First, I’d like to second what Athenae said yesterday about focusing on the big picture. The real enemy is Donald Trump, not Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders; not even their more obnoxious supporters. A reminder that the Impeached Insult Comedian has been undermining our democracy and the rule of law whenever possible. Incumbents are always the issue when they run for re-election, especially in 2020. The issue is Trump, Trump, Trump.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming. The Trump regime has been trying and failing to lie its way through the COVID-19 crisis. It’s been their modus operandi since 2017, after all. They don’t know any other way to cope with a problem. They’ve been lucky so far: none of their past crises directly threatened the lives and health of the vaunted Trump base. This time is different.
The NYT’s Charles Blow nails it in a column titled You Can’t Gaslight A Virus:
Whereas his supporters can be lied to and gaslighted, a virus cannot. A virus is going to do what a virus does. Viruses are not thinking and aware. Technically, they’re not even living things. They are like an army of androids, multiplying as they attack and infect living things.
So none of the tricks that Trump has learned and deployed will work against this virus. Only science, honesty, prudence and genuine concern for public safety will work now.
President* Pennywise is still trying to use his characteristic combination of bluster, braggadocio, and bullshit. It seems that he knows more about the contagion than eminent scientists such as Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci. There was a group shot the other day of Trump with those two men; both of whom were looking down, not at the Kaiser of Chaos. I feel terrible for them and for everyone who has tried to bring expertise and common sense to bear on the problem.
In his frantic attempts to gaslight the public, Trump keeps pouring petrol on the fire. His self-appointed role as commentator-in-chief exposes his fatal inability to STFU. Trump’s motto seems to be, when in doubt babble. It’s something he has in common with Joe Biden. Team Trump is playing with fire in discussing Biden’s “cognitive decline” when their candidate is mentally ill.
The 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic established that lying one’s way through a public health crisis was the worst possible way of handling it. The Great War had put governments, including our own, in the habit of lying. In a public health crisis, the truth is the best disinfectant.
The inevitable comparisons between the COVID-19 catastrophe and the Bush administration’s inept handling of Hurricane Katrina have been drawn. Partisan politics played a role in that crisis as well: Karl Rove oversaw the White House response. He and Congressional GOPers demonized Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. Trump followed suit by calling Washington Governor Jay Inslee “a snake.” More snake oil from the liar-in-chief.
Another thing these two seemingly disparate episodes have in common is historian John Barry. He has written two books applicable by analogy: Rising Tide and The Great Influenza. On January 31, Barry wrote an op-ed for the WaPo in which he argued that the government’s efforts to contain the virus were doomed to fail. The events of the last few weeks have proven Barry right. Again.
This is a tricky time. Lives are at stake, so we wish our government’s response was honest and competent. Unfortunately, those are two qualities that the Trump regime lack. This public health crisis is shadowed by their incompetence; even the stock market gets it. It’s a pity that the White House does not.
Repeat after me: In a public health crisis, the truth is the best disinfectant.
The last word goes to Jackson Browne: