Quote of the Week: “Possibly as many as 240,000 deaths.” ~ Dr. Anthony Fauci
Week #168 of The Trump Era opened on Friday as America was experiencing some its darkest days in our history as an unstoppable, slow-motion national disaster unfolds, the Covid-19 virus that is mathematically guaranteed to grow worse and worse in the coming weeks. It was a week that saw refrigerator trucks filled with bagged corpses lining big city streets because the morgues were overflowing.
President Trump didn’t quite see it that way yet on Friday, still contradicting his own scientists and babbling about classifying some regions of the country as “safe and open for business,” even as new cases soared nationally and fatalities began occurring every few minutes in New York City. He thought this would be a good time defend (and repeat) his threats to withhold medical help from States whose Governors were not sufficiently “nice” to him.
The President finally exercised the war powers he so grandly invoked the previous week, but dragged his feet implementing them until he finally compelled General Motors to begin manufacturing ventilators immediately, just days before their absence grows fatal to thousands. Not satisfied with having Vice President Pence between himself and blame as the Coronavirus Czar, he appointed one of his Deputy Assistants (and no one is quite sure what it is that this one does), Peter Navarro as Policy Director for the Defense Production Act, so there’s a face and name that’s not Trump attached, in case that goes horribly wrong too.
Just for shits and giggles, the White House announced cuts in healthcare aid to Yemen, a country whose land and people Trump helped Saudi Crown Prince Bone Saw devastate and whose citizens are now rendered especially vulnerable, and among Trump’s favorites to screw around: Brown-skinned people in reduced circumstances.
And speaking of heath-related money, Trump announced that he expected to have full control of allocating the $2 trillion Emergency funds, keeping Congress in the dark. That is illegal, not only according to the law he just signed and every other other US law ever enacted, but the structure of our government, so the bank teller told the man who bankrupted gambling casinos to have a seat and wait to speak to the manager, and Speaker Pelosi turned him down flat, saying the Special Oversight Committee stays, just to make sure everything stays on the level.
On Saturday Trump decided he needed to (!) quarantine the entire States of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, the hub of the American Northeast representing a quarter of the American Economy, not only an impossibility but a potential catastrophe of epic proportions, a magnitude of fuckuppery never seen before by anyone who was not juggling chainsaws and hand grenades. If that wasn’t crazy enough for a Saturday idyll, he decided to seek advice about handling the worst global pandemic in living memory from a famous ex-baseball player and his entertainer wife.
While we may or may not agree that J-Lo’s Super Bowl Halftime Show was a superbly conceived and choreographed extravaganza, or whether or not Alex Rodriguez is an insightful baseball analyst, most people seem to prefer their Presidents to have more scientists than celebrities on speed dial in the middle of a deadly national disaster. This isn’t one of those vanilla/chocolate toss-ups, or “that’s just Trump being Trump.”
Yeah, we get that, and always have. Trump being Trump is the problem. Trump being Trump was a disaster waiting to happen from Day One. Like when he defied his own Administration’s travel warnings to fly with a staff and crew numbering in the dozens in the unsocially undistant close quarters of Air Force One that very day to Norfolk, Virginia to stage a campaign event disguised as a ceremony to see off the US Navy hospital ship, the USS Comfort, before it set sail for New York City to serve as a 1,000-bed modern hospital to treat the non-Covid patients that a city of 9 million generates daily without any raging plagues.
With the entire thrust of the battle against Covid-19 boiling down to everyone being ordered to “stay home, keep away from everybody, don’t touch anything, wear PPE to go shopping or your Grandpa dies,” or words to that effect, Trump made an exception for himself, naturally, shrugging it off with “it’s such a small trip.” Sort of like saying that tear in your parachute “is such a small hole, what could happen?”
Nothing good is what. Every flight of Air Force One takes the same meticulous planning and preparation to fly across one State as it does for trips across oceans, the same number of man-hours worked by dozens of individuals working in close proximity to one another, to say nothing of similar preparations made for each of the fighter jets mobilized to protect the President’s plane. All to hold a public ceremony everyone on his staff opposed, not only as being dangerous to the heath of all involved including the President, but for sending the wrong message to American citizens locked in their homes and prohibited from attending public gatherings.
