “will no doubt impact our families and our businesses. As members of the Legislative Coordinating Council we have a duty to carefully assess this executive order and the reasons for it. Over the coming days we will consult with the Attorney General, health care professionals, the business community, and the state’s emergency management team to make sure we are on the right path.”

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said she was concerned about a “one size fits all” solution.

“I want to assure Kansans, particularly those in rural areas, the legislature is actively working to thoroughly review the Governor’s orders and ensure the specific needs of rural Kansans are addressed,” Wagle said in a statement.

Kansas Congressional Districts

[Note to the folks worried that the state’s economy was being damaged too much: a virus does not care.]

Speaking of those rural areas, let me direct your attention to OB-GYN Roger Marshall, who also serves as the US Representative from KS-01 (the large green area on the map to the right). Marshall is running to replace Pat Roberts in the US Senate, and he is trying to straddle a barbed wire fence on all this. He’s been loud about backing Trump’s “close the borders” stuff, but he’s still enough of a physician that he realizes that science actually matters. He doesn’t like the “big government” approach at all, but he has conspicuously not condemned Kelly for closing the schools. From an story two weeks ago in the Manhattan KS paper “The Mercury”:

Following Gov. Laura Kelly’s recent decision to close K-12 school buildings for the rest of the school year, halt mortgage foreclosures and evictions, and ban gatherings of more than 50 people, Marshall said he would rather people exercise an overabundance of caution at the moment.

“We have to assume that the virus is out in every community,” he said. “I hope there’s not, but we have to assume that. Kids and young adults, they’re super infectors so if one child has the virus, they’re going to transmit it a bunch more often than say an older person who just doesn’t have as many social contacts. Think of senior citizens, for the sake of people with illnesses.

“I hope in a couple of weeks you can say we did too much,” Marshall continued, “but I think right now, it’s so critical that this is the acceleration phase of the spread of this virus. Every virus we prevent spreading today is going to prevent dozens in the future and save many, many Kansas lives.”

Yesterday, Marshall retweeted John Hanna’s story about the Stay-At-Home order to his followers, perhaps trying to signal them that the GOP is watching this. He did not, however, attack or even question Kelly’s judgment for ordering this. To borrow from Sherlock Holmes, this is the dog that did not bark, and the silence is deafening.

And then there’s Marshall’s big opposition in the GOP primary (this was before Kelly’s order was issued yesterday):

U.S. Senate contender Kris Kobach reached for campaign gold amid the coronavirus pandemic by promising to intensify construction of a border wall to defend the country against illegal immigrants from China who may import deadly viruses.

“Over 12,000 Chinese nationals snuck across the border into the United States last year,” Kobach said in a video fundraising appeal delivered Thursday to potential voters in Kansas. “No checks. No visas. No health screening. In times of global pandemic, borders matter.”

The fence in Kansas between science and wingnuttery is made of very sharp barbed wire. Kobach is planted firmly on the Wingnuttery side of that fence, and Marshall does not want to cede all those voters to him by planting his feet firmly on the side of science. But Marshall is is going to find that straddling a barbed wire fence is not comfortable, to say the least.

The KS senate race will be very very interesting this November.


58 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    Better Marshall than Kobach. Kobach doesn’t care about people who aren’t him and his associates.

  2. bloopie2 says:

    “In times of global pandemic, borders matter.” Really? If it’s global (i.e., world wide), how can a border matter? How stupid. And a horrible human being to boot; he will definitely not make it past the pearly gates.

    • P J Evans says:

      He’s looking at a real-time demonstration of how borders don’t matter to a virus, and he still hasn’t gotten the message.

      • Peterr says:

        And that’s Marshall’s dilemma. Does he point it out in an effort to make Kobach’s stupidity evident and thus lose any chance at getting conservative GOP voters in the primary? There aren’t enough moderates in the GOP in Kansas to win the primary, so that would be the kiss of death.

        • P J Evans says:

          I’d hope the voters aren’t that stupid, but I’m sure not going to bet on it. (I still have some family in Kansas, but they’re solid GOP, because their parents and grandparents were. They haven’t noticed how far it’s moved in the last 20 or 30 years.)

        • Peterr says:

          Not all Kansas voters are that stupid – that’s why Laura Kelly beat Kobach and became governor. But among GOP primary voters . . . that’s a very different question.

