Thanksgiving could be a coronavirus disaster for the US as Americans pack airports and seek a comforting family tradition

No matter what metric you use to measure it, the US is being swallowed by another wave, comparable in size and shape to the initial COVID-19 tsunami that caught the country off-guard.

The case count is up to 12.7 million, on the cusp of averaging 200,000 per day. The average daily death toll is higher than 1,500.

Hospitals are at full capacity. Medical staff are overworked. Protective equipment is running low.

States are tightening restrictions again, relying on the same mechanisms they have, on and off, for nine months.

The media’s gaze is shifting away from an election that won’t seem to end, writing headlines that rely on the same frantic messaging we’ve seen since March.

The country is reverting to familiar motions — the same ones that completely upended daily life without stopping a quarter of a million people from dying.

And now, suddenly, Thanksgiving is here to do what holidays do best, which is invite one to break routine through the comfort of a ritual.

The problem is that gathering is central to Thanksgiving tradition

Of all the holidays on the US calendar, Thanksgiving and its premise are proving the most resistant to pandemic compromises.

Easter’s brunches could be cancelled for the sake of what felt like a temporary crisis.

Independence Day’s barbecues could be shrunk, spaced out, shared by neighbours rather than out-of-state guests.

Many states cancelled their usual fireworks displays and closed down beaches to prevent large crowds gathering in public on Independence Day.(Reuters: Carlos Barria)

Halloween could be celebrated with costumes and candy, its joy spread through photos rather than physical proximity.

Something about Thanksgiving has always been stubbornly more social and solemn than other holidays.

Perched on the edge of winter, it’s a time to reflect, take stock, prepare for the season ahead.

Nurse Kate Knepprath dons PPE as she prepares to enter the room of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient.
This week the US recorded the highest one-day coronavirus death toll the country has reported since early May.(Reuters: Daniel Acker)

And as a precious public holiday, it’s a break from school or work for most Americans.

More than anything, Thanksgiving is about gathering, in person, in the warmth of a home, with real or symbolic family, to do a thing you can’t possibly do while wearing a mask.

The running joke of it all is how many people at the table don’t even like the food.


The holiday will be one of the country’s biggest tests yet

After nine months of pandemic life, we’ve been conditioned to making difficult decisions about when to compromise or cancel the events that promise normalcy.

We tend only to hear about the Americans who make those decisions loudly (like the armed anti-lockdown protesters), or making the decisions poorly (like the 62 wedding-goers in Maine who spread at least 178 cases).

What we’re about to see take place is what happens when an entire country’s worth of people, with a range of beliefs, have to decide at the same time.

The Centers for Disease Control has bluntly asked Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving, while the nation’s top disease expert, Anthony Fauci, asked Americans to keep their gatherings as small as possible.

The president-elect and the sitting President doled out conflicting messages.

Joe Biden delivered remarks on the eve of the holiday to urge Americans to follow the experts’ advice.

A man with white hair stands a podium saying Office of the President Elect wearing a blue suit and tie.
Biden told Americans “we’re at war with a virus, not with one another” in his speech for the Thanksgiving holiday.(AP: Carolyn Kaster)

“Every decision we make matters. Every decision we make can save lives. None of these steps we’re asking people to take are political statements.

“Every one of them is based on science, real science.”

It was only the day before that Donald Trump went full steam ahead with his own presidential tradition, conducting the turkey-pardoning ceremony in the Rose Garden with plenty of guests and few masks.

He thanked healthcare workers and touted the strength of the US economy, but didn’t offer advice on how to celebrate the holiday safely.

Donald Trump and Melania Trump stand behind a turkey. Donald Trump is holding out his hand and speaking.
Donald Trump continued the annual tradition of pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey this year.(Reuters: Hannah McKay)

Americans say they plan to stay home, but the photos tell a different story

A survey commissioned by the New York Times found that only about 27 per cent of Americans said they planned to spend Thanksgiving with someone outside their household.

But it was hard to square those numbers with the images circulating on social media: flight maps bursting with bright yellow icons, terminals devoid of social distancing, lines for free testing sites twisting around city blocks.


More than 3 million Americans packed into airports this week for Thanksgiving travel.

It’s less than half of the plane traffic that transit hubs normally see, but it’s still the highest number of travellers since the country closed down in mid-March.

