President Trump’s aides selectively present him with flattering comments about him and charts that make him look good to keep him in a “positive feedback loop” on the coronavirus pandemic, according to The Washington Post. Citing dozens of administration officials and sources familiar with COVID-19 response efforts, the Post reports that many of the president’s top aides devote most of their energy to keeping him appeased. “Everyone is busy trying to create a Potemkin village for him every day. You’re not supposed to see this behavior in liberal democracies that are founded on principles of rule of law. Everyone bends over backwards to create this Potemkin village for him and for his inner circle,” a senior official said to be involved in the coronavirus response was quoted saying.
As the Post notes, one particularly alarming instance of this “positive feedback loop” spilling out into public view was Trump’s interview on Fox News Sunday last month, when the president grew irate over a question about the U.S. mortality rate, demanding his aides bring him the charts they had made. After claiming the U.S. has “one of the lowest mortality rates in the world,” Chris Wallace informed him that was simply “not true” and noted that 900 deaths had been recorded in a single day. Clearly frustrated, Trump turned to aides and said, “Will you please get me the mortality rate?” before telling Wallace, “Kayleigh’s right here. I heard we have one of the lowest, maybe the lowest mortality rate anywhere in the world.” After an aide handed him several papers, Trump held one up to declare, “Number one low mortality rate.” Wallace noted later on in the segment that the chart presented by the White House had excluded some countries with a lower mortality rate than the U.S.