(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)
Scapegoating is one of the features of modern fascism, and lately Donald Trump has provided some textbook examples. On Tuesday he announced that he is halting the funding of the World Health Organization until a study of its role in the corona crisis has been conducted. In Trump’s current view the WHO has been ‘too close to China’ in its assessment of the COVID-19 threat, and although it’s probably true that China has underreported the fatalities caused by the virus in January and February, during those months the president has effusively praised China for its transparency while the WHO was issuing dire warnings he ignored. Instead, Trump declared that due to his decision to stop entries from China into the US the situation was totally under control, even though 40,000 travelers still got into the country. After calling the virus a ‘hoax’ and a ‘plot against his presidency’ and blaming Obama he said that there were only 15 cases that would soon be reduced to 5 and that COVID-19 would miraculously disappear in the spring. Meanwhile all of February nothing was done about testing, respirators, ventilators and PPE.
When the federal government’s failures in these areas became obvious the president found a new scapegoat in the governors, who according to him should have stockpiled those supplies a long time ago. It has been hard to keep up with Trump’s idea of the governors’ authority and responsibilities. In March he announced that ‘beautiful’ tests had been developed by the CDC and that everybody who wanted to be tested could be tested, but when this week the testing was still severely lagging he declared that it was the governors’ responsibility. On Sunday the president said that decisions about gradually ‘reopening the country’ should be made by the governors, but on Monday – in violation of the Constitution – he claimed to have ‘total authority’ to make those decisions. By Tuesday Trump had creatively compromised with himself and stated that he authorized the governors to be the deciders. The president’s thought process must be fascinating material for psychologists and psychiatrists. As a day trader he only lives in the moment and often does not seem to remember what he said 15 minutes ago, let alone two months ago.
At one of his daily press briefings, apparently furious about a New York Times analysis of his administration’s inadequacies, Trump played a video that intended to show how he had been on top of things from day one, but that made painfully clear there had not been any White House activity between February 6th and March 2nd, the time the country should have been preparing for the pandemic. And next to misinformation those pressers exhibit a total lack of empathy on the part of the president, who is only interested in getting into a rant and fighting with reporters.
Asked by a reporter why his name would be on the stimulus checks that were supposed to go out this week Trump first said that he knows very little about it and then lied that it would not cause any delays. In a peculiar tirade about the appointment of judges and an overseer of the Voice of America the president threatened to adjourn Congress so that he can make recess appointments, something he cannot do unless Congress is in disagreement over adjournment, which it is not.
At Tuesday’s presser the president read a laundry list of names of CEOs who were to be consulted during a conference call about reopening the country. Some of them didn’t know that they were on the list and others were surprised that they were not called. Later today Trump will issue guidelines for easing restrictions related to the coronavirus, but it’s an exercise in futility because governors will do as they see fit.
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