The message was loud and clear: There are rules for every American but one, and the people who get hurt when he breaks those rules are of no consequence. After all, didn’t Dr. Fauci say over 200,000 would die? Who’s to say they wouldn’t have died anyway if Trump had stayed home and missed such a valuable Photo Op?
Speaking of rules being optional for the mighty, we learned on Saturday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo celebrated St. Patrick’s Day the previous week by (!) threatening members of the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s staff members by name, and the families of these individuals assigned to a case involving possible wrongdoing by Secretary Pompeo himself. “We want to identify those responsible for this partisan investigation and their family members, who may want to travel to the United States or engage in activity that’s inconsistent with making sure we protect Americans.” Even the Mafia puts harming an enemy’s family off limits, putting Pompeo into the rarefied company of the truly sociopathic and, along with William Barr, making him among the most Trumpian of Trump officials.
On Sunday, California received 170 ventilators from the Federal Government, most of them in need of repair, and nothing at all arrived in Michigan, where Governor Gretchen “That Woman In Michigan” Whitmer was informed that (!) “vendors were being told to cut off Michigan.” Not content to antagonize 10 million Americans in Michigan, The War President then went after his front line soldiers when he accused (!) hospital personnel of selling medical supplies on the Black Market, an outrageous insult to heroic people doing impossibly demanding jobs exceptionally well.
Monday found the President aggressively not getting it again, declaring the opposite of grim reality with confidence when he said “Testing is no longer an issue” on a conference call with America’s State Governors, saying he “hasn’t heard about testing in weeks” even though almost every Governor expressed their alarm at the critical shortage of tests. After one Governor described in clear and chilling detail the life-threatening shortage of test kits in his own State, Trump replied “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.”
It was as it the Governor’s words had been delivered in a foreign language and the translator got them completely wrong.
Monday was a particularly manic day for Trump, even for him, at one point getting the population of Seoul, South Korea wrong. By 28 million people, just one breath after saying “I know South Korea better than anybody.” It was a day when he said America was going to (?) “ride this like a cowboy!” on the same afternoon that he interrupted a deadly serious discussion to protect his hair from the wind like a Cowgirl, suddenly whining “my hair is blowing around. And it’s mine!” (Now, of all times, Mr. President? Even now?)
Same day day he almost gleefully announced that Covid-19 had hit 152 countries, savoring the figure 152, like a schoolboy certain of the wrong answer to the teacher’s question. “There are 195 countries on Earth, Mr. President. The answer is 195!” is what you would have shouted at your TV if your jaw hadn’t dropped so hard it was temporarily paralyzed, and before you could recover your wits to reply, he said something even more astonishingly mad, like his creepy reflections on his own greatness, exclusively measured in TV ratings, delivered in a third person Tweet that began “President Trump is a ratings hit” and went downhill from there.
During one of the most traumatic crises in American history, with 50 State governments and a fearful and confused American public desperately looking for guidance and leadership from Washington, our President stepped into the breach and declared himself in a heated competition for (!!) TV ratings with Monday Night Football and “The Bachelor” Reality Show.
Then he questioned the need for “so many ventilators,” as if doctors were running some sort of scam to get him to buy extra life-saving hospital equipment. Then he abused the questioners of his question when he once again lashed out at reporters with vicious personal insults rather than answer their questions before stalking off in a huff.
Same guy who accused doctors of stealing the masks that save their own lives and those of their patients was now inferring they must have some kind of ulterior motive for acquiring ventilators other than their transparent excuse that Covid-19 is a respiratory illness and respirators are what hospitals use to treat respiratory conditions, but when your mind works in a devious way, everybody is working an angle, everyone had a price, and nobody does anything only because it’s the right thing to do. Trump just doesn’t get people who are on the level and is visibly uncomfortable in their presence.
And in case anyone forgot about Trump’s maniacal obsession with Barack Obama, he reversed the US governments’ largest initiative to combat Global Warming by lowering Obama’s fuel emission standards regulations. Having already shown he is willing to kill Americans today to slake his twisted ego by dragging his feet and playing politics in response to a deadly pandemic, he decided that the lives of future Americans would also be marred with suffering and preventable deaths in order to exact revenge on Obama for making him look so bad by comparison.