Another 47.8 million were expected to drive to gatherings according to a mid-October survey from the American automotive association, but that number could have dropped as warnings increased.

Figures like this caused even the New York Times to question whether the 27 per cent figure from its survey was accurate.

One theory is that those surveyed understood the risks of their behaviour enough to be dishonest about their plans, fudging the truth to save themselves from moral judgment.

It’s also possible that they took the broadest possible definition of “household,” thinking that close family and friends — regardless of where they live — are right to be an exception.

It’s this sort of exceptionalist thinking that’s marked America’s coronavirus response from the beginning.

Reconciling one’s personal desires with collective responsibility is a heavy mental load, one that’s only proved harder to carry as time drags on, cases increase and fatigue sets in.

The celebrations will be marked by compromise and difficult conversations

Thanksgiving has complicated America’s decision-making calculus by centring on the people they care about most.

Family plans aren’t made by any one individual. The conversations have a way of blowing up to be bigger than coronavirus.

Telling your parents or grandparents or aunts or uncles that you won’t come home this year is like telling them that you’re not ready for them to be gone forever.

Telling your child or grandchildren or nieces or nephews that you don’t want them to join your plans can read like a moral judgment of their behaviour.

And most conversations will involve some level of debate around the facts, which are hard to agree on in a country where trust in science is low, the media are viewed as biased and partisanship is among the top predictors of health behaviours.

For some Americans — even ones that believe fully in the science and threat of the virus — the allure of a normal holiday during a stressful year will be too strong a magnet to avoid.

But for what the surveys and articles suggest is the majority of Americans, Thanksgiving will be an extension of what they’ve been asked to do for the last nine months: compromise.

They’re slimming their guest lists, moving to virtual gatherings, opting for a picnic, dining on back patios in the cold, sitting in separate rooms, sharing food through windows, getting tested, self-quarantining, and generally charting their own course, doing whatever it takes for them to feel OK.

None of this will guarantee that Americans won’t see empty chairs at the next Thanksgiving dinner. Compromise hasn’t prevented 260,000 American deaths.

But with a vaccine on the way, it might provide a reason to dig in a little deeper, to keep fighting a little longer, to get back to a place where holiday traditions aren’t such a drastic marker of change.

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Neither harmless nor distant. How Russian state conservatism combines emancipation and tradition to undermine women’s rights and suppress sexual awareness

Many in Russia are inclined to dismiss the bluster of state conservatism as a largely meaningless sideshow. After all, the nation’s laws protecting women’s rights remain relatively liberal, and even the loudest speeches by right-wing politicians have virtually no effect on the everyday lives of the denizens inhabiting Russia’s big cities, where women are part of the workforce, where they get proper healthcare, and where the state apparently doesn’t interfere in their lives. In an article for Meduza, European University at St. Petersburg Sociology Professor of Public Health and Gender Anna Temkina explains how Russia’s “conservative turn” is in fact quite real for many women. 

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Will Trump give a concession speech or congratulate Biden? If not, he’ll break more than a century of tradition

WASHINGTON – If an election is like a war between opposing armies, then the presidential concession speech is the peace treaty.

Right now, President Donald Trump is still firing away, and he shows no sign of leaving the battlefield – let alone offering an olive branch to his rival Joe Biden, who appeared Thursday to be on the verge of clinching the 270 Electoral College votes needed to prevail in the presidential election.

Trump is not known for admitting fault or failure. And he is more prone to stoking divisions than healing them, as his Twitter feed in recent days has demonstrated.

As Biden inched closer to a win, Trump took the podium to make a series of baseless claims about election fraud and to accuse Democrats of trying to “steal” the election, while offering no evidence of illegal activity. 

Some believe that Trump will come around and make a concession speech – if only to preserve his own political standing. 

Trump would hardly be the first losing candidate to question the election results, said Scott Farris, the author of “Almost President: The Men Who Lost the Race but Changed the Nation.”

“Richard Nixon, for example, was sure he’d been cheated in 1960 against John Kennedy because of shenanigans in Texas and Illinois,” Farris said. “But … he realized that if he didn’t come across as a good loser, his future in politics was probably over.”

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden debate in September at Case Western University in Cleveland.

