The Issue Is: Senator Al Franken, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Carla Marinucci, and Melanie Mason

With roughly a month until election day, the last week in politics has been another like no other.

On Saturday, President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court to fill the seat left vacant by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Then, On Tuesday, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden met in Ohio for the first Presidential debate, a debate that quickly made headlines as it devolved into shouting, interruptions, and name-calling.

As if those two events weren’t enough, late Thursday night, President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and a number of White House staffers began testing positive for COVID-19. By Friday, the President was moved to Walter Reed Medical Hospital for further observation.

To break down the historic week, Elex Michaelson is joined on The Issue Is by Dr. Drew Pinsky, reporters Carla Marinucci and Melanie Mason, and former Minnesota Senator Al Franken.


The conversation began with Pinsky, who, among other duties, co-hosts FOX 11’s nightly Special Report with Michaelson.

Pinsky responded to President Trump’s surprising move to Walter Reed.

“He’s just going to be monitored very, very carefully,” Pinsky said, noting that the main thing doctors will be monitoring at this stage of the illness is oxygen saturation. “He’s going to get sick, he’s in an age group, and he’s got obesity, he’s going to get sick, but I don’t think he’s going to end up on a ventilator, and I think the aggressive measures by his physicians are going to pay off.”

Among those measures, the President’s treatment plan includes a Regeneron antibody cocktail, as well as a mix of Zinc, Vitamin D, Famotidine, and a number of other medications. Not in the President’s current treatment plan, however, is hydroxychloroquine, which the President was prone to highlight early in the pandemic.

Dr. Drew said the experimental Regeneron cocktail is an antibody directed at the coronavirus spike protein, which, if neutralized, prevents the virus from spreading.

“It’s a very good drug,  it’s looking good, if they have success with President Trump, you may see this drug used more widely,” he continued.

No two cases of coronavirus are alike, so, the President’s treatment, especially given the use of experimental drug cocktails, differs from how others have been treated. Despite that, Michaelson asked Pinsky what we can learn from other world leaders who have contracted COVID19, namely British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who, earlier this year, was hospitalized with the virus.

“They’re very similar,” Pinsky said of the two leaders, while also noting the nearly two-decade age difference. “They’re very similar in terms of their body habitus, they’re very similar in terms of their dietary discretion, Boris Johnson is a good proxy for what we’re likely to see with President Trump.” 


To break down the political ramifications of President Trump’s diagnosis, Michaelson was next joined by Politico’s Carla Marinucci and Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times.

As the election inches closer and closer, Marinucci said that since the President has contracted the virus, he essentially has to throw his entire campaign playbook out the window.

“He had campaigned around the country at those public rallies, mask-less rallies we might add, on every other issue than his handling of the pandemic,” Marinucci said. “He tried to shift the focus to the economy, to law and order, and when he did mention the pandemic, it was always an upside with regard to vaccine development.”

Marinucci added that now that he has contracted the virus, it almost ensures that public attention will shift back to his handling, his record, and his treatment of the pandemic’s seriousness.

Mason agreed, noting that now that the President is quarantined, and former Vice President Biden is out on the campaign trail, there has been a major role reversal in the waning days of the campaign, as even just days ago, the President was speaking at rallies of thousands, while Biden campaigned virtually from his Delaware basement.

“It’s a bizarre reversal of fortune,” Mason said. “And the reason why this is so volatile is because of how many things this thing touches, it’s not just the horse race of the Presidential race, we have implications for the Supreme Court nomination, we have implications for national security when it comes to continuity of government, so we’re talking about a real news tornado.”

Touching on that Supreme Court nomination, especially given the fact that two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republicans Mike Lee and Tom Tillis, have tested positive for the virus as well, Michaelson asked Mason what impact could be felt on the confirmation battle.

“I think that’s an open question. We’ve seen Senator Mitch McConnell say he doesn’t want to delay the proceedings, but the truth is we have had now several positive COVID tests come out of [Barrett’s] announcement ceremony in the Rose Garden,” Mason said. “Now there is widespread implications for the Senate, which, remember, a lot of their members are in this high-risk territory.”

The conversation wrapped up with a preview of next week’s Vice Presidential debate in Salt Lake City between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris.

Marinucci said that Harris will likely have to “walk the tightrope that women have to walk in these performances.”

“Kamala Harris has this conversational quality that many times works in her favor, but that may be too low-key, she also has that prosecutorial tone to her, that will be her challenge, to navigate those two,” Marinucci said, adding that people should also not underestimate the Vice President, as they did in 2016 against the Democrat nominee Senator Tim Kaine.

“Harris has some very high expectations going into this debate, in particular because she has done so well in debates in the past, remember one of her best debate outings was actually when she went in on her now-running mate in that first Democratic Presidential debate,” Mason responded. “But, the other thing that people have to keep in mind, is that she also turned in some not-so-great performances.”


The conversation wrapped up with former Minnesota Senator Al Franken, who during his time in office also served on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In the midst of a battle over the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who Franken questioned in 2017 during her confirmation hearing for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Franken discussed his concerns over the nomination, specifically, and leadership in Washington, as a whole.

“She’s an extreme ideologue,” Franken said, pointing to past statements that he believes indicate her aims to unravel the Affordable Care Act and criminalize the destruction of fertilized eggs.

Currently, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to convene on October 12 to begin Barrett’s confirmation hearings. This, as Republicans already seemed poised to have the votes necessary to ensure her ascension to the High Court.

With that in mind, Michaelson asked Franken what Democrats can really do to prevent it.

“There’s nothing procedurally we can do, we can make it very hard for them to do it,” Franken said. “We can make them pay a price, we can make them think twice about it by pointing out the unbelievable hypocrisy.”

Should the nomination go through, and the High Court’s ideological balance shift to the Right, Michaelson asked Franken if he agreed with many on the Left who have proposed packing the court with additional liberal Justices.

“I think we should very definitely look at that,” Franken responded. “[Republicans] will have stolen two seats.”

RELATED: Former Senator Al Franken calls out senate republicans over Amy Coney Barrett nomination

Ultimately, Franken traced the current battles surrounding the Court to 2009, and Senator Mitch McConnell’s efforts to allegedly obstruct President Obama by filibustering more executive appointees than had been filibustered in US history to that point.

“Mitch McConnell is a cynical person who only cares, seems to care, about power,” Franken said. “At a certain point, you either have to respond in kind, or just let him roll over you, and I think that it’s time we respond.”

The conversation wrapped with a bit of fun, and a game of “Personal Issues” in which the former Seantor revealed his most-cooked meal is linguine and clam sauce, his favorite Conservative is David Frum, his favorite song is “Althea” by the Grateful Dead, and his role model is former Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone.

“He said something that’s so profound, and so simple, which I really, firmly believe so much, which is ‘we all do better, when we all do better.’”


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