Sunday, April 19, 2020

BTRTN: Maybe Trump Can Shoot One Person on Fifth Avenue and Keep His Supporters. But 39,158?

With a series of irresponsible tweets on Friday, Donald Trump revealed his campaign strategy for re-election. It’s good news for the loopy nut jobs who think the virus is a hyped-up hoax. The bad news? Grandpa will be collateral damage.  

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”-- Donald Trump tweet, 11:21 a.m. Friday, April 17

“LIBERATE MICHIGAN” – Donald Trump tweet, 11:22 a.m. Friday, April 17

“LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd amendment. It is under siege!”  -- Donald Trump tweet, 11:25 a.m. Friday, April 17

Hmmm. Puzzling, to be sure. Liberate Minnesota from… what? The United States of America, perhaps? Didn’t we try that secede-from-the-union thing once before, and end up with even more dead people than Trump is giving us with his handling of the coronavirus?

What is up with these crazy tweets?

Allow me to translate from Donald-speak:

“Attention, fellow wingnuts! Don’t let those Democrats who are try to keep you healthy stop you from sacrificing your grandparents so that I can get the economy where it needs to be for my re-election!"

That appears to be the essence of Donald Trump’s new plan for turning the coronavirus pandemic into the central argument for his re-election campaign.

No way around it… selling his stewardship of this devastating global pandemic is going to be a tough challenge. But if anybody can spin this shit show of a Presidency faster than a Miele professional dryer, Donald Trump is the guy.

Not that Trump doesn’t already have a lot going for him as we sail toward November. First and foremost, he retains the Republican herd immunity to fact, reality, and objective truth. This is the guy who once said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a vote. Gross underestimate!! It now appears that he could be responsible for the deaths of a substantial percentage of the United States’ 39,158 coronavirus victims (increasing daily!) and not lose a single vote from his fiercely loyal if willfully ignorant voting bloc-heads.

Trump did nothing to confront the threat of COVID-19 for the entire the month of February, failing to institute mitigation efforts and develop an effective, fully-scaled testing program that would enable measuring the penetration of the coronavirus in our population. These two failures are the twin engines of a societal shutdown with no safe end in sight. The delay in mitigation no doubt fanned the unchecked spread of the virus, causing tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths. The fact that we have no national testing program to understand the degree of infection in our society means that any effort to re-open schools and business is a completely blind crap shoot.
The result? Hospitals pushed to their limits, likely more American deaths by the end of April than in the entire Vietnam war, and millions of Americans are in dire economic circumstances as only the “essential” are allowed to work. 

Tough to spin that grim reality, right? Nah. Not for the master of disaster.

Trump, in becoming an aggressive advocate for “opening up America again,” seeks to position liberals, Democrats, and progressives as the elites who are once again tone-deaf to the economic plight of the “average American,” who only wants to get back to work.

It appears that to Trump, it is the prissy, liberal, government-interventionalist and overly-protective “shelter-in-place” programs that are truly crushing America. Such programs, he has mused, will destroy the American economy, which will result in more suicides than deaths caused by the virus. With Friday’s tweets, he appears to be back to the “cure is worse than the disease” argument he aired on March 24. 

My hunch? Knowing Trump, he will push this line of delusion much further. You know where it is going: the “shelter-in-place programs” were concocted by liberals to protect the health of the elite, the rich, and the establishment, all while victimizing middle class Americans who are not allowed to work. 

Hey, it’s a win-win-win for Donald. He gets to claim that he’s the one fighting for the middle class. He pastes the doctors and the Democrats as the big government establishment that is wrecking Trump’s “perfect” economy. Best of all: he can claim that as President, he deserves credit for any good news that emerges in his mess, but in punting all the hard decisions to governors, he has a convenient target for blame. 

Buckle up, America. The next step in the President’s strategy is not a comprehensive coronavirus testing program, not a manufacturing program to supply essential medical supplies, and not even a vaccine. It is the weaponization of the virus for the purpose of re-election. 

Yes, Donald Trump’s failure to act to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the United States has resulted in hundreds of thousands of sick people and tens of thousands of needless deaths. 

But what he is about to do next will make every informed and objective American nauseous.

“Liberate Michigan.” Two words, with stunning implications. Trump is encouraging his followers to abandon the very social distancing protocols that his administration had issued the day before.  In sending his crazies into the streets, encouraging them to flout the six-foot separation guidelines, he is accelerating the spread of the disease in a state that is one of the hottest spots in the nation. 