Trump will come to a similar conclusion, Farris added. He may also realize that if he is a sore loser, it will reflect badly on his children who seem to have their own political ambitions, he added.

“As he looks ahead, I think it’ll come to him that ‘I need to say something and be fairly a good sport about this’,” Farris said.

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If Trump refuses to deliver a public concession speech or make a congratulatory call to Biden, it would break with 124 years of American history. Experts say it would also undermine the election results and exacerbate the nation’s political tensions, already laid bare by a bitter campaign and the extended, contested vote count.

“It will be truly harmful,” said William Howell, chair of the political science department at the University of Chicago.

“Concession speeches are a kind of affirmation about the legitimacy of elections,” he said. They’re about losing candidates recognizing the outcome and calling on their followers to do the same, “which is essential for the health of our democracy,” he said.

Since 1896, every losing presidential candidate in American history has delivered a concession message, whether by telegram to the victor or via a nationally televised address to the nation.

Some have been humble and gracious, others not so much.

“A few have been petulant,” Farris said, mentioning Barry Goldwater’s 1964 concession to Lyndon Johnson and George McGovern’s 1972 concession to Richard Nixon. “Both were kind of not necessarily the most gracious of losers,” he said, adding that they had personal animosity toward the men who defeated them.

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Among the most memorable: Sen. John McCain’s concession to Barack Obama in 2008. 

“The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly. A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Sen. Barack Obama,” McCain began in remarks outside his election night headquarters in Phoenix. The crowd interrupted his speech with a loud chorus of boos, but McCain held up his hands to quiet them.

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama at a presidential debate in 2008.
Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama at a presidential debate in 2008.

“Please,” he said, before continuing to say that he’d congratulated Obama for “being elected the next president of the country that we both love.” McCain noted the historic significance of Obama’s election as the country’s first Black president, and he promised to do “all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.”

“I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president,” the late Arizona senator said.

Howell said concession speeches usually touch on key themes, including patriotism and love of country over party.

“What’s crucial is grace and a recognition of facts,” he said. Candidates almost always make a reference to the well-fought campaign battle, then give a nod to the winner’s legitimacy, Howell said.

The last incumbent president to lose a re-election bid was George H. W. Bush. Like others, he used his concession speech to urge Americans to move past the election and unite behind his opponent Bill Clinton.

“We respect the majesty of the democratic system,” Bush said. “… America must always come first, so we will get behind this new president and wish him well.”

In the traditional private note he left for Clinton, Bush was even more personal and direct: “Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.”

In her 2016 concession speech, Hillary Clinton talked about how painful the election loss was but she similarly urged her supporters to give Trump a chance. 

“I know how disappointed you feel because I feel it too,” Clinton said. But, she continued, “Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.

“Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it,” she added.

In this Nov. 8, 2000 file photo, Willie Smith holds four copies of the Chicago Sun-Times, each with a different headline, in Chicago, reflecting a night of suspense, drama and changes in following the presidential race between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
In this Nov. 8, 2000 file photo, Willie Smith holds four copies of the Chicago Sun-Times, each with a different headline, in Chicago, reflecting a night of suspense, drama and changes in following the presidential race between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

In the hotly contested 2000 election, former Vice President Al Gore famously called George W. Bush to concede the day after the election, but then quickly called back to retract it as the vote count in the all-important state of Florida see-sawed between the two men. 

Gore and Bush then each dug in for a 36-day political stalemate that ended when a U.S. Supreme Court decision halted a recount in Florida with Bush ahead by 537 votes. That made Bush the winner. 

“Just moments ago I spoke with George W. Bush and congratulated him on becoming the 43rd president of the United States. And I promised him that I wouldn’t call him back this time,” Gore said on Dec. 13 in his concession speech.

“Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it,” Gore said of the high court’s 5-4 ruling. ” … And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”

Responding to reports that Trump would not concede, Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesman, said: “The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”

Howell said he didn’t want to speculate about whether Trump will eventually give a concession speech. 

“But I think what we can say is that none of the early gestures that have come from him in the last few days suggest grace, admission, or fidelity to the facts,” he said.

Farris agreed it would a horrible blow to democracy if Trump refuses to concede and publicly recognize Biden’s win. But if Trump is reluctant, it’s no wonder, said Ferris, who had to deliver his own concession speech after losing a congressional race in Wyoming in 1998.

