Debra Saunders: No Way to Treat a First Lady
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Debra Saunders: No Way to Treat a First Lady

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WASHINGTON — After all the lectures from the superior folks on the left about the, well, “deplorable” tone of the Trump base, it has come to this: Tuesday morning, middle and high school students booed first lady Melania Trump as she spoke at the B’More Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness.

Rather than use the cringe-inducing incident as a teachable moment about civility, which is a focus of the first lady’s “Be Best” anti-drug, anti-bullying campaign, progressive pundits applauded the teens’ nasty tantrum.

April Ryan of Urban Radio tweeted, “Your husband can’t disrespect #Baltimore & its late, great leader Rep. Elijah Cummings & then @FLOTUS thinks it’s going to be all love. In order to show others how to #BeBest, Melania Trump has to convince @realDonaldTrump.”

Tweeps typed out a new hashtag #Melaniabooed so they could share their glee at attempts to humiliate the first lady.

Progressive activist Ryan Knight crowed, “@FLOTUS is not a victim. She got booed because she sat back in silence as her husband has betrayed our country, our constitution, and our values. She’s earned every single one of these boos. HER SILENCE IS COMPLICITY.”

Actor Mark Hamill came out with what he clearly considered a clever retake on the first lady’s anti-bullying and anti-drug “Be Best” efforts. “#Boobest,” tweeted Hamill. (Alas, young Skywalker has gone to the dark side.)

“In my years covering her, this was the first booing of @FLOTUS by a crowd at one of her solo events,” said CNN’s Kate Bennett, who was with the pool that covered the event.

The president’s family members are civilians. Unless they make overtly partisan statements, they should be off-limits from the commander in chief’s constant critics, who never sleep.

Melania Trump’s “Be Best” campaign, to my mind, is the first lady’s unique way of standing up to her husband’s bullying ways. Her signature issue is an unapologetic call for more civility and less self-destruction — and that is driving progressive furies insane.

She got booed, not for scolding kids on drug use, but for telling those struggling with addiction to “reach out for support.” And assuring them, “It is never too late to ask for help.”

If teens did the same to former first lady Michelle Obama, their behavior would be called hate speech. And rightly so. Cable news anchors would share their horror at such incivility, because that’s no way to treat a first lady.

From what I’ve seen — and I’ve looked — coverage about the Baltimore teens’ be-worst behavior was scant and light on lectures. For once, cable viewers could watch and wonder, “Where’s the outrage?”

Their hatred toward Melania Trump is so out of control that, the day before — when President Donald Trump brought Conan, the military attack dog wounded in the fatal raid that killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, into the Rose Garden — CNN contributor Joan Walsh tweeted that it was “terrifying” Trump and the first lady moved away from the canine warrior.

How dare Melania Trump not stick her head into Conan’s mouth? For folks such as Walsh, it’s not enough to hate Trump. You have to hate his whole family. (In what felt like a return to the 1960s, Walsh also criticized the first lady’s coat as “slightly macabre.”)

The left sets up a series of rules for how you have to treat their icons — with kid gloves. Victims who made anonymous accusations didn’t want to come forward with their decades-old charges, so even the accused should be gentle. The public doesn’t have a right to know the whistleblower’s identity because of the courage it took to come forward.

Melania Trump gets no such breaks.

The first lady reacted with more style than those who jeered her. In a statement after the event, she concentrated on the focus of her remarks, not the bellowing that greeted her good intentions.

“We live in a democracy and everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” she tweeted, “but the fact is we have a serious crisis in our country and I remain committed to educating children on the dangers and deadly consequences of drug abuse.”

At least in this story, there is one woman who knows how to be best.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.


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A small outbreak of coronavirus at a Fry Foods plant in Weiser gives a prime example of the importance of testing for COVID-19. More than that, it represents a warning shot across the bow of potential pitfalls if we don’t reopen our economy the right way.

As we tiptoe through Stage 2 of Gov. Brad Little’s phased reopening plan and approach a more robust Stage 3, it’s going to become even more important that we take the necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks.

And there will be future outbreaks.

The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.


That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.


No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

Idaho has a lot to be optimistic about, and we have a golden opportunity to lead the nation in reopening our economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We have had relatively few cases (around 2,300) and few deaths (77). Our early efforts to shut down parts of our social interactions and Little’s quick call to issue a statewide stay-home order clearly have paid off. Idahoans’ adherence to the stay-home order has helped to flatten the curve and control the number of new cases. Residents and businesses, alike, have done their part to make this happen.

Our hope is that Idaho can chug along through the stages of reopening. Our fear is that if we don’t do this the right way, we’ll have a surge and we’ll be back to a statewide stay-home order. Nobody wants that.

Idaho’s structure of electing governors and LG’s completely separately — different from many states which bind them together — allows for the office holders to come from different points of view.

For future historians and artists who'll chronicle today's health and economic crisis, one humble item will stand out as the chief cultural emblem of the times: wearing a mask. Or not.

Imagine if you killed somebody on your job, and all you got that day was fired. You go into work the next day, return the keycard you swipe every morning when you get on the elevator, pack the things from your desk, toss out whatever food you have in the pantry refrigerator and say goodbye to your co-workers before two security guards escort you out of the building. And, let's just say this ...

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