Susan B. Glasser at The New Yorker asks Has Trump Reached the Lying-to-Himself-and-Believing-It Stage of the Coronavirus Pandemic ? The reality—in both public-health and crass political terms—doesn’t look good for the President. Following are excerpts.
Public polls show that the vast majority of Michiganders support social-distancing measures to combat the pandemic (as is true nationwide), and also [Governor Gretchen] Whitmer’s handling of the situation. In a state that Trump needs to win this fall, his approval ratings have dropped, while Whitmer’s have risen. Whitmer told me that Trump’s hyper-partisan approach did not make sense in terms of either public health or crass politics. “The enemy is a virus, and it doesn’t care what party you’re in, it doesn’t care what state you’re in,” she said. Trump, however, has not only persisted in his critiques of “that woman from Michigan” but nationalized his combative approach, with one policy for “Democrat states,” as he recently called them, that are the worst-affected by the virus, and another for Republican ones.
When I went to college, we used to joke during exam period that you were really in trouble when you started to lie to yourself and believe it. The President and at least some of his most fervent supporters appear now to be in the lying-to-yourself-and-believing-it stage of the pandemic. Truth has become so inconvenient that it’s better left aside for some alternate, less inconvenient reality. This is, of course, not the first time in the Trump Presidency, or even the first time during this pandemic, that there has been such a gap, but it appears to be a moment when there is a widening and very likely unsustainable gulf between Trumpian truth and what is actually happening.
That’s because the numbers are the numbers and, for Trump and for America, they look terrible. On Wednesday, there were some twenty-six hundred deaths in the United States from covid–19, and, on Thursday, there were even more: around twenty-seven hundred. Leaked predictions from government scientists show an increase, by June 1st, to three thousand deaths, on average, every twenty-four hours. As Whitmer noted to me, that amounts to essentially a 9/11’s worth of victims per day. Even after some seventy-five thousand deaths and a couple months of social-distancing public-health measures, the charts demonstrate clearly that the national curve has not flattened, with sharp declines registered only in New York and New Jersey—which have already gone through the country’s worst ordeal—and a handful of other states. More than half the states have at least partially lifted strict stay-at-home orders, although none of the states that announced reopenings—not one—met the criteria established by the Trump Administration for doing so. At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week, a detailed, seventeen-page guide for how to return safely to workplaces and schools was quashed by the White House, and its authors were told it would “never see the light of day,” the Associated Press reported on Thursday. Testing capability is nowhere near the millions of additional tests needed to resume regular daily life, according to experts, nor is there widespread capacity to conduct contact tracing, another prerequisite.
Yet many states are reopening anyway, and Trump is not, at least for now, even bothering to hide the fact that more Americans may die as a result of these decisions. On Tuesday, he flew to a mask factory in Arizona for a photo op, where he appeared not wearing a mask, as the Guns N’ Roses version of the song “Live and Let Die” blasted over the factory’s loudspeakers. In an interview taped at the factory, Trump said, “I’m viewing our great citizens of this country to a certain extent, and to a large extent, as warriors. They’re warriors. We can’t keep our country closed. We have to open our country. Will some people be badly affected? Yes.” On Wednesday, he elaborated as to what he meant by “badly affected.” Asked if more Americans might die as a result of reopening too soon, he said, “Hopefully that won’t be the case.” But, he added, “It could very well be the case.” He also argued against more testing. “In a way, by doing all this testing, we make ourselves look bad,” he said. On Thursday, it was reported that, even as Trump was saying this, one of his personal valets, who delivers his meals, had tested positive for the virus. In response, Trump said he would now be tested every day. Reality, it turns out, is not just a matter of political optics.
For sure. One of VP Pence’s staffers tested positive today (Friday).
…It’s also possible that Trump really is the greatest of all time at something: believing his own hype. On Sunday, he stared right into a Fox News camera and declared that he had been treated worse than Abraham Lincoln—while speaking at the national memorial to the slain President. Either Trump is the most brazen politician in the long line of brazen American politicians or he somehow had been brainwashed by his own B.S.
Still, Trump appears to me to be increasingly terrified at the very real prospect of losing in November, as both national polls and surveys in battleground states currently show him doing. Overnight Monday and again on Tuesday, he let loose about an ad being run against him by a group of Never Trump Republicans called the Lincoln Project. The ad, “Mourning in America,” shows haunting scenes of a devastated country, “weaker and sicker and poorer” after four years under Trump’s leadership. The President responded by calling the group “the losers project” and railing about its founders, among them George Conway, the Trump-bashing husband of the White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway. This did not exactly seem like a confident performance by the most powerful man on the planet. It seemed like the scared rant of someone who knows that, eventually, he might finally be called on his most bullshit of performances.
… [Trump has] acknowledged, “You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.” On November 3rd, we’ll find out if they did. For now, the scary prospect is sure to keep Trump up for many more nights to come, hate-tweeting in the dark.