Paying the Price

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

For three years Trump has treated the US population to a daily truckload of falsehoods, almost with impunity, but now his lies are catching up with him.  Visiting the CDC last week he called the corona virus ‘mean,’ but said that the tests were ‘beautiful,’ as perfect as his phone call with Zelensky.  Wearing a campaign hat the president added that everybody who wanted could now be tested, and that doctors told him ‘you know so much about these things,’ for which he credited his ‘natural ability.’  But in spite of all the good news Trump said that the patients on a cruise ship off the coast of California shouldn’t come ashore, because they got sick through no fault of the US and would raise the number of cases in the country.  Apparently the president didn’t want to acknowledge that there was barely any testing going on in the US because of the CDC’s botched attempt to develop its own test, while reliable tests from the World Health Organization were amply available and being used in all other countries.   Without mass testing epidemiologists don’t know how and where the virus spreads and fly in the dark, but Trump had done enough and went golfing.

Coming back from a weekend at Mar-a-Lago followed by a fundraiser in Orlando Trump was still in denial, and so were his advisors Kellyanne Conway and Larry Kudlow, who stated that the virus had been contained.  Yet the pandemic, now officially declared by the WHO, came closer to Trump when GOP congressman Matt Gaetz, who rode with the president in ‘the beast’ and flew with him on Airforce One, decided to self-quarantine after he had been in contact with someone at CPAC who carried the virus.   During the first half of the week the public heard competing messaging from Trump and experts like Dr. Fauci, with the president saying that ‘it will go away,’ and ‘stay calm’ because ‘a lot of good things are going to happen,’ and Fauci informing the nation about the seriousness of the situation.   But eventually Trump showed signs of understanding that there was a real problem, not so much because of the growing number of patients and deaths but because Wall Street was tanking and on its way to becoming a bear market.  Watching the main argument for his re-election evaporate before his eyes the president finally decided to take action.

Not surprisingly Trump’s attention first went out to supporting businesses that in his eyes were most affected by the crisis, like for example hotels, of which he owns quite a few.  Since in the middle of all the commotion Russia and Saudi Arabia got engaged in a price war the president added the oil and gas industry to the list of casualties. For the support of working men and women who might temporarily lose their paycheck he proposed eliminating the payroll tax for the rest of the year, a measure that would benefit higher income earners much more than their lower counterparts.

Last night, now realizing how dire the situation had become, Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office with a speech that could have been written for a hostage video and was delivered with the whining monotony he reserves for these occasions.   First the president pathetically seemed to congratulate himself for having done a much better job than Obama with Ebola, and then he announced a ban of travel from the European mainland for one month, followed by a few as yet tentative economic measures.

Not a word about testing or the badly needed expansion of hospital capacity in the US, and no explanation why travel from Europe minus the UK had been blocked but not travel from for instance South Korea, a country with thousands of corona virus cases.  When asked why European leaders had not been briefed Trump aggressively responded ‘they don’t brief us when they raise tariffs on us either,’ which suggests retaliation.

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