Heather Cox Richardson reports on the Mad King’s latest Journey Off the Rails in the October 19, 2020 Letters from an American.
The biggest story, by far, remains coronavirus. While we are all understandably buffeted by the craziness of politics these days, no historians will ever write about this election without noting that over it hangs the pall of more than 220,000 Americans dead of Covid–19 and more than 8 million infected, and that numbers, once again, are rising. Today the U.S. had 58,387 new cases, along with at least 445 deaths.
After Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and, theoretically anyway, an adviser to the White House, was quoted on CBS’s 60 Minutes last night criticizing the administration’s response to coronavirus, Trump attacked him this morning in a conference call with staff to which reporters had been invited. “Fauci is a disaster,” Trump said. “If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths." Later he increased that number to 700,000 or 800,000. “People are tired of Covid,” he said. “I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had. And we have Covid. People are saying: ‘Whatever. Just leave us alone.’ They’re tired of it.”
In Prescott, Arizona, this afternoon, Trump expanded on this idea. He told the crowd: “They are getting tired of the pandemic, aren’t they? You turn on CNN, that’s all they cover. ‘Covid, Covid, Pandemic, Covid, Covid.’ You know why? They’re trying to talk everybody out of voting. People aren’t buying it, CNN, you dumb bastards.”
Just in case you missed it, as Trump coninues to lose more and more in the polls, his demeanor and language becomes less and less presidential.
Indeed, we are all tired of it, but as cases are surging and hospitals and medical staff again appear to be on the verge of being overwhelmed with cases of Covid–19, a majority of Americans trust Fauci’s cautious advice more than we trust that of the White House, which is embracing the idea of simply letting the disease spread to try to create immunity. Trump’s final push for reelection centers on holding in-person rallies, trying to illustrate that there is nothing to fear from the disease and that the country needs to get back to normal despite it.
The Exxon bribe: “it never happened”
Trump’s anger at Fauci seems to be part of his general anger these days, seemingly sparked by the polls that show him trailing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. He is using his rallies both to express his grievances and to boast of his own power. Today, in Prescott, he boasted “I call the head of Exxon. I’ll use a company. ‘How, how are you doing, how’s energy coming? When are doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits, huh?’ But I call the head of Exxon, I say, ‘you know, I’d love you to send me $25m for the campaign.’” This sort of a bribe—the official term is quid pro quo—is illegal. Exxon promptly clarified: “We are aware of the President’s statement regarding a hypothetical call with our CEO… and just so we’re all clear, it never happened.”