Week #169 of the Trump Era brings America to a surreal take on Charles Dickens; It was the best of plagues, it was the worst of plagues. We had the best of economies, we had the worst of economies for 98 of every 100 Americans. It was the best of us as a people, as countless ordinary Americans rose to heroically meet an unprecedented public health crisis, and the worst of us, as opportunists and demagogues misled a stricken nation, costing countless innocent lives for personal gain. It was a time of galvanizing leadership from unexpected quarters, and a monumental failure of leadership at the top, as our nation’s leader and his toxic minions scrambled to rewrite the history of their failure to act and their paralyzing incompetence when they finality realized the truth. It was a time of inspiration, innovation, resilience and courage at the bottom, and a time of desperation, misinformation, cowardice and exploitation at the top.
Week # 169 began on Friday with our President reluctantly ordering everyone in America to wear a face mask in public, except himself of course, for fear “it would make me look stupid,” blithely unaware that that ship has sailed long ago. This weak, ignorant and vain oaf attempting to appear powerful and omniscient did nothing to help America endure its worst crisis since World War 2. His every action and every word has served only to exacerbate the crisis, and he was forced into taking aggressive action only by the staggering death toll and the outraged demands of a nation in severe distress.
The Coronavirus Pandemic has already claimed 100,000 lives globally, almost 17,000 of them in the USA. The nation and our economy are on lockdown, with most Americans confined to their homes except for necessary restocking errands where we are required to wear face masks and maintain an enforced social distance. Most businesses are closed for the duration, America’s streets and sidewalks look like Ghost Towns, and severe shortages of medical supplies for treating the stricken are threatening even more lives, including the heroic caregivers and first responders on the front lines of this deadly crisis.
So, true to form, our President took to the podium for his daily press briefing and once again made matters even worse. He repeated his insane promotion of an untested drug that his own scientists say is dangerous, absolved himself from his Administration’s own public safety rules, and refused to confront the handful of States still denying reality by ordering them to join the fight by compelling them to observe the heath protocols that are the only proven defense against a disease for which there is no cure or vaccine.
Trump refused to address reports that his own administration officials listed the threat of a pandemic as an issue that greatly worried them last year, undercutting his repeated claims that he was on top of this crisis from the beginning, in spite of the 70-Day delay in a Federal response. Instead, he went to his go-to response for heading the truth off at the pass, viciously attacking reporters doing their jobs of keeping the public informed. The message he sent was clear, that the President is becoming rapidly even more unhinged than he already was, if such a thing is possible.
He continued in this vein on Saturday when he adamantly denied his oft-repeated claim that he would reopen the country by Easter Sunday, recorded a bazillion times on video tape for all to see anytime they want to do a personal fact check. Instead, Trump showed off the new word he learned from Dr. Fauci, “aspirational,” claiming his declarations that the virus would “be over by April” were meant as morale boosters to a worried nation, possibly the only person on Earth who considers lying to people undergoing a severe crisis as something worthwhile.
Indeed, even as he acknowledged that the danger was still too great to reopen the country, he proposed relaxing the Social Distancing rules to allow religious services on Easter Sunday, stating how important that celebration is to the nation’s Christians (with not a peep about Jews or this week’s still-cancelled solemn Passover gatherings), despite clinical evidence tracing many local Covid-19 outbreaks to large religious gatherings.
Trump did manage to find the time to continue his Post-Impeachment Purge of those pesky “Rule-sticklers” when he fired the Inspector General who reported his criminal phone call to Ukraine that got him impeached, then once again declared his administration’s feeble response to this deadly pandemic was (!) “as perfect as my Ukraine phone call.”
And speaking of heading the truth off at the pass, on Sunday Trump physically lunged at the podium to prevent Dr. Fauci from answering an important question, declaring “he has answered that question 15 times already!” It was an almost comical scene, but the amusement at Trump’s imbecilic antics fades swiftly when the inquiry in question addressed the false hope that Trump keeps offering by tirelessly promoting Hydroxychloroquine as the miracle cure that Dr. Fauci insists it is not. When one learns that the CEO of the manufacturer of Hydroxychloroquine is a major Trump donor and that Trump’s crony and Ukraine coconspirator Rudy Giuliani recently bought $2 million of their stock, one gets the clear picture that insider trading profiteering is the driver of the “miracle cure,” not saving lives.
