The Signal: The Covid-19 epidemic is rampaging anew, with more than 30,000 new cases being diagnosed every day. Hospitals in Houston and other major cities in Texas are on the verge of being swamped with patients. Many Trumpland states whose conservative leaders embraced Trump’s plans to reopen their economies—before public-health thresholds were met—are now seeing huge spikes in infections. Another 1.48 million Americans just filed for unemployment, and the stock market is once more heading south, as awareness of the severity of this new chapter takes hold there.
No other first-world country on earth comes close to America’s infection rate as a percentage of its population. The director of the US Centers for Disease Control is so distraught that he reported to Congress this week that the virus had “brought this nation to its knees.” Not surprisingly, the European Union—where some member states are starting to reopen to tourism—is on the verge of barring American travelers because of this. The United States under Trump has become radioactive.
There’s no sign that Trump will respond to any of this with sensible public health strategies. His entire tactical arsenal at this point consists of Noise, Noise, and still more Noise.
He’ll likely rant and rage, try to punish the EU with tariffs, and perhaps strut out of NATO in a huff—all while continuing to blame high infection numbers on an increase in testing.
Trump thinks that if he just talks big enough, the virus will magically dissipate. So he’ll keep on holding ill-advised, indoor rallies—even if those rallies cause his fans, and their families and neighbors, to pick up the disease. The Secret Service agents who guard him already had to self-quarantine after the Tulsa rally. They had been forced to work at an event where Trump bragged about being more attractive than Democrats: “Much more handsome. Got better hair than they do. I got nicer properties. I got nicer houses. I got nicer apartments. I got nicer everything.”
A few days after that rally, Trump was at it again, this time in Phoenix. There he boasted of how he deals with journalists he doesn’t like: “I get interviewed by people, and I’m sitting the other day in the Oval Office, and I didn’t like the tone. And I said, ‘You know, it’s really nice because I’m here and you’re not.'”
Seriously: Who in hell—over the age of, say, 6—talks this way?
This man’s insecurity knows no limits. He can, apparently, find validation only in the applause of unthinking acolytes, as he recycles one tired old MAGA catchphrase after another. Remember that line in the film Sunset Boulevard that sums up all the psychological needs and angst of a has-been entertainer, unable to graciously leave the stage? All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.
And so, while our modern-day Rome burns, this self-absorbed old man will continue to waste government resources on nonsense—such as ordering US marshals to protect Confederate statues, and threatening those who vandalize monuments with up to 10 years behind bars. This is the same person whose lackeys have put their thumbs on the scale to ensure that serious criminals such as Michael Flynn and Roger Stone escape the full force of the law.
He will continue to use the public health crisis as an excuse to lock out more and more immigrants and push white nationalism. Just this past week, he suspended the issuance of most H-1B visas and made it all but impossible for spouses of temporary workers to come into the country. He also further constricted the rights of asylum seekers—who were then dealt another blow by the Supreme Court yesterday.
He will also continue to allege that his awful poll numbers are rigged and rage against voting by mail, even while conservative states are busy shuttering in-person polling booths in large, more liberal, cities with high numbers of African American voters. Witness the shame of Louisville, Ky., where the entire city had only one polling station open for primaries this week. Hundreds of people in line to vote were then locked out of that polling station when voting hours ended at 6 pm. (A judge subsequently ordered extra time for them to be able to cast ballots.)
The only good news coming out of this is that most of the American public isn’t buying what Trump’s selling. This week, Trump was brutally trolled in a couple of ads—both of them visual and auditory gut-punches—from the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans opposed to his presidency. He was also the subject of withering commentary from Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s campaign chair in 2008, who explained precisely why Trump is an “imbecile, an idiot.” Now that is Noise worth listening to.