Media (421)

 

Transition to Greatness

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

It’s Trump’s latest slogan and it stands for the following pipe dream: in a matter of weeks the US will be fully open for business again, people will be back at work, the economy will start recovering in the third quarter of 2020 and thanks to pent-up demand will do even better in the fourth quarter, and in 2021 America will have the greatest economy ever, even greater than the economy that was shut down by the corona virus.  Obviously Donald J. Trump, who masterminded this miracle, will be re-elected.  However, there are some irritating obstacles that need to be removed for this to happen: the CDC produced guidelines for a responsible gradual reopening of parts of counties and states that would significantly slow down the process, so they will never see the light of day.  Officially there are now over 85,000 COVID-19 deaths in the US, but according to a Harvard study the real number is over 110,000, and that is too high to give people confidence in anything the president says or does, so the number needs to be lowered by questioning the cause of death in many cases.  And then there is the exasperating Dr. Anthony Fauci with his dire predictions for the fall.

At a Monday presser Trump tried to frame his optimistic scenario by lying about where America ranks in the world in testing and death rates, saying: ‘We have met the moment and we have prevailed.’  Sadly he was contradicted by Dr. Fauci, who warned in Senate testimony that reopening the country too soon and without adequate testing and attention for local conditions would generate a new wave of infections and deaths in the fall that would jeopardize any chance of an economic recovery in the near future.  The president called Fauci’s remarks ‘unacceptable’ and took particular offense with the doctor’s admonition that prematurely opening schools would increase health risks for children, parents and grandparents.  Trump appears to understand that as long as children don’t go to school many parents won’t be able to go to work, assuming that their jobs still exist, but he is not in a position to argue with Fauci.  When it comes to matters of life and death a majority of Americans want to be told the truth, something the president has never been able to do.  To make things worse for him, today Fauci’s warnings were augmented by Dr. Rick Bright.

Bright, who was fired from his position as the government’s point man for vaccine development because he refused to promote the drug Chloroquine, testified in the House that the White House was unprepared for the pandemic in spite of frequent warnings, and predicted ‘the darkest winter in modern history.’  Among the things the administration failed to do was stockpiling medical supplies, something Trump consistently blames Obama for, conveniently disregarding that the previous administration was stymied in all its efforts to make such purchases by the Tea Party.

Although the president will probably be trumpeting about greatness for a while it won’t get him re-elected, so he’s already pivoting to a last resort ‘whatabouttism’ he calls ‘Obamagate.’  In the cockamamie narrative under this title Obama, and by association Joe Biden, conspired even before the 2016 election to undermine a potential Trump administration by using the FBI to spy on the president’s campaign and profiling Trump confidants like General Flynn as agents for the Russians.

In spite of the shameless assistance he is getting from AG Barr this gibberish won’t get Trump elected either, and with the corona virus having entered his residence he has entirely different problems to deal with.  All staffers and housekeepers in the White House have to be tested daily and wear a mask now, but the president doesn’t wear one.  He expects to be protected by everybody without protecting anybody.

 

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Every Day a 9/11

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

While the corona crisis is still developing and the virus spreads across the US it’s fascinating, albeit in a perverse way, to watch Trump rewrite history and fantasize about the future.  The president clearly is not well.  He spends hours at night tweeting insults about those who have criticized him – as long as the criticism has been on TV, otherwise he wouldn’t know about it – and changes positions faster than Secretariat at the 1973 Belmont Stakes.  Not long ago Trump considered limiting the number of deaths in America to 65,000 a ‘spectacular job,’ but now he’s looking at more than double that number by late July, when 3,000 Americans are expected to die every day.  As the number of deaths increases the standard against which the president measures his performance changes drastically.  Originally it was 100K but now it’s 2.5 million deaths, which makes his accomplishments even more impressive.  However, for everything Trump does and sacrifices for the American people he receives very little appreciation.  ‘I’m being treated worse than Lincoln’ he said during a Fox News Town Hall, briefly forgetting that Lincoln was assassinated.

