Devin Nunes, who over the course of his career has blamed a drought on environmentalists and Donald Trump’s collusion with the Kremlin on the FBI, went dark on us for a little while but has returned with a vengeance, blaming the soon-to-be-wrecked economy on California education bureaucrats. OK, not directly. But in a dumbshit harangue to Laura Ingraham Tuesday night (with the Fox host nodding along every step of the way), he denounced the closure of California’s schools as “way overkill” and then argued that Americans have to get back to work in “a week to two weeks” or the economy will perish.
The ugly world view that has brought us to this wretched point was on full display, along with the evidence that this impassioned advocate of a return to pedagogical normalcy must have skipped English class as a lad (“kids coulda went back to school in two weeks to four weeks,” he said). The experts, from education to public health, are making ninnies of us, when what we really need is for a few real men to get back out there in public and show the rest of us what real Muricans think of a pesky little virus.
Nunes’ rant was reminiscent of his CNN screed on March 15—just days after the NBA season was cancelled and public life in America basically shut down—that “it’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant, likely you can get in, get in easily.”
It’s tempting to call that kind of talk idiotic, but it’s worse than idiotic. Language like his, in mid-March and now, is pernicious. It’s deadly. People who take his advice are at risk of dying, or killing others. Nunes may be an idiot, but he’s unquestionably also a villain.
He’s a villain of the virus. There are a lot of virus idiots out there, like Evangeline Lilly, who said she wouldn’t self-quarantine and subsequently apologized for being such a dope.
But she’s not a true villain. Villains of the Virus are saying and doing things that will advance death, that will contribute to the U.S. and global body count. And by the way that sounds like a great name for a list. Who, so far, are the leading Villains of the Virus?
1. Donald Trump. Duh. This doesn’t even need to be explained. Just remember these two dates. He received his first intelligence warning about the virus on Jan. 8. He finally acknowledged that it was more than mostly a political hoax on March 13, at that briefing where he kept shaking everyone else’s hands. Yes, other politicians were slow, too, but other politicians weren’t the president of the United States getting intel briefings and hair-on-fire warnings from the world’s leading epidemiologists.
2. Rupert Murdoch. Yes, Sean Hannity is a virus villain for sure, and Ingraham; Tucker Carlson started out that way, but I guess we have to pull him off the list ever since his valiant drive to Mar-a-Lago in early March to try to tell Trump that this was serious stuff. But the biggest villain of all is off-screen: Murdoch, 89, who is the one who allows these toxic lies onto his airwaves and who cancelled his birthday party in early March even as he was letting his stars go out on his air and tell his viewers it was all no biggie.
3. Rush Limbaugh. The virus was a Democrat effort “to get Trump” and was just “the common cold, folks.” Remember, that’s a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient talking.
4. Ron DeSantis. In some ways, the Florida governor is the most unbelievable of the bunch. Still no stay-at-home order. Look at this video of boaters crowding this inlet. This wasn’t from January or February. It was from last weekend. It fell to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to ban these sandbar parties. What is happening in DeSantis’ brain? In a state where one in five residents is a senior citizen? So he finally issued a stay-at-home order Wednesday. Count me unimpressed. He should have done it two weeks ago, and anyway he’ll never live down spring break.
5. Kelly Loeffler. The Georgia Republican senator made news alongside North Carolina GOP senator Richard Burr for trading stock based on inside information they were receiving about the crisis as senators. But Loeffler is worse. Her husband owns the New York Stock Exchange. The couple sold shares in retail chains and invested in a company that makes COVID-19 protective garments. She could have been telling her constituents what she knew: that this virus was deadly serious and they’d better hunker down. But she wasn’t telling them that, just as she wasn’t telling them that they should dump their retail stock because brick and mortar stores were about to tank.
And Nunes fills out the dirty half-dozen.
There are tons of others. Loads of administration officials and other Republicans have made statements belittling the extent of the virus, over-praising Trump’s abominable handling of it, or arguing that saving the stock market was more important than saving lives. I think of Mike Pence, Mick Mulvaney, Larry Kudlow… but really, they’re too numerous to name.
Another dishonorable mention category belongs to the corporate bad actors, like the cruise ship companies that want bailouts while they incorporate in Liberia to avoid U.S. taxes. Then there are the profiteers, like Joel Freedman, who bought and closed a Philadelphia hospital and now wants the city to rent it from him—for $1 million a month. And we have the hoarders who’ve created a black market in toilet paper and Lysol.
A crisis like this brings out the best in most people. But in people who were bad to begin with, it brings out the worst. And it begins and ends with the worst person of all, the one whose attempts to wish all this away is raining this mayhem down on us today and now congratulates himself in advance if we have “only” 100,000 deaths, or maybe 200,000. He set the tone that all these others follow and that makes the United States of America right now the shame of the world.