For several years now, I’ve known, and repeatedly said, we’ve reached a point in this country wherein the chasm separating the left and the right is deep…and wide. It’s been a long time since we were this divided. So long ago, the terms left, and right were not even in vogue as the language that defined our political and ideological differences. It’s been at least half a century since the height of the Civil Rights Movement, and even longer since the Jim Crow era was pervasive, and even longer than that since lynching was the order of the day.
Despite the contentiousness that is subject to jump off at the mere mention of things political in gatherings of mixed ideological leanings, I still delve into those conversations. Undoubtedly, far more frequently than many deem prudent, or rational. There are a number of reasons I could proffer, but the one salient notation I’ll mention is my perplexity arising from what strikes me as the irreconcilable disconnects between what conservatives say and do now, versus what so many of them maintained, right up to the day Trump was elected.
Actually, that single point warrants a dissertation of its own, but that is not the point I am choosing to elucidate today. No, today’s post, the subject of which is prominently etched at the top of the page, is all about the distinction between Donald Trump’s claims and his actions, vis-à-vis COVID-19. My thesis is the public has been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amuck, and flat out deceived. I fully intend to prove that by using a simple tool; Mr. Trump’s own words.
Rising to the top of the political heap in the U.S. brings with it a lot of perks. POTUS is considered by some to be the most powerful position in the world. Technically, that’s probably not true, but the person in that position is by most accounts, the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. In all likelihood, the most powerful person in the world, is some dictator, or autocrat, who singularly controls all or most of a country’s levers of power. But that too, if there is a debate, is an argument for another day. The flip side of all those perks, is being POTUS brings with it an unrelenting spotlight, and good, bad, or indifferent, the capturing for the record of one’s every word, certainly every word on the public record, and as many have learned, quite a few words that were not necessarily intended for public consumption.
Mr. Trump has long been a media maven. For this discussion, I will refer only to his on the record, in front of the media (a far as we can tell, on of his favorite positions), comments.
Earlier this week, CNN's Jim Acosta asked Trump about some of his previous comments playing down the coronavirus.
In his best Trumpian response, Mr. Trump replied:
"If you look at those individual statements, they're all true. Stay calm, it will go away. You know it -- you know it is going away, and it will go away, and we're going to have a great victory."
Chris Cillizza, a CNN Analyst leans into The New York Times' amazing timeline
of Trump’s statements on coronavirus as the framework for comparing and contrasting Trump’s remarks from the beginning of the outbreak until now, which Trump maintains, haven’t changed.
* In late January, Trump, in an interview with CNBC, said this: "We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It's going to be just fine." The US did not, in fact, have it totally under control. As of Tuesday morning, there were almost 161,000 confirmed cases in the United States and 3,000 deaths.
* In early February, Trump told Sean Hannity this: "We pretty much shut it down coming in from China." He had not, in fact, "shut it down." Again, almost 161,000 confirmed cases in the United States and 3,000 deaths.
* In late February, Trump said this of the number of coronavirus cases in the US: "We're going down, not up. We're going very substantially down, not up." That was, and is, not true. One week ago, the US had 52,000 confirmed cases. This morning we had almost 161,000.
* In mid-March, Trump said this: "This is a very contagious virus. It's incredible. But it's something we have tremendous control of." We did not have "tremendous control" of the virus. See above.
Now there are of course, many more examples. I won’t insult your intelligence by presuming you fail to get the point. I’m certain you do. To coin a phrase, it trumps ridiculous for Mr. Trump to claim with a straight face that every “individual statement” he made about COVID-19 was (or is) true. One would hope, I know I certainly do, that Trump supporters and non-Trump supporters alike (even though that chasm, as aforementioned, is deep and wide) would find themselves unable to draw that conclusion, based upon the evidence. It is simply, logically impossible.
Now was there a method to his madness? Almost certainly!
In January, in February, and even early in March, he was downplaying the virus because:
· He wanted it not to be that bad
· He didn’t want people to freak out, because the economy, on which his campaign is based, would tank
As Trumps said to Acosta:
"The statements I made are I want to keep the country calm; I don't want panic in the country. I could cause panic much better than even you. I could do much -- I would make you look like a minor league player."
The thing is though, Trump's attempts to undersell the virus to the public had real-world consequences -- including a very slow start to testing for the virus in this country and our current shortages on masks and ventilators. (Doubt it? Read this Times piece: "The Lost Month: How a Failure Test Blinded the U.S. to COVID-19.")
Now, Trump is being Trump, doing now what he always does about everything: Attempting to rewrite history so that it looks like he was always the smartest guy in the room, the one person who saw this all coming from a mile away.
Evidence? Check out his March 17th about-face:
"I've always known this is a real -- this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic."
The temptation is to call that what it is, straight up hot bovine excrement. For the purposes of this post, I’ll instead resort to factchecker’s prose. “That statement is, of course, demonstrably untrue.”
Naturally, we all know, Donald Trump doesn’t care. Habit and history have established that if he simply repeats the story, he wants to be true, plenty of people will follow his lead.
He will blame Democrats, or he’ll blame the media, or he’ll blame both…for twisting his words or making thing up. Remember that he is the guy who said this out loud: "Stick with us. Don't believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. ... What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening."
Yesterday, Mitch McConnell alleged impeachment diverted Trump’s attention from coronavirus. While I don’t doubt he spent a considerable amount of time and energy ensuring that none of his associates and subordinates testified against him, I do question whether he spent any more time doing that than he did holding rallies and playing golf:
Impeachment, by the way, ended February 5th.
But if the truth still matters, know this. The truth is that Trump repeatedly downplayed the threat coronavirus posed to the country, providing Americans with false hope when they needed candor and transparency most of all.
At the end of the day, “He’s Lying to You, And You Know It: You May Not Care, But You Know!”
I’m done, holla back!
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