The next day, Trump tells us he was being sarcastic, as his worst remarks, like roughing up protesters, loving Wikileaks, wanting to stay in office for 10 years, all are when challenged. For those who don’t process irony, Lysol issued an immediate warning not to ingest its product—in case the skull and crossbones on the container isn’t enough.
As for the phony cure, Trump was unapologetic. “Obviously there have been some very good reports and perhaps this one’s not a good report—but we’ll be looking at it.”
That’s where we are, four months into a pandemic everyone but the president saw coming, Trump is acting out the movie Groundhog Day in reverse. Instead of learning and growing like Bill Murray’s Phil Connors, Trump is getting dumber and shrinking before our eyes. In rushing to end restrictions, Trump’s repeating the mistakes he made during the lost weeks of winter when, stuck in a protective crouch, he cost the country lives.
He’s in denial again as he races to open businesses, essential and not, by May 1, in hopes of resurrecting the Dow (buy on the dip!), lowering unemployment, raising his poll numbers, and throwing open the doors to his shuttered hotel down Pennsylvania Avenue—the one his sons are hoping the federal government will give a break. If the president moves fast enough, it could be in time for his wealthy supporters to spend their outsized winnings from the stimulus bill on $25 craft cocktails.
There’s another victim of the hydroxychloroquine infomercial in addition to the 28 percent of 396 veterans treated with hydroxychloroquine whose hearts failed, as opposed to the 11 percent untreated who did not. It’s the country, desperate for a vaccine. For not diverting precious time and resources to legitimizing Trump’s game changer, Dr. Rick Bright, the highly experienced vaccine developer running the agency racing to find one, was removed from his job.
Expertise is worthless, especially if it clashes with revenge in this White House, as we learned this week from reporting that revealed Trump’s first director of the pandemic task force had no relevant experience whatsoever. He was a breeder of Labradoodles.
The bleach gambit may be the moment when the president’s followers finally realize they’re smarter and mentally healthier than he is. The country has devolved into two camps. On one side are stir crazy people with chapped hands and a few extra pounds; they’re drinking at all hours, and they’re fuzzy on what time it is.
Still by more than 80 percent, they agree with experts that the better path is to stay home for now. They’re deeply worried about the economy but also believe that to bring back 26 million lost jobs, the virus must first be contained.
The other group is taking its cues from the president, who feels it’s high time to get our beautiful economy, the likes of which no one has ever seen before, back on track. He’s joined by a number of governors from GOP states, like Georgia’s Brian Kemp, overenthusiastic even by Trump’s loose standards, but enabled by him. Kemp freed his citizens as of Friday to roll a four-bagger, sit for a tattoo, or get a blow-dry even if it means risking that the next month’s appointment might be in the basement of a funeral home.
Then there’s the voluble Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who believes if gamblers all take long showers before hitting the slots, the Strip will light up again. She offered her constituents as a control group to see if her strategy works. Amplifying all is 20 percent of the citizenry, “great” people who “like” Trump, demonstrating in full Charlottesville regalia, and who want to be liberated immediately.
Of course, the latter group has more sway with the president. And now it has legal backup. Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr, with the largest law firm in the country on retainer, told radio host Hugh Hewitt that if his jawboning against “house arrest” wasn’t successful, he would file in favor of plaintiffs suing to have restrictions lifted.
Trump gets more antic by the day, apropos of nothing squeezing in some campaigning against Joe Biden, “the sleepy guy in the basement,” and slamming the most popular governor in the country, Maryland’s Larry Hogan, for stupidly buying testing materials from South Korea.
He relishes taking questions for the thrill of cutting off and insulting reporters, particularly women, whom he tells “don’t talk to me,” “lower your voice,” and “relax.” He lectures them about doctors never seeing anything like his handling of the virus and sulks that if he provided 325 million tests, his antagonists would ask for more.
The press is an easier enemy to quell than the virus. In a piece of North Korean theater, Trump summoned his rarely seen director of the Center for Disease Control, Dr. Robert Redfield, to the podium to recant a quote in The Washington Post warning that opening early would result in a second and more difficult wave of cases in the fall. Redfield went to the microphone but couldn’t, confirming that he was quoted accurately. Watch for him to be banished like Dr. Bright.
One job that’s safe is Dr. Deborah Birx, as long as she’s willing to sit placidly when Trump turns to her for approval of his sarcastic life-hack using bleach and UV rays. When asked how Kemp could justify opening up massage parlors, Dr. Birx answered he would be “creative.” How about “I can’t think of any, it can’t be done”? White lies are black when lives are at stake. I’m waiting for her riff Monday on how a waitress is going to hurl a burger to a table six feet away.
Trump obviously prefers Dr. Birx’s musical stylings to Fauci’s Brooklyn truth. In a surprising departure, Trump broke with Fauci publicly for the first time this week over his requirement for much higher testing before a phased re-entry. “If he said that, I don’t agree,” Trump sniffed about a quote in Time magazine, which he pretends to have been on the cover of many times.
He then repeated his tired excuse that we’ve done “more testing than every other nation combined,” which is untrue but even if it were true would be irrelevant, like the random numbers and products he recites to justify holding a briefing. In fact, per capita, the U.S. is fifth in testing, only slightly higher than Venezuela. As for whether the virus will return, Fauci and Trump go back and forth like an old couple arguing over the thermostat: “We will have coronavirus in the fall, I am convinced of that” (Dr. Fauci). “It may never come back” (Dr. Trump).
For now, Trump knows it would be risky to highlight disagreements between them. Trump has his MAGA hats, but Fauci has cupcakes with his face on them and an 80 percent approval rating in a recent Fox poll. After this week, less than half of Republicans say that have a lot of trust in Trump’s information on the pandemic and 22 percent say they have little or no trust, according to an AP-NORC poll.
If only Trump were a neurotic and believed everything was his fault, instead of being a narcissist who thinks it’s all someone else’s. No one appreciates that he’s the king of ventilators and a hero for closing down travel from China, although with loopholes, 40,000 people flew in. So if he golfed and held rallies until March, he routinely accuses Speaker Nancy Pelosi of worse by holding events in Chinatown and proposing a parade that would violate California’s lockdown.
That would be lie 23,001. Back on Feb. 24, she tweeted out a brief video making fortune cookies with a constituent in a neighborhood which had no cases then or now. She mentioned a parade that happened two weeks earlier, not one to come.
It took Phil Connors a long time to become a decent guy, to build an ice sculpture, play the piano like Mozart, and realize that only love could save him. We don’t have the luxury of time. It’s running out, and Trump isn’t improving.