Efforts that cost him nothing for now, but could cost everyday Americans everything
• He held a one-topic media briefing threatening governors if they didn’t open churches this past weekend, even though he never planned to go himself, as evidenced by the fact that he didn’t go. (When Trump was subsequently criticized for playing golf instead, a display of Twitter gymnastics followed, requiring three tortured Tweets to figure out a way to blame Obama/Biden.)
• He then Tweeted he might move the Republican National Convention if North Carolina’s “Democrat Governor” can’t guarantee right now it’ll be allowed to go full-capacity, full-blast. According to Trump, Republicans require they be:
“Immediately given an answer by the Governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied.”
No skin off his back. He wouldn’t be packed among the crowd of screaming delegates in an indoor arena come August. He’d be there for a very protected couple of hours at best. The event’s organizers earlier this month announced they’d hired an MD and experienced public health official (mostly in the field of automobile accidents and highway safety) as a consultant.
And you’d be correct if you’d be inclined to think Trump’s is an empty threat, because these kinds of things are planned out years in advance. True, but at the same time there are a lot of stadiums and arenas—quite a few with retractable roofs (if fresh air might make some difference)—all around the country suddenly sitting empty right now. Or could be the President’s setting the stage for downscaling, while blaming Democrats for stealing his glory, again…
• Also, the President’s still not wearing a mask at all in public appearances, reflections of which we clearly saw in crowded Memorial Day weekend scenes in many places where few wore masks. Not wearing a mask is a bit of a risk to him, but less than all those people brushing against each other on Boardwalks. Because they can’t get tested every day. He can. And does. And when the Coronavirus did infiltrate the White House it seemed to be somewhat effectively headed off by a contact tracing effort that would’ve been difficult to muster right now almost anywhere else.
And what’s all this all ultimately about? Putting on an entertaining show, thereby staying in the spotlight, while keeping all the real problems, and all his real shortcomings tucked away in the background, at least momentarily. And also keeping the anger level of his supporters at a boiling point, because that’s a large part of who facilitated sweeping him into office in the first place.
That anger is directed at familiar targets, who these days are even more visible than four years ago: scientists, and politicians and public servants who base their judgments and actions primarily on facts. And fact is, realities day-to-day are still continually changing. So predictions for a few months out are still extremely hard to make right now. Unless you’re the President, who seems to have abandoned data and realities for misdirection and wishes.
In the President’s world, clinical studies become “political hit jobs” by enemies. And in the President’s telling, they’re never really about whether a certain drug works or not, or whether more or fewer people are getting sick, but whether people hate him or not. And we all know the only formula that Trump always steadfastly promotes: disagree even a little with Trump = hate America.
Trump must know throwing open all the doors of everything to all kinds of throngs of people coughing and breathing on each other isn’t really going to happen, because all the science is way stacked against it. And in large part, public sentiment too. But that’s also part of the point: blame others for you not being able to fully enjoy your life, not me!
And we wonder sometimes if this might be something he’ll be able to pull off. As long as mitigation efforts have truly worked in many places, and cases don’t start mounting in a big way as restrictions are eased. This weekend, we talked to friends all around the country, just because it seemed like a thing to do. And we were surprised to find how few outside of the East Coast have been touched directly (or even indirectly), by COVID-19. One friend out West told us how one of her friends had just now been diagnosed with it. As if it’s a total anomaly. And she seemed genuinely shocked that we know many people who’ve been sick, and several who have died.
We do believe that had Trump promoted the idea to his supporters of shared sacrifice (as in wartime), his supporters who love him so much would’ve rallied around him. Had he worn a mask, they very well might’ve been the people yelling at anyone who doesn’t. And objectively, that would’ve been a very small sacrifice compared to what other Presidents asked of the American public in other crises.
Instead, with the Tweets and actions we laid out above, and others, Trump seems to have set out to prove anyone trying to be responsible is being unnecessarily responsible, unnecessarily driven by science, unnecessarily influenced by concerned public servants. And in order to prove he’s right about that, instead of calling for safety and thoughtfulness and prudence, he’s in effect calling on all Americans, not just his supporters, to risk their lives now.
As we said yesterday, we’re not anti-religion. We would love places of worship to be open, and we’ve been making the most of opportunities for online worship. We’re not anti-business. Businesses should be opening safely, based on where they are and what they do, which is becoming more and more possible as industry and local groups come together and figure out best practices. Which in a lot of cases involve requiring masks. (Which private businesses have every right to do.)
But it’d be a heck of a lot easier to have a lot more specific guidance from the nation’s chief executive than “Right now!” or else…!