“America doesn’t like losers,” Farris said. And “one of the problems that we have with losing presidential candidates is that we treat them as pariahs … so they’ve struggled to find their place in American history.”

But a concession speech might appeal to Trump’s transactional instincts, in that it could buy him some goodwill, he argued. 

“I expect it to be one of the less gracious concession speeches we’ve ever heard,” Farris said. “I certainly don’t expect him to say, ‘Well, that’s the way the breaks go … It was a fair fight and c’est la vie’.” 

More: ‘Everybody in Washington is pretty shocked’: Democrats, GOP grapple with mixed emotions over election

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Will Trump concede? Concession speech history may provide insight

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No regrets on upholding tradition as VRC awaits call on owners at Cup

“It’s been there for 160 years. It’s something the calendar sort of rotates around.

“For us [tradition is] an enormously important part of the huge success and reason why we have 750 million people watching worldwide; it’s part of everybody’s calendar.”

Flemington looked a picture on Tuesday morning for its Melbourne Cup Carnival launch, a week out from the race that will start, if not a nation, then a city’s return to normality out of lockdown. Elliott said “it almost brings me to tears” that the general public will be denied access to the course.

“I have never seen it look better. Of course it’s Murphy’s law, the track and the gardens look better than they’ve ever looked,” she said.

“I’m just sad and disappointed we can’t share this in a real sense with everyone, but we’ll be sharing it in a visual sense.”

However, the club is still optimistic that up to 1000 owners could be allowed on course for each of the four days of the carnival, starting with Derby day this Saturday.

“It’s important, it’s really important [we have owners on course],” Elliott said.

“If I was lucky enough to have a horse running in Cup week, that would be the greatest thrill – and I’ve had them – just to line up. It sort of became irrelevant where they ended but just lining up during Cup week with a horse is the greatest thrill.

“The sooner [we know] the better, because the owners naturally have made alternate plans if they can’t come so the minute we hear it [we will announce it].”

Elliott said the financial hit to the race club, its suppliers and the economy, caused by COVID-19, could not be understated.


“If we just isolate Cup week alone, the financial hit to all of the businesses, that for all intents and purposes rely on these two weeks for the viability of their business, will be enormous,” she said.

“To the VRC it will be absolutely enormous; we haven’t had a customer through the door since March. For the state and the contribution to the economy of this stage, enormous. But we’re not on our own. In a relative sense everyone has suffered.

“But we are here. We are standing in the mounting yard at fabulous Flemington on the eve of the most famous sporting week in Australia and we need to be grateful for that.”

But the race shapes as one for the ages. Never have the locals boasted a crop of stayers that shape as genuine threats to the internationals, horses such as Verry Elleegant, Russian Camelot and Surprise Baby.

Elliott said the fact, however, that the likes of trainers Aidan and Joseph O’Brien have sent horses from Europe to Melbourne, spoke to the regard the Cup is held in around the world.


“I am absolutely thrilled with the strength of the race and enormously grateful for those international connections and trainers who, at their own expense, we don’t subsidise their travel, have come,” she said.

“That speaks volumes to what this means. Andreas Wohler as we speak is locked up in a hotel somewhere [in Sydney], without a key, champing at the bit. What an effort.

“Global racing events, and big ones like ours, like Ascot, like Goodwood, like the Hong Kong International, like the Breeder’s Cup, they are the future of racing. They are the things that not just people look to, non-racing people, but big commercial partners as well.”

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Central Victorian pork farmers renew century-old family butchery tradition

For Central Victorian pork producers Belinda Hagan and her husband, Jason, COVID-19 has pushed them to increase biosecurity on their farm.

Lockdowns in regional Victoria limited their movement and, with the added pressure of African swine fever on Australia’s doorstep, they wanted to gain more control of their product.

Luckily, before the global pandemic hit, plans were already in the mix to build an on-farm butchering facility at their property in Tooborac, 93 kilometres north of Melbourne.

“We wanted to have a bit more control of the whole process, improve quality, and be able to better utilise more of the animal,” Ms Hagan said.

“A lot of the shoulders were moving into the restaurants, and a lot of people were wanting roasts, but we thought what else could we do, so we started doing things like Y-bone chops.”

