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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Science

During a recent spate of cynicism, I made a prediction to friends: Before this thing is over, Trumpists will be calling the COVID-19 virus God’s will. So let’s get back to work, save the stock market and let the disease sort them out. There are more than 300-million individuals resident in the United States. Surely we can spare a few million old timers who were going to die anyway.

But you almost can’t get cynical enough. Before the day was out, Boss Trump was hinting that maybe time had come to kiss grandpa goodbye: “America will again and soon be open for business—very soon,” he said during the daily performance of the Mighty Coronovirus Art Players. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”

Interviewed on (where else?) Fox News, the Lt. Governor of Texas suggested that grandparents should be willing to die to protect the economy for their grandchildren.

Let their headstones read: “They gave their all for the GDP.”

Trump is also said to be losing patience with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the universally-respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to whom it has fallen to correct Trump’s mistakes and downright whoppers on national TV.

“A major television star,” was how Trump described Fauci before he made the mistake of confessing his frustration to an interviewer for Science magazine. “I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” he said of Trump’s daily blunders. “Okay, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.”

Speaking of which, why do CNN and the rest continue to broadcast these absurd spectacles live? They should edit them as they do other press conferences: giving audiences the expert advice they need, and summarizing Trump’s odd pronouncements as appropriate. It’s called journalism.

So anyway, the next performance of the White House Coronavirus troupe went on without Fauci. Who knows how long he’ll last? Possibly Jared or Ivanka can take over at the Center for Disease Control.

But I lapse into mere sarcasm, inadequate to the crisis we face.

Leave it to South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, to supply humane perspective: “Try running an economy with major hospitals overflowing,” he said “doctors and nurses forced to stop treating some because they can’t help all, and every moment of gut-wrenching medical chaos being played out in our living rooms, on TV, on social media, and shown all around the world. There is no functioning economy unless we control the virus.”

As for Trump, the good news is that he has no constitutional authority to countermand mayors and governors who have shuttered public places in their jurisdictions. He probably doesn’t know that. He has no real idea how government works. In Trump’s mind, he Tweets and everybody obeys.

Look, Trump didn’t cause the CORVID-19 outbreak. It’s one of nature’s nasty little tricks, like ticks, water moccasins, and the bubonic plague; a worldwide biological catastrophe. Or, for that matter, like impassioned mobs cheering leaders displaying all the diagnostic criteria of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. “Moral imbeciles” was the 19th century term.

However, Trump has proven uniquely incompetent to do anything about it. As the contagion spread out of China, wholly unaffected by his purely cosmetic border closing—people could fly from Beijing to Singapore or anywhere else in Asia, and then directly to the U.S. unhindered and unchecked—Trump wasted about six weeks assuring himself and his gullible followers that the worst public health crisis in 100 years was a fake news Democratic media hoax.

Meanwhile, the under-funded public health bureaucracy dawdled along; testing wasn’t done, masks, protective gowns and ventilators weren’t being manufactured and distributed to hospitals. Why hurry? Trump said it would all blow over. I have friends who remained in active denial until maybe ten days ago.

Perhaps it’s too late, but attitudes are changing. After Trump sneered that he wasn’t a shipping clerk, John Brummett quoted the impeccably conservative GOP state Senate leader Jim Hendren in his Arkansas Democrat-Gazette column: “This is failure of the worst kind. It’s like telling states to go procure F-15s and battleships for self-defense. This is a national crisis. The full power of the USA should be leveraged to solve this problem. Not 50 individual states left to compete with each other.”

Yet after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo all but begged for 30,000 ventilators, FEMA sent 400. That’s 26,600 Americans who are apt to die absent dramatic change. It will be up to exhausted, heartbroken doctors and nurses to decide which ones.

Speaking of battleships, if a Navy captain fails to heed navigators’ warnings, sails into an iceberg and sinks his vessel, he’s promptly relieved of his command. It isn’t even controversial.

No hope of that here, of course. Trump’s surrounded with vassals and flunkies. But worth keeping in mind all the same.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday that he wished Donald Trump would do a better job of giving factual information about the COVID-19 pandemic and following the rules to reduce its spread.

In an interview with Science magazine, Fauci expressed frustration with Trump’s rhetoric and his behavior.

Asked about Trump’s presentation of information at press conferences, Fauci said that he says things “in a way that I would not express it, because it could lead to some misunderstanding about what the facts are about a given subject.”

“I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” he added. Instead, he said, he focuses on trying to get Trump’s false statements “corrected for the next time.”

On Thursday, for example, Trump falsely claimed that the FDA had approved the anti-malarial drug chloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment. On Friday, Fauci made clear that this was incorrect, as clinical trials have not yet determined its safety and efficacy.

For weeks Trump has made false statements about the crisis, including claims that the situation was under control, that anyone who wanted a test could get one, and that the number of cases in the United States would soon be “down close to zero.”

Trump has also repeatedly failed to follow CDC recommendations that everyone avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing, and refrain from handshaking.

“We should not be doing that,” Fauci said of Trump’s handshakes. “Not only that — we should be physically separating a bit more on those press conferences.” He promised to keep pushing the administration to address the problem, but said, “I’m trying my best. I cannot do the impossible.”

Fauci made clear in the interview that, unlike Trump, he has never used and will never use racist terminology to describe the coronavirus.

Asked about Trump’s frequent boasts that he made a huge dent in the problem by limiting travel from China and his other false statements about the earliest days of the coronavirus outbreak, Fauci responded, “I know, but what do you want me to do? I mean, seriously Jon, let’s get real, what do you want me to do?”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.