On Monday we got treated to the ramblings of one Peter Navarro, the Assistant to the President who is the newly-appointed policy coordinator of the Defense Production Act, when the only thing he defended was his right to disagree with Dr. Fauci on matters of science because (!) “I’m a Social Scientist,” a title that renders his bizarre theories and observations about as useful against a deadly pandemic as those of an Aromatherapist. In other words, Trump’s kind of guy.
And speaking of fired Inspectors General with a nasty habit of telling the truth, Trump threatened the job of Christi Grimm, Acting Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, when she released a report commissioned by the Trump Administration that disagreed with the President’s lies, revealing “severe and widespread” shortages of key medical supplies in our hospitals, persistent problems and delays with testing, and an inadequate national mechanism to coordinate the distribution of crucial health assets.
Trump’s response to this official report was to deny its findings and to demand the name of the Inspector General, asking if she was “an Obama appointee” (she was not), before going off on one of his patented rants about Obama. You know, Trump’s predecessor and the man who handled 3 deadly global pandemics (Zika, Ebola and Swine Flu) in 8 years without screwing the pooch, not once closing the economy, the schools or the stores, or sending Americans into forced isolation due to ineptitude.
Yeah, that guy, the President who left Trump with a World Class 1,200-strong Pandemic Response Team and a 69-page instruction booklet outlining the official actions that need to be undertaken to avoid widespread contagion. Trump fired the entire Pandemic Response Team and closed the White House Pandemic Response Office in the first year of his presidency to save $1 billion dollars (and has now spent $2.5 trillion and lost 17,000 lives as a result of his willful negligence), and has yet to refer to the pandemic strategy book that has proven so successful.
On Tuesday, Trump fired Stephanie Grisham, his Press Secretary of only 8 months, a Press Secretary that had never addressed the press once, and replaced her with former Trump Campaign and RNC Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, a vocal virus-denier, sending the message that this Administration plans to keep up Trump’s strategy of commanding the tides while a tsunami is threatening to engulf the land.
And while he had his Inspector General firing shoes on, Trump fired the manager of the $2 trillion emergency relief fund, Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine, who was chosen by a panel of his peers to ensure accountability for the $2 trillion stimulus, reinforcing Trump’s stated intention to ignore the provisions of the law (a.k.a. committing a crime) that require strict oversight of the funds and coordination with Congress. Trump made it clear that he and fellow ethics-challenged billionaire, Secretary of The Treasury Steve Mnuchin would be the sole administrators of this fund, answerable to no one.
To be sure, a replacement appointment was made for cosmetic purposes, the presumably more malleable Sean O’Donnell, the Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency, a severely compromised agency that have proven time and again to be willing to sign off on any number of life-threatening deregulation orders from Trump.
Not satisfied with punishing American States (by literally killing their citizens by withholding medical supplies) whose Governors refuse to praise the Emperor’s new clothes, gaining control of this fund would potentially give Trump a potent weapon to use against his business rivals, and a huge potential bonanza for his own shuttered hotel empire. And speaking of shuttered hotels, many of them in Las Vegas and elsewhere are opening their doors to Covid-19 patients and being transformed into makeshift hospitals, with the exception of any Trump-owned hotels.
Lashing out must have felt so good to our MAGA Rally-deprived President, he announced his intention to withhold America’s share of funding from the World Heath Organization. In a case ripped straight from the files of No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, Trump’s blasted the W.H.O. for not warning him (they did, and in plenty of time) and for not being prepared (they were), or supportive enough of Trump himself, even though he arrogantly turned down their offer of millions of Covid-19 testing kids in January as being (!!) “unnecessary.”
One man doing incredible work on America’s behalf, the Commander of the legendary US Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. General Todd Semonite, displayed a new talent that he learned from Dr. Fauci; the ability to convey the hard truth to the American people while simultaneously avoiding getting fired by Trump, by far the most useful skill to acquire by those whose presence is making a positive difference. General Semonite and his magnificent troops have undertaken and completed a number of astonishing temporary hospital-building projects on a record scale and at record speed.
That such brilliant and dedicated people like Fauci and Semonite need to dance around an insane leader’s easily bruised ego at the most pressure-packed moments of their careers elevates them to superstar status, an incredible juggling act considering how much is already on their plates and how brilliantly they are performing.
