Monday, March 09, 2020

Trump Wants To Keep The Official Number of COVID-19 Victims Low So He Looks Better

Digby, on Trump's visit to the CDC last Friday:
It will stand as one of the most astonishing appearances by this or any other president — and that's saying something. ... He said that everyone who wants to be tested for this virus can get tested, which is not even close to true. He called Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state, who is on the front lines dealing with this epidemic, a "snake."

He made it clear that he wants to cook the numbers so it doesn't look as if the nation is in the midst of an epidemic. This has been obvious from the outset, but for the president to come out and say it is something else again.
"I like the numbers being where they are. I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn't our fault."

As Wired's science reporter Adam Rogers wrote:
[I]t very much sounded like the president didn't want to bring sick people to safety and medical care because doing so might make him look bad. ... [H]e doesn't want the numbers of sick people to reflect the actual numbers of sick people—a statistic that would help researchers understand the spread of the disease.
Rogers admitted that Trump's comments "were terrifying". The press conference "was full of Dear Leader-ish compliments, non-sequitorial defenses of unrelated matters, attacks on an American governor, and — most importantly— misinformation about the virus and the US response".

Trump also talked about how smart he is and how everyone is impressed by his intelligence (he also bragged about the ratings for his Fox News Town Hall meeting):
You know, my uncle was a great person. He was at MIT. He taught at MIT for, I think, like a record number of years. He was a great super genius. Dr. John Trump. I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, "How do you know so much about this?" Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for President.

Dan Froomkin, Salon/Press Watch:
A compelling and coherent narrative is finally emerging to explain the Trump administration's flailing response to the coronavirus crisis.

It's consistent with what we know about President Trump's pathological need for admiration, and with what we know about the culture of sycophancy and fear he has created among the people who answer to him. ...

In short: Trump bet on containment rather than mobilization. It was a bad bet. But in Trump's mind, it was a "tremendous success." As a result, top health officials fearful of his wrath assured him it was working, rather than preparing for its inevitable failure. Now Trump is fully invested in making coronavirus appear to disappear, even as it continues to spread. ...
On March 6, New York Times op-ed writer Michelle Goldberg stated:
[I]t seems as if in the midst of this burgeoning crisis, we're seeing a coordinated, whole-of-government campaign to protect the president from being contradicted.
On February 26, Trump offered his fantastical and incoherent narrative:
We have, through some very good early decisions — decisions that were actually ridiculed at the beginning — we closed up our borders to flights coming in from certain areas, areas that were hit by the coronavirus and hit pretty hard. And we did it very early. A lot of people thought we shouldn't have done it that early, and we did, and it turned out to be a very good thing.… Because of all we've done, the risk to the American people remains very low.…

We're going to spend whatever is appropriate. Hopefully, we're not going to have to spend so much because we really think we've done a great job in keeping it down to a minimum. And again, we've had tremendous success — tremendous success — beyond what people would have thought…. And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done.
Eight days later — with 500+ additional cases and at least 21 deaths (so much for "close to zero") — later, Trump repeatedly told the press that his performance was being widely praised (the "highest poll numbers of anybody"). In fact, he said it six times in three minutes:
Well, actually, we were giving — I think really given tremendous marks — if you look at Gallup poll, you look at other polls — for the way we've handled it.…

[W]e've been given rave reviews….

So we were really given tremendous marks…

Again, we've gotten the highest poll numbers of anybody for this kind of a thing. …

We've been given A-pluses for that….

Well, I think people are viewing us as having done a very good job.
As Froomkin notes, "the opportunity to brag about external validation ... is what matters to him more than anything".

Eric Boehlert, Press Run:
The New York Times covered the stunning event as a straight ahead news story, feverishly whitewashing all traces of the Trump madness and presenting the CDC visit as somehow being normal. "'It Will End': Trump Urges Nation to Avoid Panicking" read the absurd Times headline.

Readers were left absolutely clueless about Trump's actual unhinged performance:
President Trump sought to play down the coronavirus outbreak on Friday and offered a vote of confidence to besieged federal health officials as infections spread further, markets tumbled again and the authorities scrambled to accelerate the availability of testing kits across the country.
Imagine witnessing what Trump did at the CDC and coming up with that news lede.
The Associated Press noted there was a "disconnect" between Trump's "breezy" style and the actual truth about the virus, but it did not report Trump was lying. National Public Radio also described Trump's approach as "breezy" (which is certainly odd) and stated that his reliance on his "gut" for information was "colliding with a public health emergency". Politico's headline blamed Trump's "haphazard" management style.

Meanwhile, Trump appeared on Fox, spewing his own unhinged and unsupported opinions and dismissing the facts reported by various scientists.

[I]n terms of the Trump coronavirus coverage, the press has utterly failed in telling the truth. And that stems from the press' three-year commitment to normalize Trump. By refusing to call him a liar, refusing to call him a radical, refusing to question his inability to communicate in a coherent, cogent way for days on end, the press has shied away fromm truth-telling in favor of normalcy. And now, as the country teeters on the precipice of a truly dangerous chapter in our history, the consequences of that normalization campaign are exploding into full view.

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