In the family

Jason and Belinda Hagan run McIvor Farm Foods in Tooborac, Victoria.(ABC Central Victoria: Eden Hynninen)

The on-farm butchery is a bit of a family tradition.

In 1920 — now a century ago — their ancestors did the very same thing.

“The Hagan family had the butcher shop here in Tooborac that ran from 1920 through to 1951,” Ms Hagan said.

The original butchery remains on their property, along with remnants left behind by their ancestors.

“We’ve got the invoice book that goes back, and in that we’ve got some amazing family names in the districts with Jason’s grandmother’s beautiful handwriting,” she said.

“Back then Tooborac had a bakery, a butcher, a blacksmith, and a couple of pubs,” she said.

An old photograph of three men and a horse standing outside an old blacksmith's shed in Tooborac.
Tooborac had a busy blacksmith shop.(Supplied: Tooborac: A History of the Township and District)

Horse and cart

Andrew Thompson’s family moved to Tooborac in 1907, where his family helped set up a local timber and firewood company.

Mr Thompson’s great-grandfather also gave the Hagans a horse to cart their meat around.

“It was the last horse used to carry around and deliver their meat — his name was Smokey,” Mr Thompson said.

Ms Hagan said in the 1930s and 40s, her family ran a lot of beef and sheep, but also turned to pork, and it became well known in the area for the specialty.

Two pandemics

100 year old butchery equipment hangs in a room at McIvor Farm, Tooborac
Butchery equipment from 100 years ago hangs in a room at McIvor Farm, Tooborac.(ABC Central Victoria: Eden Hynninen)

A century ago, the world was also recovering from a global pandemic — the Spanish Flu — that spread throughout the world from 1918 to 1920.

Ms Hagan said many parallels could be drawn between then and now with society and farming.

“I think people are really wanting to see local food and are finding their producers, whether they access them online, from deliveries or at farmers markets.”

She said people were also starting to revert back to old-fashioned cuts of meat again.

“We’re doing pickled pork using the scotch, which is the fillet cut coming out of the shoulder — it was very much a tradition in the Hagan family,” she said.

“Jason’s mum is very much enjoying it again, which is lovely to see.”

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AFL’s unprecedented season has torn up the rulebook. A night grand final is the latest break from tradition

One by one in this most bizarre of AFL seasons, the barriers have come down.

If staging the grand final outside of Melbourne for the first time wasn’t enough of a break from tradition, the AFL doubled down by announcing another first: this year’s decider at the Gabba would be played at night.

A possible afternoon clash with the Cox Plate on October 24 — one of the biggest events in Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival — gave the AFL the opportunity to make the move.

“Certainly, I don’t think any earlier than 5:30pm up here [6:30pm in Melbourne] and more likely later in the day,” the AFL’s chief executive Gillon McLachlan said when asked exactly what time it could be staged.

The announcement has been coming for weeks if not months, but even then, the final decision was only made this week.

“We were sort of landing this in the last 24 hours,” McLachlan said.

The timing of the Cox Plate has been a key factor in the move to hold the AFL grand final at night.(AAP: Michael Dodge)

The key word in that last sentence is “broadcasters”.

The NRL, which has always been less slavish to tradition, has staged night grand finals for almost two decades. Yes, it was brought in to appease the broadcasters, but arguably the spectacle is also greater.


Night-time is prime time and there’s no question the AFL’s broadcast partners have wanted to move the grand final for years.

Seven West’s Managing Director, James Warburton, took a break from bashing Cricket Australia last month to heap praise on the AFL and spruik the possibility of a night grand final, saying it would be ideal from an advertising perspective.

“Obviously, having a crowd would be absolutely fantastic and possibly being a prime-time grand final, if that’s the direction they would go, it would be a fantastic revenue outcome for us as well,” Warburton said.

The possibility has been discussed ad nauseum.

The sticking point has been tradition, but it’s been an odd logic.

The AFL’s marquee timeslot each round (up till this season, at least) has been Friday night.

Six of the AFL’s eight finals last season (excluding the grand final) were played at night — and one of the remaining two was a twilight fixture starting in the late afternoon.

GWS run out onto the MCG for the AFL grand final
Pre COVID-19, tradition had decreed that the AFL’s biggest game of the year was held in mid-afternoon.(ABC News: Chloe Hart)

Yet tradition has dictated the grand final has remained a day game.