On Wednesday, the unabated chaos in the White House was the lead story across the globe, while the man who was afraid a face mask would make him look stupid resurrected one of his most idiotic and easily disproven lies, thinking that revising the figure from 5 million down to 1 million would make it a brand new lie, when he claimed that a million people voted illegally in California in 2016. Then he revealed his real motive for attacking California (other than his usual knee-jerk reaction) when he condemned the growing movement (including a bill being considered in the Senate) for implementing nationwide voting by mail.
Trump said “I won’t have it!” in public and “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again” in private, both statements very revealing at a time when Republican legislators in Wisconsin, against their own Governor’s wishes, forced voters on Tuesday to risk their health and their lives to vote in that State’s primary after voters were refused an extension of their right to apply for mail-in ballots in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, thus adhering to the prevailing political wisdom that having a very low voter turnout is the only way Republicans can win.
The Republicans’ thinking here seems to be “what are a few hundred more deaths in a pandemic when weighed against the personal interests of the wealthy?” That answer speaks for itself when seeing images of Wisconsin voters being herded to polling stations in dangerously close proximity to one another, with few of them wearing face masks.
The turnout for a Mail-in National Election would be astonishing, with every excuse for not voting removed, except for those few people too lazy to even mail a letter. Even Trump votes by mail, and when questioned about it, provided this It’s-Good-To-Be-King reply; “Because I can.” But you can’t.
If our homebound quarantine and social distancing continues into the Fall, not even Mitch McConnell and Trump’s veto pen can stop the new realities of Post-Covid America, and the States have the power to pass and implement their own Mail-in Voting laws. There will be permanent changes to our society, changes wrought unwittingly by the man who fired the people who could have prevented all of this, Obama’s experienced and effective Pandemic Response Team.
Trump claims Mail-in Voting can only lead to widespread voter fraud, regardless of the fact that every study of Mail-In Voting has concluded that there is almost no voter fraud involved, with the sole exception being the Trump-supporting Republicans rigging a a Congressional race in North Carolina, and they were caught red-handed, arrested and the results of the election thrown out in court. Trump himself commissioned a panel charged with investigating election corruption, but it found no evidence of fraud, so he disbanded it in 2018 for failing to come up with the answer he wanted to hear.
Then Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race for the Democratic Presidential Nomination, ensuring that it will be Joe Biden that Trump faces in November, the same former Vice President that Trump tried but failed to frame for imaginary crimes in Ukraine, for which he was impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and resulted in multiple criminal cases against the President’s associates.
To close out the week with a whimper, on Thursday the Trump Administration pushed back against the major cable news networks for refusing to continue giving uninterrupted coverage to his daily press briefings because he has abandoned the original idea of making them Covid-19 specific and turned them into incoherent Mini-MAGA Rallies, thus violating television legal ethics regarding equal time to campaigning candidates.
Vice President Pence, nominally in charge of the Covid-19 Response Team, had his office inform the media that they will refuse to allow the nation’s top health officials to appear on (!) CNN if they don’t air Trump’s full briefing, the same CNN that Trump bashes mercilessly (when he doesn’t need them desperately to air his guerrilla campaigning, that is). Everyone involved realizes that the health and science experts are the only people that the public wants to hear from, waiting patiently for Mount Bullshit to stop erupting long enough for the experts to squeeze in the vital information necessary to a nation hungry for hard facts.
A group of experts Trump wants no one to hear from are those U.S. Intelligence agencies that collected raw intelligence alerting the president to a dangerous and rapidly-developing public health crisis in Wuhan, China last November, and prepared a detailed briefing for Trump stating their deep concerns in no uncertain terms. So, add another month to that 70-day delay in responding to the worst global pandemic since 1919, and the record number of cases and high death toll in the USA can be traced to that moment, and the beginning of Trump’s criminally willful negligence about Covid-17.
And so we head into Week #170 both in worse shape, and in better shape than when we entered it, with Americans States forming their own national coalitions to allocate precious health assets when and where they are needed in the absence of Federal leadership, and the nation turning to compassionate and take-charge leaders like Governors Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom and, in the most hopeful silver lining so far in this black cloud darkening America, we are as a nation once again turning to science, experience and practicality for answers, and this is the best of plagues, amid the worst of plagues.