Power Grid: Roseanne, Laura Ingraham, Bill de Blasio, David Shulkin and More

Who's up and who's down in politics, money, global affairs and culture this week.
By Allen McDuffee
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Several stories dominated this week’s Power Grid, including how the Parkland students deflected criticism, Roseanne’s television coup, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vacancy fee idea and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad caught flat-footed.

Here’s who won and lost the week in power…


Up: Parkland Students
It doesn’t matter if Laura Ingraham mocks them. It doesn’t matter if Ted Nugent calls them “mushy brained students.” It doesn’t matter if Frank Stallone encouraged other students to “sucker punch” David Hogg. The Parkland students continue to show that they will continue to be the adults in the room. Oddly, their famous (and not so famous) detractors don’t seem to understand that cheap, petty shots are delivering those who are on the fence to the Parkland generation in droves.

Down: David Shulkin
David Shulkin, removed days ago as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, said political appointees engineered his ouster as they push for “more aggressive” changes to the care for veterans—namely, a forceful attempt to privatize veteran care. On Sunday, he said, “There would be no reason for me to resign. I made a commitment, I took an oath, and I was here to fight for our veterans.” Shulkin said that White House chief of staff called him to expect to be fired by Twitter and that’s exactly what happened. One problem: a firing may hamper the Trump administration’s ability to make an unfettered appointment.


Up: Bill de Blasio
With blighted retail corridors throughout New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been under some pressure to force landlords who are keeping rents artificially high to change their ways. On Friday, he made it clearer what that something is: “I am very interested in fighting for a vacancy fee or a vacancy tax that would penalize landlords who leave their storefronts vacant for long periods of time in neighborhoods because they are looking for some top-dollar rent but they blight neighborhoods by doing it.” Although it’s only in the planning stages, it’s the first step toward making sure every block in the city isn’t filled with Duane Reades and Chase Banks.

Down: Laura Ingraham
On Wednesday, Fox News host Laura Ingraham mocked Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg for his comments about his college rejection letters. “David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it,” Ingraham tweeted. Not only was it in poor taste to go after one of the most visible students of the movement, it turned out to be a bad business decision, too, after Hogg harnessed his 700,000 Twitter followers to contact the companies who sponsor “The Ingraham Angle.” But it was only after more than a dozen companies dropped their sponsorship that Ingraham issued a what appeared to be the most cynical of apologies. She’s taking a week off.

Global Affairs

Up: Xi Jinping
When President Donald Trump rushed to include himself in a planned summit between North and South Korea, many wondered where that left China. Wonder no more: North Korea’s enigmatic leader, Kim Jong-un, made a surprise visit to Beijing to meet with President Xi Jinping. Not only was it important for strategizing ahead of the summit, but it was also Kim’s first trip outside North Korea since taking power in 2011 and his first meeting with another head of state, showing where his loyalties are and how hard the U.S. will have to work.

Down: Bashar al-Assad
President Trump on Friday froze $200 million in aid allocated for Syria—funding that was announced by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in February. The money was intended to help fight ISIS, but Trump also said the U.S. would end its military presence in Syria “very soon” and “let the other people take care of it now.” However, “other people” translates into Russia and Iran—a move that would leave the U.S. out of the picture and Syria short on cash to fight ISIS.


Up: Roseanne
After a 20-year hiatus, Roseanne returned to ABC this week with more than 18 million people who not only watched, but tuned in in the on-demand era. The series, about the Midwest blue-collar Conner family, was a call to the nostalgic, but it was also well-timed in the Trump era. The history of the Conner family is one of struggle to make ends meet, to hold steady jobs and to provide for their children—the very faces of the struggling white working class that Trump appealed to. It was a win for the creators to show a significant portion of Trump voters in a positive light in popular culture instead of the butt of the joke or in the condescending fashion they are often portrayed. The fact that all the top cities for the reboot were in the Midwest only shows those viewers are looking for themselves on television.

Down: Rick Santorum
While most people couldn’t stop praising the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida for launching a national movement that has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum took a shot at them, saying, “How about kids instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that.” Of course, the students did take action. And, of course, CPR wouldn’t have saved those who were killed. Days later, Santorum resurfaced; he “misspoke.”

The Rundown

1. Mitch McConnell’s Trump Calculation 

Jane Mayer at The New Yorker takes a deep dive on the risk of McConnell’s refusal to restrain the chief executive of the United States. 

2. 500,000+ Zoom Accounts Are For Sale on the Dark Web

Credentials of individuals and high-profile companies like Chase have been swept up, marking a new headache for the videoconferencing giant.

3. Bernie Sanders Endorses Joe Biden

Sanders told Biden, “We need you in the White House,” during a teleconference. But how many of his supporters heard him?

4. Paul Manafort Is Seeking Prison Release Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Trump’s former campaign manager claims he is “high risk.” 

5. Joe Biden Could Get a Critical Boost From a Black VP Pick

New polling suggests Biden could garner more enthusiasm among black voters in battleground states by picking a black woman.

6. Sanofi and GSK Partner on COVID-19 Vaccine

The Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline vaccine will enter clinical trials later in 2020, but still won’t be available until late 2021.