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

Over the days since Donald Trump bragged about undermining coronavirus testing, his team has offered contradictory explanations for what he said.

Some administration officials said his comments at a campaign rally in Oklahoma on Saturday were meant as a joke. Some said they were an "observation." And Trump's press secretary offered both explanations at once.


"When you do testing to that extent you're going to find more people, you're going to find cases," Trump told several thousand supporters at his rally in Tulsa. "So I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down, please.' They test and they test. We got tests for people who don't know what's going on."

On Sunday, Trump adviser Peter Navarro played it as a joke. "Come on now, Jake. You know that was tongue in cheek," he told CNN's Jake Tapper. He said it had been "a light moment for him at a rally."

Trump's campaign team had made the same argument that morning. A reporter in Oklahoma City tweeted a statement from the campaign's communications director Tim Murtaugh claiming Trump "was clearly making a joke about media coverage and making the point that more testing means finding more cases of the virus."

But on Monday, Mike Pence was heard on a regular call with the nation's governors saying that the comment had been "a passing observation." He did not say that it had been a joke.

At a Monday afternoon press conference, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump had made the comment "in passing" and that he had made it "in jest."

"The president was trying to expose what the media often times does, is they ignore the fact that the United States has more cases because we have more testing. We are leading the world in testing and he was pointing that out," McEnany said.

"It was a comment that he made in jest, it's a comment that he made in passing," she said, "specifically with regard to the media coverage." She said that he was not joking about the coronavirus itself, but about the media's "failure to understand the fact that when you test more, you also find more cases."



On Monday, Trump was asked directly by a reporter if he had really sought to slow down coronavirus testing. Rather than answer, he replied: "If it did slow down, frankly, I think we're way ahead of ourselves, if you wanna know the truth. We've done too good of a job."

Saturday was not the first time Trump had suggested that the number of coronavirus tests was unfairly making him look bad.

Last month, he suggested testing was "overrated" because "when you test, you have a case."

"When you test, you find something is wrong with people," he said in a speech. "If we didn't do any testing, we would have very few cases."

He repeated this argument last Monday, saying at a White House event, "If we stop testing right now, we'd have very few cases, actually."

Public health experts have faulted the administration for inadequate testing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. "We've been woefully behind this entire time. And I think what most Americans need to know is the reason we are shut down — our economy is shut down — is because we've had inadequate testing," Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told CNN in April.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

If Boss Trump is headed for defeat, he's getting his revenge early. His revenge upon his deluded supporters and the people they love, that is. Trump's re-election campaign now consists mainly of what epidemiologists call "super-spreader" events: large-scale rallies of unmasked, non-socially distanced Trumpists yelling in each other's faces while the Big Man emits a non-stop barrage of falsehoods, exaggerations, and barefaced lies.

Let me put it this way: If, say, the Rolling Stones decided to put on free concerts at airports around the country, they'd likely end up being taken into custody and deported as undesirable aliens. Of course, they'd also draw far bigger crowds than Trump, but that's not the point. The point is that Trump's actions are reckless and immoral; the peacetime equivalent of war crimes.

"Covid, covid, covid, covid, covid," he hollers. Trump claims that the United States is "turning the corner" on the pandemic, and that the accursed news media will quit reporting Covid-19 fatalities come November 4. He claims that health officials are motivated by greed because "doctors get more money and hospitals get more money" if they report that the virus was the cause of death.

Surveys have shown that more than a thousand physicians and nurses have died fighting the disease nationwide.

As ever, what he accuses others of doing is an excellent guide to the question: What would Trump do? Answer: he'd steal the silver dollars off a Covid victim's eyes and demand an investigation of Joe Biden

According to the Washington Post, the Trump campaign organization signed an agreement with officials in Duluth, Minnesota to limit attendance at a September 30 fly-in rally, in accordance with public health guidelines. Hours before the event, it became clear that no effort was being made to honor the agreement; some 2500 Trump supporters bunched up without masks on the tarmac, ten times the agreed limit.

Health Department officials' protests were simply ignored. Three days later, Trump himself was taken to Walter Reed Hospital by helicopter. Three weeks after that, the following headline appeared in the Duluth News-Tribune: "St. Louis County sees another record-breaking week of COVID-19 cases."

Any questions?

The Trump Circus subsequently performed in Janesville and Waukesha, Wisconsin in the midst of a record-setting pandemic outbreak there. "It took us 7 and a half months to reach our first 100,000 cases, & only 36 days to reach our second," the Wisconsin Department of Health tweeted. "In just two short months, the 7-day average of new confirmed cases has risen 405%."

But the show must go on. Trump regaled his Janesville audience with a veritable torrent of lies. The New York Times did a thorough fact-check of his October 17 speech. Reporters documented 130 false statements during Trump's 87 minutes onstage. Nearly three-quarters of his factual claims were untrue. The most egregious concerned Covid-19, probably because the disease represents his single greatest failure and most damaging political liability.

Another question: Does Trump count upon his supporters' invincible ignorance or simply share it? I fear it's a little of both. In Janesville, Trump made this absurd claim two minutes into his harangue: "When you look at our numbers compared to what's going on in Europe and other places," he said "we're doing well."

Any regular newspaper reader knows that this is simply nonsense. As the Times reports, "America has more cases and deaths per capita than any major country in Europe but Spain and Belgium. The United States has just 4 percent of the world's population but accounts for almost a quarter of the global deaths from Covid-19."

Germany, to choose the most striking comparison, has suffered only 122 deaths per million of its population, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States has recorded more than five times as many: 686 per million. Neighboring Canada, meanwhile, is at 264 per million. Several Asian countries, have handled the pandemic even better.

It's a matter of capable leadership and public cooperation.

No wonder Trump appears to have succumbed to a case of dictator envy. "COVID, COVID, COVID is being used by [the 'Fake News' media] in total coordination" he tweeted the other day "in order to change our great early election numbers. Should be an election law violation!"

Yeah, well they all report the same World Series scores too. Furthermore, if Trump had good election numbers, he wouldn't whine so much. Has there ever been a bigger crybaby in the White House?

(In related news, Vladimir Putin has issued a mandatory mask mandate after a surge in Russian Covid infections. Go figure.)

Meanwhile, the rallies go on; a bizarre spectacle people treat as if it's normal. Trump has become Covid-19's Typhoid Mary, an Irish cook who unwittingly infected 53 people back in 1906.

But unlike Mary, he should know better. If anybody should be locked up, as his rapt admirers chant, it's the Super-Spreader in Chief.