  3. MB says:

    Interesting to note that Kelly defeated Kobach in the governor’s race in 2018. Now he’s running for Senate in 2020. He’s a Steven Miller-level virulently anti-immigrant guy (which is what makes him so valuable to Trump apparently, having served as head of his laughable and brief-lived Election Fraud Commission). And prior to all that he served Kansas as pro-voter-suppresion Sec’y of State, so he’s got quite the resume…

    • Peterr says:

      Don’t forget that he had a side-hustle writing anti-immigrant laws and ordinances, including Arizona’s infamous SB1070.

      My favorite part of his resume is from his attempts to defend a KS law requiring voters to prove their citizenship. It’s not just that he lost the case in federal court, but the way in which he lost it:

      U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson’s ruling against the law was widely expected, but she coupled it with pointed complaints that Kobach had failed to comply with court rules requiring disclosure of evidence to the law’s opponents in advance of the trial.

      “The disclosure violations set forth above document a pattern and practice by Defendant of flaunting disclosure and discovery rules that are designed to prevent prejudice and surprise at trial,” Robinson wrote. “The Court ruled on each disclosure issue as it arose, but given the repeated instances involved, and the fact that Defendant resisted the Court’s rulings by continuing to try to introduce such evidence after exclusion, the Court finds that further sanctions are appropriate.”

      “It is not clear to the Court whether Defendant repeatedly failed to meet his disclosure obligations intentionally or due to his unfamiliarity with the federal rules,” the judge added. “Therefore, the Court finds that an additional sanction is appropriate in the form of Continuing Legal Education. Defendant chose to represent his own office in this matter, and as such, had a duty to familiarize himself with the governing rules of procedure, and to ensure as the lead attorney on this case that his discovery obligations were satisfied despite his many duties as a busy public servant.”

      Robinson, an appointee of President George W. Bush, ordered Kobach to do an additional six hours of continuing legal education in the 2018-19 year, above and beyond the ordinary state requirements.

      The judge is basically saying “I can’t tell if you were repeatedly lying to me or you’re just incompetent, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and sentence you to Remedial CLE.”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The only tool in Trump’s toolbox is a hammer, so every problem of governance looks like a nail. But his hammer is made of foam, it’s a sales schpiel so full of lies it would frighten away P.T. Barnum.

      • Rugger9 says:

        I had noted earlier that he signs deals and does what he wants anyway, daring the other side to stop him. That’s why the hammer is there and why he doesn’t quid first for a quo pro later.

        OT, but notice that Trish Regan was fired from Faux Business last week for saying nothing really far past what Dobbs, Varney and Hannity (et al ad nauseum) had been saying about COVID-19. I’m not shedding tears but I hadn’t realized at the time that Kennedy’s show was also put on hiatus and I must wonder that the two-fer was because the ladies must remember their place.

        • Rugger9 says:

          I also don’t think either have a radio show like Ingraham does, so Faux can contain the blowback.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Donald Trump: Responding to Dr. Fauci’s prediction of possibly two hundred thousand Covid-19 deaths – It would be a victory; I’ve heard numbers as high as 2.2 million. [His staff must read this blog.]

    • P J Evans says:

      He doesn’t have a clue. That’s still a lot more deaths than necessary. (It looked like the “social distancing” among the reporters’ chairs was 6 feet – I hope they were sitting in alternate chairs.)

      • vvv says:

        I noticed before the admin people came out to speak, NPR’s camera was located behind the reporter trump so hatefully attacked (Yamiche Alcindor) who was working her cell phone; in the row ahead of her 3 reporters were sitting a [formerly] normal distance apart …

        I note that I am a Yamiche fan, but my (liberal) 23 y.o. daughter thought she was rude and grandstanding … WTF?

        • Hika says:

          Ms Alcindor is simply trying to provide some accountability by asking about some of Trump’s more egregious errors. The fact that Trump can’t handle the truth in her questions is his problem. Unfortunately, his inability to grasp the truth is everyone’s problem now.

        • FL Resistor says:

          Willful ignorance in a president and a majority of his Republican enablers during a pandemic. What could go wrong, is.

    • Max404 says:

      I have never actually known a sociopath, and only read about them as I studied history. Watching one act out in the public view is … words fail.