On Tuesday Trump finally grudgingly admitted the truth to the American people, that this really is a huge and horrible ordeal for the entire country, and that the number of deaths would be astronomical, perhaps as many as a quarter of a million. Unable to relate to such stark reality in any meaningful way, or to apply a shred of humanity or pathos to this stunning realization, he reverted to his MAGA rally sideshow barker persona and boasted he would (!) “declare victory if it’s only 100,000 deaths,” then declared that his swift action (!!) already saved 2 million lives. Please excuse us if we go a little light on the Hip-hip-hoorays.
Then he repeated his stupid lies about the miracle cure of the experimental malaria drug cocktail that killed several people the last time he opened his yap about it, blathered on about his TV Ratings again and pretty much answered the nagging question on everyone’s mind: “Is there any occasion serious enough, solemn enough or in desperate enough need of clarity and focus that Trump is not willing to render it frivolous, bizarre and all about himself?“ The answer to that one is “Hell no!”
On Wednesday, the United Nations rained on Trump’s Smiley Face Parade by declaring the Coronavirus pandemic “The greatest threat to our existence since our founding in 1948” as it struggled to respond to a truly global catastrophe. Trump took the opportunity to absolve himself from any blame for refusing to take the pandemic seriously until thousands were dead by (and what took him so long?) blaming the Democrats. Their impeachment and his subsequent Senate Trial kept him too distracted from doing any regular president stuff in January and February, stuff like listening to his own scientists sound the alarm about the imminent deadly global outbreak, keeping him so distracted that he barely had the time to attend those 9 MAGA rallies and 6 golf outings during those months.
Cruise ships were now piling up in legal limbo off our coasts, with thousands of passengers and crew on board each one, with many infected with Coronavirus on multiple ships, and mounting deaths, but the United States Coast Guard was ordered to do the exact opposite of what the United States Coast Guard always does for ships in distress – not saving them and not guiding them to safe harbor, as Trump insisted on letting each State’s government make their own life and death decisions, including a handful of States whose governors are putting millions in jeopardy by still refusing to impose any public health safeguards beyond thoughts and prayers.
Instead of addressing these critical situations, Trump decided to announce “an international drug crackdown” (the new bright shiny object), claiming his border wall (the old bright shiny object) is having “a tremendous impact” even though no one gives a rat’s ass about his dogwhistle issues or Reality Show mindset while people are dying and doctors are short of supplies and medicines to treat them.
That was also the day when threats against Dr. Fauci became a thing among extreme right wing Trump fanatics, threats that Trump glibly dismissed with “everybody loves Tony.” Except maybe the Neanderthals threatening to kill him for being a Deep State alarmist, maybe they don’t love him so much after all. Trump should have read them the riot act and put a stop to it, but it did not directly involve him, and so was not real to him and would somehow resolve itself.
And just maybe Fauci was getting a little too stale with that science and data schtick. Fauci does, after all, still have the nerve to constantly contradict Trump with his brain-busting science voodoo when the President just finished explaining the facts of life, and Fauci was the one who talked Trump out of quarantining The Evil Axis of Liberal from real Americans!
On Thursday Trump took some Me Time, using it to unwind with one of his favorite relaxation therapies, gratuitously threatening his enemies. First he warned Iran not to attack our troops in Iraq or they would suffer big explody space-rockety consequences, then sabotaging the Senate campaign of his first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, with whom he is still furious for failing to ignore any pesky laws that put a crimp in Trump’s style and to be a true fixer like his new Attorney General, Big Bad Bill Barr.
And speaking of Senate Republicans and their policy of keeping the American rank and file desperate and malleable, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican cohorts in the Senate decided to stall any further stimulus legislation designed to relieve the crushing economic pressure on average citizens until they could figure how to write misleading language into the legislation so that is does the exact opposite of what they say it will do by cruelly harming the already-suffering working stiffs, but not quite enough to fuel their rage into Bastille-storming proportions so that Congress can safely hand the vast majority of any further bailouts and tax breaks to the people and companies who don’t need them. Maintaining the lopsided income inequality of the oligarchy without getting beheaded by an enraged peasantry can be can a complex and nuanced business that is better done at one’s leisure and in the proper setting of those smoke-filled backrooms where equality and social justice go to die.