Coincidentally (well, not) the governors of the three states Trump tweeted to “liberate” are all Democrats. So Donald Trump is trying to fan the societal spread of the coronavirus specifically in states led by his political opposition. He is weaponizing the virus for the political purpose of exacerbating the challenges of Democratic governors, hoping they will look bad to their constituencies. By making the virus worse in states led by Democrats, Trump then has the chance to threaten to withhold resources from those states until the governors relent and whimper about what a great job Trump is doing. 

Yes, Trump is encouraging his supporters to publicly congregate to protest the actions of Democratic governors who are adhering to the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control. Trump appears to be saying “I am here to save you from the people who are trying to save you.”

Trump wants to be viewed as the man who allows the middle class to get back to their jobs and their wages. Is he truly doing this out of concern for their economic well-being? Nah. Is this what business leaders are telling him to do? No! The titans of industry that he spoke with on his big business teleconference generally prodded him to slow down and wait until testing was in place.

No, this is a pure play to the voters he is counting on in November. “I am here to save you from the people who are trying to save you so that I can say that the economy is great so that you will re-elect me.”

“Liberate Michigan” is indeed code for “open Michigan for business.” Literally two days before the “liberate Michigan” tweet, Trump had famously announced that the decisions about when to open states for business would be totally up to the governors. So he tells Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer that it is her responsibility to decide when to open Michigan, while aggressively using his powerful twitter feed to push her to open the state. Perfect: if Widmer opens the state and the virus outbreak worsens, it’s her fault. If she opens the state and unemployment drops while the contagion levels stabilize, Trump takes credit.

Heads, my economy is better. Tales, you’re sick. 

Hey, Gretchen, by the way, Trump thinks you are responsible for testing in your state, too.

Um, this from the exact same president who said a month ago (March 6) – and I quote --  importantly, anybody, right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. They have the tests. And they’re beautiful.”

Apparently not. Not beautiful, not existent at anywhere near the scale they need to be if they are to provide educated guidance about re-opening states for commerce. Now it is up to the governors to figure that one out, too.

Come November, when everyone in America is wondering what happened with the failure to have a testing program in place, Donald Trump will say “I told the governors very clearly that testing was their responsibility.”

The very conflict that Donald Trump is seeking to hype – a binary choice between extreme outcomes -- is a grievously flawed premise. It seeks to create an artificial zero sum proposition: that, on the one hand, in order for the economy to be strong, people must die; and yet, on the other hand, in order for a few lives to be saved, the economy must be forever ruined, incinerating the financial lives of millions of Americans.

The advocates of “health first” challenge that premise. They believe that the best path to the restoration of our economy begins by making the health of the American worker our greatest priority. Democrats believe that if the country re-opens too quickly, the virus will spike intensely, spreading like wildfire through companies, decimating productivity, overwhelming our exhausted medical infrastructure, bringing back the kind of weekly body count that we are appalled by here in April, and triggering entirely new rounds of “sheltering-in-place.” The arduous process of containing the spread of the virus will elongate. Better for our health and for our economy to do the job right the first time.

Somewhere today in Michigan, a boisterous crowd of some fifty-odd libertarian-flavored Republicans are having a ball, stoked by their president; they are laughing and feeling full of self-righteous glee congregating outside the town hall, locked arm-in-arm in pointing an aggressive middle finger at their Democratic governor. 

The odds are plain and simple. One of them is already infected with the coronavirus. By tomorrow, that number will be three. On Tuesday, nine. Wednesday, over half the group will show symptoms. Next week (and again – we’re just doing math now) one, who is over 60 with diabetes, will be dead. 

Somewhere in Texas, a Lieutenant Governor is quoted as being asked, and answering, a hypothetical question:

“As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”

Maybe the Republican crowd in Michigan would tell you they feel the same way. 

After all, it is a hypothetical question.

It’s not like any of these rogue Trumpsters in Michigan is hooked up to a ventilator. 

It’s not like any of the people Trump is egging on is frantically trying to communicate with a sister in an ICU.

It’s not like any of these economy-first geniuses learned that the body bag containing their mother had been heaved into a refrigerator truck backed up to a hospital loading dock. 

Let’s see how Donald Trump’s grand re-election strategy works when he finds out that you can’t be responsible for a huge percentage of 100,000 deaths on Fifth Avenue and keep your supporters.  

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  1. Trump is also going to point to the various models which said "if nothing is done, 1.1 million or 2.2 million deaths." And then point out he's done SO much better, with only XX,thousand (whatever the toll is at that point). IHME now is estimating "60,308 COVID-19 deaths projected by August 4, 2020" Heck, that is More than a whole order of magnitude better.

  2. Agreed. Biden will say 60,000 is more than the number of soldiers killed in Vietnam in 10 years, and if Trump had acted quickly it would have been much, much less (by then they will have a pretty tight estimate).


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