      I believe that Trump’s latest “strategy” is actually to allow more deaths than necessary to occur, or shall we say not do all that could be done to reduce them, for the following “reason”: if the number of deaths becomes large, he can say that the “invasion” of the virus was so powerful that “nobody” could have stopped it, so don’t blame him.

      If anyone complains about his 2 months of inaction, the answer will be “we must look forward and not be Monday-morning quarterbacks” or some other stupid metaphor. If anyone observes that some countries handled things better, well, whenever has observing the rest of the world made a difference to American exceptionalists ?

      The fatalism bordering on nihilism of the brain-dead religious fundamentalists as they are led to the slaughter will never be turned towards progressive political action. Never.

        • Chaparral says:

          So sorry to hear that Vinnie. Keep yourself well my friend. We’re gonna make it to the other side.

        • Fran of the North says:


          My sincere sympathies. In times like this, we all depend upon support from our communities. You’ve been a regular here, and please know that we appreciate your contributions and mourn your loss.


  5. dakine01 says:

    Kentucky has a Dem governor (thankfully) who is also having to deal with his share of RWNJs. Fortunately the state senate & house have not gotten too far as yet in their moves to strip the governor of some of his power.

    It’s like some of these RWNJs seem to believe they will never ever lose their current levels of political power

  6. vvv says:

    Local news confirms John Prine does have C-19, 2x cancer survivor in the hospital … I mention this because, well:
    ht tps://

    and he’s local, to me, and I saw him (with Bruce “Rocket Launcher” Cockburn) in ’86 or so.

      • bmaz says:

        Prine is great. Also, if you’ve never seen Bruce Cockburn, do try. He is getting a tad long in the tooth now, but I am sure still fine. And SERIOUSLY good.

        • vvv says:

          He was the first guy I ever saw play 12-string live, and he had a 2nd guitarist who also played twelve string. All these years later (35?) I remember the huge, ringing, glorious sound (a table before the stage in the Park West) … and his passion.

        • vvv says:

          Apolojeeze – I’m afraid the Pino Grigio made me forget to break the link, and “edit” didn’t come up on the slot machine option this time

        • vvv says:

          Oh, and I played a uchoob of Bonnie Raitt doing “Angel …” tonight to remind my daughter, after I explained his somewhat odd appearance of late.

        • Fran of the North says:

          I might nominate Derek Trucks into that rarefied atmosphere. But of course he learned from the best.

        • vvv says:

          Shout out to Cooder and Landreth, as well – check out the Hiatt albums. Also, I dig Ronnie Wood, and Warren Haynes when he deigns to play it. And Chris Whitley was terrific – his brother Dan is great also, both of them on resonator in particular.

        • Fran of the North says:

          vvv: XRT was the station I cut my musical teeth with, and my dial was permanently glued to 93.1. Terri Hemmert was and is one of the best DJ’s I’ve ever heard. When I return to Chicago for visits, I tune in around Rockford, and on my way out of town I listen until it fades into static about the same location.

        • vvv says:

          Terri retired last summer.
          ht tps://

      • Fran of the North says:

        Thanks for the Goodman link. The whole song is wonderful, but the best part is his myriad vocal stylings. Tragedy to lose him so young. As to Prine, another favorite. This song literally changed the perceptions of a certain headstrong young man many years ago, and is particularly poignant in these difficult times. Don’t forget to say ‘Hello in There’ to a senior today.

        • variable accent says:

          It’s hard to overstate how great that song is and how powerful so much of Prine’s work is. Grateful I got to be here when he came along and am holding him and his family in the light right now.

        • Fran of the North says:

          Indeed. My introduction was a construction worker who played his eponymous album and I heard ‘Sam Stone’ – broke my heart, and I found it at the record store on payday. It resides in my collection to this day.

    • Raven Eye says:

      I got to see Prine live in Constitution Hall — quite a treat. And I’ve listened to him for hours flying over the Atlantic.

      When I heard him with Iris DeMent and her old-timey voice — it just seemed like a natural pairing.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Bernie Sanders, referring to America’s health insurance industry, says that, “now is not the time for greed.” LOL.