Asked whether his decision to ‘open up’ the economy will be the hardest decision he’ll ever make the president said that the decision to close it down was even harder, which is interesting because neither of those decisions were his to make.  For the latter he could only issue guidelines that he subsequently urged governors and demonstrators to ignore, and for the former he can only be a cheerleader.  Responding to the question why there were almost two months of inactivity after the first corona patient had been diagnosed in the US Trump said that Obama had not left enough supplies and a vaccine, which would have been tough since the virus didn’t emerge until 2019.  To a follow-up question why he had not used the first three years of his presidency to stock supplies he answered that he had been too busy with the Russia hoax, followed by the Ukraine hoax.   But once the urgency of the situation manifested itself a key role in the acquisition of supplies was given to Jared Kushner, who assembled a team of bumbling amateurs from the private sector that by comparison made the Keystone Cops look like Elliot Ness and his men.

As a reward for his abysmal performance or just to keep Ivanka happy Kushner has now been put in charge of operation ‘Warp Speed,’ that has to produce a vaccine by the end of the year, a move that for starters resulted in the US being absent from a global teleconference about vaccine development.  Also in that vein the White House started floating the message that the Corona Task Force would soon be disbanded, because managing the economy would now be more important than fighting the virus, so Fauci and Birx would have to take a back seat to Navarro and Hassett.

Changing the policy focus and replacing the two top pandemic experts by two economic cranks disturbed even some of Trump’s closest advisors, so the decision was put on hold, not in the least because there was no other plan than to let tens or even hundreds of thousands of Americans die and spread the blame from Obama to Biden and from China to Europe.  The president doesn’t have daily pressers anymore to convey the latter  message, but he’ll trumpet it any which way he can.

Silencing Dr. Fauci instead of letting him testify in the House relayed another message: if Trump cannot talk, nobody talks.  Yesterday the president visited a mask factory wearing safety goggles but not a mask, setting another terrible example.  This kind of behavior is inexplicable but for a serious mental disorder, and someone who understood it played ‘Live and Let Die’ in the background.

 
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Definitely not a Docta

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Occasionally Donald Trump barks, with a heavy Queens accent, ‘I’m not a docta,’ followed by ‘but I am, you know, a pretty smart guy.’  On those occasions the president is speculating – or in Dr. Birx’s terms ‘having a dialogue’- about a medical issue he doesn’t understand the first thing about.  Last Thursday Trump brought a scientist from the Department of Homeland Security to his daily presser, who explained how sun- and UV light, but also disinfectants, can make the corona virus rapidly disappear from various surfaces.   Eager to re-open the economy and win the November election the president suggested that somehow bringing UV light into the human body or injecting it with a disinfectant might take care of COVID-19.  His words were directed at Dr. Birx, who didn’t respond but slowly turned ash grey, and triggered such a negative public response that on Twitter Trump had to come up with the falsehood that he had only been sarcastic.  Later reporting showed that for quite some time producers of disinfectants have been peddling their products as useful in fighting COVID infections and might have inspired the president.

As a result of his potentially deadly suggestion Trump didn’t take questions at his Friday presser, and the next two days no press conferences were held.  Instead the president vented his anger at a New York Times article that described how he spends the mornings in his bedroom watching TV, eating hamburgers and drinking diet coke, and doesn’t get into the Oval Office until noon.   He defended himself by claiming that he works from early in the morning until late at night, which is unlikely since he tweets about morning news shows in real time.  In his fury Trump had to correct the word ‘hamberger’ in one tweet and wrote about a ‘Noble’ prize for journalism in another, later claiming that this too had been an expression of his sarcastic creativity.  More serious than the NY Times’s reporting was a Washington Post article that detailed how through January and February the president had received more than twelve warnings about the corona pandemic in his daily intelligence briefings, of which he never reads the material, precisely when he was claiming that the virus was a hoax and there were only five infections in the US.