Whether you’re a fan of the afternoon slot or not, the argument in favour of tradition that goes: “that’s how we’ve always done it” is about the weakest available.

Tradition dictates that the umpires bounce the ball at the start of every quarter and after every goal even though they regularly stuff it up and revert to throwing it straight up which works every time.

This year has proven that anything is possible. It turns out you don’t have to have a full fixture scheduled months in advance of the season, you can do it week to week.

If there is a possible fly in the ointment, it’s the possibility that the dewy conditions which can prevail in the humid Brisbane nights could ruin the spectacle of the game, as the ball becomes as slippery as if it were raining.

But Gillon McLachlan was relaxed about the prospect.

“Very confident about the dew and if it is [dewy], then it’ll be a game where it has dew.”

He has a point — Aussie Rules is a sport that has to roll with the conditions. After all, it can rain in Melbourne in late September.

Ground staff bring the covers on at the Gabba as rain falls in a Sheffield Shield match in October.
Followers of Queensland’s Sheffield Shield team know that the Gabba can get pretty damp in October.(AAP: Jono Searle)

The question that will hang around next year, is that now that the mould has been broken, will night grand finals become a regular fixture — even if AFL life returns to some kind of normal?

McLachlan is leaving the possibility open.

“Clearly people will have a look at it, and it won’t be so foreign I’m sure and you’ll debate it on its merits afterwards,” he said.

Asked straight out if this year would be a circuit-breaker to help push through future night grand finals, he said:

“So I think everyone can see what the game looks like at night and with the other stuff wrapped around it, and then you can make a more balanced decision next year.

In a season where everything has gone out the window, tradition has also been given the flick.

A day grand final was sacrosanct until, all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

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Radical Break From Tradition: Trump to Accept Nomination at the White House

WASHINGTON — A stage has been constructed on the South Lawn of the White House for President Trump’s nationally televised speech this week accepting the nomination for a second term. Melania Trump will speak from the Rose Garden. And even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will beam in to endorse the president from a rooftop in Jerusalem.

Their appearances at the Republican National Convention will be a radical break from tradition even for an administration that has repeatedly shattered norms. Never in recent times has a president used the majesty of the White House to stage a nominating convention, nor has a sitting secretary of state participated in such a partisan event, much less from overseas where he is ostensibly on a diplomatic mission.

The convention speeches — the president is to speak on Thursday, and the first lady and Mr. Pompeo will appear on Tuesday — are only the latest examples of how Mr. Trump has further blurred the lines between the government and his campaign as he presses the advantages of incumbency to pull off a come-from-behind victory in November. While other presidents running for a second term have mixed governing and electioneering, they generally adhered to certain boundaries between their public duties and political interests, proprieties that Mr. Trump has disregarded from the start.

The president’s critics argue that he is also using the power of his office in more substantial ways to secure a second term, like undercutting the ability of the Postal Service to process mail-in votes, sending federal agents to counter street unrest in “Democrat-run cities,” encouraging the Justice Department to prosecute his enemies and pressuring health officials to authorize treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus before the election.

“This is indicative of something much more dangerous to our democracy,” said Richard W. Painter, who served as White House ethics counsel to President George W. Bush before becoming a sharp critic of Mr. Trump. Government agencies “have been turned into arms of his political campaign.”

Mr. Pompeo’s involvement in the convention drew immediate criticism from Democrats, Republicans and career Foreign Service officers, who saw it as a breach of the nation’s top diplomat’s role representing America as a whole to the outside world — rather than promoting one party’s candidate in an election at home.

It also seemed to contradict State Department guidance saying that officials may not “speak for or against a partisan candidate” at a convention and “may not even attend a political party convention.” A cable sent in Mr. Pompeo’s name just last month repeated the warning. Even presidential appointees “may not engage in any partisan political activity in concert with a partisan campaign, political party, or partisan political group, even on personal time and outside of the federal workplace,” the cable said.

“It appears he’s either violating the rules or the administration decided the rules wouldn’t apply when they weren’t convenient,” said Nick Schwellenbach, the senior investigator at the Project On Government Oversight, a government watchdog group. “Pompeo is sacrificing the department’s diplomatic tradition on the altar of a partisan campaign.”