    He’s right, of course, to focus on the positive and to point out the warning in a recent study that insurers might increase rates by as much as 40%, using Covid-19 as an excuse. Your friendly Disaster Capitalists at work. But there’s no one in this administration or the GOP who would stop them from depriving millions, already demoralized by a pandemic and its fallout, from access to necessary and affordable health care. Think about that in November, when you mark your ballot.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      To correct Lil’ Lindsey, Ms. Pelosi did not say Trump was killing people. She said that people would die while he failed to act. I would say because of it. That’s already true, as it was for George W. Bush’s failure to act during and after Hurricane Katrina. It is also true regarding those who unequivocably support Donald Trump while he lies and does nothing. People like Lindsey Graham.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Lil’ Lindsey Graham had another hissy fit recently, reacting to Nancy Pelosi’s accurate comment that Trump’s action and inaction would kill people during this epidemic. “‘She’s the first politician to blame another politician for people dying,’ the senator complained.” Hsst, ppht, meowww!

    Lindsey must be coming down with something. His sense of history is bonkers, although his willingness to lie is routine. Politicians were killing people long before Shakespeare described the murder of Julius Caesar. In that, Trump is entirely unremarkable. Et tu, Lindsey?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      As was discussed yesterday on Joy Reid’s program, Trump seems to be timing his daily two minutes of hate to preempt the normal evening news hour. Can’t have local news coverage about real people around the corner interfering with Trump’s propaganda about how masterfully he’s handling a problem no one could have predicted would occur.

      • Kate Freedman says:

        I’m just waiting for his friends that own Sinclair, Max Media and Fox to complain about loss of local revenue. Local news (and election advertising) is generally where stations make their money.

        • vvv says:

          FWIW, my observation from Chicago is that they initially started ’em at various times like 3:30, 4:30 and then 5 and the main on air stations (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX and WGN here) at first let them run. Then when he was doing the pressers at 5:30 and starting at 5:45 or 6 they let it go for a week, and then all but FOX started to cut away at 6:00. Next they did one at 4:30 and it was cut away at 5:00. Today’s was announced for 4:00, I believe ,and they again started late and everybody (not sure re FOX) cut away when the OAN shill started her BS. I switched to PBS because I find the Q&A the most illuminating and, truth be told, entertaining. Seemed to me that Acosta scared him off today, such that he did a rant and immediately left.

  9. John McManus says:

    In the mid-eighties a friend asked me to play at a party. It wasn’t because I was good: the farm had no electricity and I had the only standup bass around. A couple of songs in, he sang a John Prine piece. That was it; all the audience wanted wasJohn Prine for the rest of the afternoon.

    ” send my mouth way down south and kiss my ass goodby “.

  10. BobCon says:

    Isaac Chotiner interviewed Richard Epstein, NYU law Professor and one of the top champions of right wing academic coronavirus denialism.

    It is astounding — you wish that Chotiner was just an example of typical press interviews, rather than the exception.

    Epstein represents a particular and critical piece of the right’s machinery — he is a credentialed academic who regularly appears in the NY Times and other establishment outlets, giving a sheen of legitimacy to the noxious sophistry the right relentlessly employs to serve the worst possible causes.

    Epstein originally projected a total of 500 coronavirus deaths in the US — total — while opposing emergency methods. What matters even more than the fact that he was wrong is the fact that he was an academic using his alledged authority to attack true experts at the early stages of the outbreak, a time when stronger, faster early action would have had a major effect in dampening the intensity of the outbreak.

    Right wing politicians drove the failure, but the malignant intersection between right wing academia, media and politicians provide a critical burst of oxygen to the flames when sparks come to life.

    • Peterr says:

      Going to a law professor for critical *medical* information and advice as a pandemic rages makes a lot of sense.


      Sadly, we all pay the price for those who trust him on this.

      • BobCon says:

        Everything cascades from the baseless assumption he puts out there that “you see all sorts of people putting up expertise on these subjects, but they won’t let anybody question their particular judgment.”

        He’s accusing epidemeologists of inherently bad faith behavior, and uses his untested assumption to spin off untested fantasies, all the while maintaining, ironically, that he is acting in good faith.

        It would be one thing if he was some random dude, but he has been deeply embedded in the intersection of media and academia for decades. Nutters like this being given such a privileged voice is a sign of how deep the rot goes.

    • FL Resistor says:

      Thanks for posting the link to the New Yorker interview with Epstein. Isaac Chotiner does a terrific job staying on point while Epstein unravels by the end of the interview.
      The best of the best in these days of excellent journalism.

Comments are closed.