Clearly it was time for a reset in the White House, and the news trickled out that there would be fewer press conferences and that Trump’s criticism would no longer be directed at the states but only at China.  A possible Monday presser was on, then off, and finally on again, as it was clear that the president could not let go of this platform, no matter how much it hurts his approval ratings.  In his introductory remarks Trump mysteriously declared that the pandemic had been ‘unnecessary’ but that ‘someone long ago’ had decided that it was going to occur.

Subsequently, without giving us a clue whether that someone was a Chinese functionary or maybe Obama, the president introduced executives of large pharmacy chains and testing labs,  who all declared that they are going to do a hell of a lot of testing, very similar to five weeks ago when representatives of the same companies made the same promise at another presser.  Trump meanwhile keeps claiming that the US is #1 in testing, which is untrue by all relevant standards.

The president also promised that the US would soon be testing 5 million people per day, which prompted the admiral in charge of testing to say in an interview that that was not going to happen ‘on this planet or on any other planet.’  Meanwhile during a conference call with campaign staffers Trump got so pissed off with his tanking poll numbers that he threatened to sue his campaign manager, Brad Parscale.

 

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The King of Ventilators

 (Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Trump’s whole presidency has been characterized by self-aggrandizement, flip-flops and lies, but his daily pressers during the corona crisis have become a theater of the absurd.  Yesterday the president called CDC Director Redfield to the podium to state that he had been misquoted by the Washington Post as saying that the corona virus would be back in the fall.  Not allowing Trump to bully him into a lie Redfield said that he had been quoted correctly, and he was subsequently cautiously supported by Dr. Birx and more forcefully by Dr. Fauci, while the president stood at the side sputtering ‘but it might not come back.’ So far Redfield still holds his position, unlike the Deputy Assistant Secretary in charge of developing a corona vaccine at the Department of HHS, Dr. Bright, who was demoted, apparently for questioning the effectiveness of chloroquine, a drug Trump – without any evidence – has been promoting as a possible cure for COVID-19.   After having been pushed out of his job Bright filed a whistleblower complaint, but when asked about Bright’s demotion at yesterday’s presser the president said that he had never heard of him.

After having egged on ‘FreedomWorks’ and ‘Tea Party Patriots’ demonstrators to ‘liberate’ their states Trump declared that Americans are very enthusiastic about re-opening the country, but he backtracked when polls revealed that large majorities of both Republicans and Democrats don’t feel that way.  The president even said that the governor of Georgia, although a great guy, made a mistake by going against the directives and allowing businesses like barbershops and massage parlors to open.  Other than for putting his gut feelings up against the knowledge of medical professionals Trump uses the pressers to tout his almost unfathomable achievements.  Since testing is still largely a mess in the US, because the CDC botched the development of a test in February and now at least 90 companies are developing tests, the president’s focus is on the production of ventilators, where the US has done better.  Trump likes to say that the leaders of other countries cannot believe what he has accomplished with ventilators, and when he gets carried away expresses himself with the majestic plural, saying ‘we are the king of ventilators.’

Meanwhile Trump is eyeing a lose-lose situation in November.  If the economy opens up too early and large numbers of Americans keep dying he’ll be blamed, and if the economy doesn’t open up soon enough and large numbers of Americans remain unemployed he’ll also be blamed.  It makes his staff very nervous, and while they are trying to blame an imaginary alliance of China and Joe Biden for all the problems they know that Trump has praised China all through January and February and that even he realizes how dependent the US is on China for medical supplies.

It has often been observed that the self promoting bluster of a pathological narcissist serves the purpose of camouflaging a very insecure and fragile personality, and with Donald Trump that occasionally breaks through.  Normally he takes credit for everything the governors do right and blames them for everything he has done wrong, but yesterday he changed his tone and said ‘I take care of everybody, but nobody takes care of me,’ suddenly baring his needy helplessness.

However revealing, such a glimpse of the president’s very sick mind only lasts a few seconds, and then he is back in his armor, bragging about the most testing in the world, the formidable amount of tariffs paid by China, his ordering the US Navy to ‘shoot down’ Iranian boats that come too close to its vessels, and the suspension of all immigration into the US as a distraction from everything else.


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Scapegoating

(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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