Towards that end, Trump and Secretary of State Mnuchin announced a plan to bail out America’s small businesses that are suddenly falling like dominoes, offering government-backed loans and grants to those companies with close operating margins and lack of cash reserves and credit whose closures have thrown millions out of a job with no prospects of returning to work if their employers are forced to close their doors. The policy is so carelessly worded that many gigantic corporations immediately began breaking themselves down into smaller units so that they could qualify as a bunch of small businesses and siphon off even more free Federal billions at the expense of actual small businesses and their workers, many of them the working poor Secretary Mnuchin dismissed as (!) “underbanked.”
Still suffering Acute Adoration Withdrawal after losing access to his regular fix of MAGA rallies, Trump once again tried to turn the proceedings into a campaign speech, condemning his imaginary “Democrat witch hunts” again, claiming his now-ruined economy had been the best ever even in any possible parallel universe economy, attacking American citizens as well as members of his own government, and adding the new twist of calling for an end to every investigation into his own alleged criminal misconduct (and there are lots of them, lest we forget) as being “counterproductive to the effort to battle coronavirus.”
Benedict Arnold also considered those pesky investigations into his own activities as being terribly counterproductive to the ongoing crisis of the America Revolution, which didn’t stop George Washington from sending troops to arrest his ass before he narrowly escaped to asylum in Britain.
To be clear, the President did not seek to limit his own activities that have no direct bearing on the health crisis (after all, normal events have not ceased because of the pandemic), only those of Congress and the Department of Justice that might adversely impact the President’s TV Ratings and his chances of getting reelected. Preserving these twin pillars of the Republic are worth disseminating any amount of misleading information resulting in any number of avoidable American deaths, sacrifices this President is bygod more than willing to make!
Saner and more responsible parties took over the cruise ship crisis on Thursday as passengers were airlifted to at least a land-based 14-day quarantine before returning home, with the sick being greeted by hazmat-suited medical personnel and immediately hospitalized. Some of them have endured almost a Gilligan’s Island-length voyage, stranded at sea for months, their lives, families and jobs on hold, if not in jeopardy, in the face of bureaucratic deflection and outright hostility from the President.
Canada sent their own planes to airlift their citizens home from Florida, and who knows where they will dock all these gigantic floating theme parks. Perhaps after a fumigation, more than a few of them have a bright future as makeshift hospitals, transformed in matter of days by the astonishingly effective Army Corps of Engineers, who converted a convention center in Manhattan into a 2,500-bed Covid-19 hospital with blinding speed.
The good news here is of course that there are still extraordinary, dedicated and resourceful people working for our various government agencies and private hospitals who are in the right jobs, in the right places, at the right time, and for all the right reasons, people who can move mountains to help their stricken brothers and sisters while putting their own lives on the line in the process. That we are are still producing and training such magnificent people is an encouraging source of pride, and that some of them are losing their lives to save others is both heartbreaking and inspiring.
And finally, speaking of sacrifices made unnecessarily by the wrong people, Trump ended Week #168 by sacrificing the career and the good name of the Captain of the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Teddy Roosevelt, for the crime of defending the men and women under his command, pretty much the job description of a ship’s captain. It seems the Teddy Roosevelt became a floating hotspot for Covid-19 cases, numbering in the hundreds, and Captain Bret Crozier sought direction from his superiors and permission to bring his ship into port to treat his stricken sailors, permission that was denied in order to avoid (!) making the President look bad (as if he needs a bit of help in that department), giving civilians and members of our military an opportunity for spiritual bonding as experienced only by being fellow expendable outcasts from society.
After being summarily relieved if his command, the assembled sailors on the deck of the Teddy Roosevelt gave the departing Captain Crozier a rock star’s standing ovation and chanted his name until his helicopter flew out of sight, a display of affection and respect this President will never experience.
We are now heading for the worst, and most deadly period of the Covid-19 Pandemic, with no central plan in place save for the whims and temper tantrums of an incompetent madman. While we Americans take pride in our ability to come together to meet any crisis, none of us needed the added degree of difficulty added by our own President every single day. Sure we love a challenge, but adding the ridiculous to the genuinely tragic is getting on our nerves, and this country has just about had it with Trump’s bullshit.