Daniel Fried, who spent 40 years as a career diplomat working for officials like Condoleezza Rice when she was national security adviser and later secretary of state, said he could recall no precedent for Mr. Pompeo’s appearance.

“The secretary of state should put partisanship aside when she or he takes office,” Mr. Fried said. “Condi Rice, as N.S.A. and secretary, never said or, as far as I could tell, did anything partisan. Nor did she tolerate it in others.”

The State Department said in a statement that Mr. Pompeo would be speaking “in his personal capacity” and that no department staff or resources would be used to facilitate the speech. But it did not address the wisdom or ethics of the secretary’s participation in the convention.

In Mr. Trump’s White House, there often seems to be little distinction between government and political events. His campaign music soundtrack — the Rolling Stones, Village People, Elton John, Lee Greenwood — is even played before his entrance at official appearances, like this summer’s launch of the SpaceX rocket.

After that event, in fact, the Trump campaign posted a video of the president at the launch featuring images of the astronauts and their families, and took it offline only after the wife of one of the astronauts complained. The campaign likewise fashioned an online ad within hours of Mr. Trump’s march to St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House after the police used pepper spray against peaceful protesters to clear Lafayette Square.

Official White House websites, financed by the taxpayers, are regularly used for Trump campaign-style videos. The president’s team posted an overtly political “Obamagate” video on the official White House Facebook page attacking former President Barack Obama. A video on the White House YouTube channel showing the president signing orders meant to lower drug prices includes a heroic musical score reminiscent of campaign ads.

Mr. Trump has also used the power of his office to promote private sector interests that he perceives as supportive of him and to harm companies that he views as politically hostile. He posed for pictures with Goya Foods products in the Oval Office after the company’s chief executive came under criticism for praising the president. And last week, he called on supporters to boycott Goodyear for telling employees to refrain from wearing political slogans at work, including Make America Great Again hats.

Mr. Trump’s decision to stage his acceptance speech at the White House was born in part out of necessity. After he was forced to cancel the convention in Jacksonville, Fla., because of the coronavirus pandemic, he was left with fewer options and decided on the White House, taking advantage of the grandeur of the setting.

It would not be the first time he has used the venue for clearly political events. An hourlong Rose Garden appearance in July that was billed as a news conference was essentially an extended attack on his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Still, even some Republicans found it disquieting. “What’s so hard about going to a hotel?” said former Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, the onetime head of the House Ethics Committee and a Republican supporting Mr. Biden. “Just another norm out the window.”

When Republicans who otherwise support the president raised concerns, like Senator John Thune of South Dakota, an irritated Mr. Trump shot them down. “John Thune did? The Republican John Thune?” he said when a reporter told him that the senator suggested a convention staged at the White House may violate ethics laws. Mr. Trump argued that it would in fact be simpler and less costly because the building is already secured.

Other presidents have used the White House for political activity. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan both announced their re-election bids from the Executive Mansion, and Bill Clinton hosted coffees there for prominent donors, and he let some stay overnight in the Lincoln Bedroom. Mr. Obama filmed campaign ads in the West Wing.

But in staging parts of his convention from the White House, Mr. Trump is taking it even further. Tim Murtaugh, the president’s campaign spokesman, brushed aside questions about the use of the Executive Mansion, saying Mr. Trump’s opponents were just looking for something to criticize.

“Democrats and the media don’t want the president holding rallies, they don’t want him holding news conferences, they don’t want him speaking at Mount Rushmore, and they don’t want him speaking at the White House,” Mr. Murtaugh said. “They want to keep him from speaking entirely because their own candidate, Joe Biden, is locked away in his basement by his handlers because he can’t be trusted when he opens his mouth.”

Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said the White House would be careful to abide by the Hatch Act, which generally bars government employees from participating in partisan activities, although it does not apply to the president himself.

“R.N.C. convention events will be planned and executed, at whatever the venue, by the Trump campaign and R.N.C.,” he said of the Republican National Committee. “Any government employees who may participate will do so in compliance with the Hatch Act.”

