Never Mind the Rising Death Toll—the Trump Show Must Go On!

Never Mind the Rising Death Toll—the Trump Show Must Go On!

Never Mind the Rising Death Toll—the Trump Show Must Go On!

While Trump rages against Covid-19 testing and air conditioning, his administration orchestrates a data grab to help cook the pandemic books.


There has been a head-rattling, bone-shaking, ear-splitting amount of Noise emanating from the White House this week. In the Rose Garden on Tuesday—a day that saw over 65,000 new coronavirus infections in the United States and nearly a thousand deaths from the disease—Trump spent the better part of an hour ranting about everything from Confederate statues to malfunctioning air-conditioning units, from too many Covid tests, resulting in the diagnosis of too many Covid cases, to plots by Democrats to destroy the suburbs.

That same day, Trump’s trade policy adviser, Peter Navarro, who doesn’t have a single medical credential, took to the op-ed page of USA Today to denounce Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s long-suffering infectious disease czar, for being “wrong about everything.” Fauci’s crime, apparently, was that he has delivered a series of blunt warnings in recent days about the scale of the public health calamity now facing the United States, the world’s most plague-ravaged nation, and urged political figures to put aside partisanship and make a good-faith effort to gain control of the situation.

It might be possible to dismiss Navarro’s op-ed as mere bluster. But what isn’t simply Noise is the administration’s awful decision to require hospitals to bypass the traditionally neutral Centers for Disease Control and deposit their Covid-19 data directly with the White House–controlled Department of Health and Human Services. This isn’t even a subtle move; it’s a raw power grab by a nakedly authoritarian regime intent on massaging public health data to make its response look less shockingly bad. Never mind that manipulated data makes it harder for cities and states to make rational public health decisions; never mind that it hobbles their efforts to, say, plan the upcoming school year. The Trump show must go on!

If the administration were serious about grappling with this crisis, every single official would be working day and night to figure out how to fund schools around the country at a level that will allow them to safely deliver in-person lessons rather than rely on disastrous remote-learning programs. They would be working out how to convert every park, quad, and oversize-but-underused mall parking lot into education oases that would allow schools to continue educating children throughout the pandemic (think of these spaces as educational “victory gardens” akin to the creative use of urban green space to grow crops in besieged Britain during World War II). Instead, they are engaging in juvenile games of distraction and fearmongering—threatening to defund any school districts that don’t fully reopen—while millions of kids essentially lose access to basic education.

Speaking of using power to bad ends: Three weeks ago, the Trump administration announced it would be opening up millions of acres of the Alaskan wilderness to oil and gas drilling; now, this week, it has gone even further, announcing that it will be gutting the National Environmental Policy Act, which codifies some of the country’s most important environmental protections. If the courts uphold the regulatory change, which limits public review of federal infrastructure projects, the administration will soon be fast-tracking approval processes for freeways, oil pipelines, and power plants.

The administration will, of course, run into a buzz saw of lawsuits designed to stop this dishonorable pillaging of environmental policy—much as they have run into a barrage of legal actions in response to their efforts to eviscerate the country’s immigration system. The danger with this administration is that, even when they lose in court, they refuse to give in, instead seeking out new ways to inflict the desired harm.

Witness: The administration is currently under court order to release detained immigrant children from ICE facilities by July 17, this coming Saturday, so as to protect them from the Covid-19 epidemic raging in detention centers. Instead of doing so, however, this sadistic regime has presented parents with an impossible choice: unwilling to release the parents, it is giving them the option of either giving their kids up to sponsors so as to protect them from the coronavirus or keeping their kids in custody—and at serious Covid-19 risk—alongside them.

Likewise, despite the recent US Supreme Court ruling requiring the administration to continue accepting DACA applications, lawyers are now reporting that officials, in clear defiance of the highest court in the land, are simply not processing new applications. That isn’t just shocking; it’s lawless.

In a similarly cruel vein, the administration announced a plan last week to deport international students whose colleges and universities have temporarily moved to online learning formats. This week, the White House was forced to back off from that plan after many of the country’s top universities and a coalition of 17 states announced that they would sue the administration. But Trump, never one to give in easily—and always one to bear a grudge—is now pushing to eradicate universities’ tax-exempt status, claiming they are breeding grounds for left-wing extremism.

Pay attention to the Signal: Under cover of the pandemic, this malignant regime is eviscerating environmental regulations, stomping on immigration law, and using tax policy to attack perceived enemies. At least, there is some righteous counter-Noise: With Trump’s poll numbers diving, listen to the sweet sound of tens of millions of Americans giving the Bronx cheer to this entirely rotten criminal gang.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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