The White House has ignored past findings of Hatch Act violations by the Office of Special Counsel, a small independent agency charged with enforcing the law. The office found last year that Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor, was a “repeat offender” and should be fired, a recommendation that Mr. Trump disregarded. Ms. Conway dismissed such complaints as “blah, blah, blah” and as an attempt “to silence me.” (Ms. Conway said Sunday night she would step down at the end of the month for unrelated family reasons.)

Mr. Pompeo’s decision to speak at the convention reflects his own political ambitions as a former congressman thought to have an eye on the White House himself. And doing it from Jerusalem, with the historic Old City in the backdrop, will remind voters of Mr. Trump’s support for Israel, including decisions to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize Israel’s authority over the Golan Heights.

But it flies in the face of longstanding department guidelines. Just last February, Stephen E. Biegun, the deputy secretary of state, noted that “the Department has more far-reaching restrictions” than the Hatch Act to remain nonpartisan. “As a Senate confirmed Department official,” he wrote in an email to department employees, “I will be sitting on the sidelines of the political process this year and will not be attending any political events, to include the national conventions.”

Mr. Painter said he believed Mr. Pompeo’s speech would violate the Hatch Act and vowed to file a complaint. “He is on a diplomatic mission and cannot legally use that to endorse the president’s political campaign,” he said.

John B. Bellinger III, who served as the top State Department lawyer under Ms. Rice, said legal or not, he would have warned the secretary against it. “I can’t think of a recent precedent, and I absolutely would have discouraged it, even if it may be permissible under the Hatch Act,” he said. “Secretaries of state have historically stayed out of partisan politics.”

Jonathan Martin, Pranshu Verma and Lara Jakes contributed reporting.

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Tradition, not V’landys, a focus for incoming VRC boss Steve Rosich


V’landys has been critical of the VRC in recent years, accusing the club of putting itself before the good of the racing industry, in particular its reluctance to move from the first week of November and its decision to break away from Channel Seven and sign a separate deal with Channel 10 for its Melbourne Cup Carnival rights.

While Rosich, at the moment an outsider, didn’t reveal his perception of V’landys, he said he had plenty of experience working in a competitive, two-club AFL town in Perth.

“I think the VRC has got a really good track record of putting the national interests the top of the list, so that’ll certainly be my aim, to not only look after the VRC’s interest but ensure that working with the management team and board that they fit in with the national interests of the sport,” he said.

“But I come from an AFL environment where it’s very competitive so a competitive landscape is something I’m used to.”

While Rosich says he wants to innovate and take racing at Victoria’s premier racetrack to the next level, heritage and tradition will be a key focus when he becomes the 13th CEO in the club’s 156-year history.

“The overriding tenet of the club is its tradition and that will be first and foremost a focus for me and the team going forward,” Rosich said.

Vow And Declare won a thrilling finish to take out the Melbourne Cup.

Vow And Declare won a thrilling finish to take out the Melbourne Cup.Credit:Getty Images

“There’s many strengths which go back to its history, brand and reputation so we’re looking forward to making sure that with our team we continue to ensure their strengths for many years into the future.

“It’s how do we maintain the heritage and significance of being the premier racing product in this country and one of the best in the world and into the future continue to innovate to make sure it’s relevant and even more successful in the future.”

The VRC was headstrong in not moving the Melbourne Cup carnival from the first week of November this year, which led to Racing Victoria knocking back a Melbourne Racing Club proposal to revamp the upcoming spring carnival to avoid a clash with AFL finals.

Rosich said, as an outsider looking in, he too would have supported the club’s decision to keep its feature race week in November.

“It will be good for me to get other peoples’ view on that,” he said.

“As someone who hasn’t started in the organisation and is looking from the outside, I’m not sure I see a reason to change.

“It was obviously quite a considered process the VRC went through to form their view. It’s great to see tradition has been maintained even in this challenging year. In terms of the Lexus Melbourne Cup, to still hold it on the first Tuesday of November this year I think is a great thing.”


Rosich, who had been in conversations with chairman Amanda Elliott for four years about one day working at the club, believed he would have the rein to both uphold tradition and innovate at the VRC.

“I think you can do both,” he said.

“In terms of new opportunities and meeting the challenges, I’ve been afforded a great opportunity.

“I’m someone with plenty of energy and I’ve got the opportunity to look at it with fresh eyes and perspective; it’s really exciting.”

Rosich and his family will make their move from Perth in early August.

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