To review the events of the last week and a half is to contemplate a nation that is seriously off its rocker. This will not come as news to you, but in a year that already has been extraordinary in the scope of its insanity, from the trivial to the deeply tragic, these past ten days have been breathtaking in the sheer audacity of their lunacy.
Setting the stage, more than a third of our inhabitants heedlessly idolize a con artist they believe will restore us to a country of milky whiteness and honeyed prosperous incandescence that never existed in the first place. In reality, he’s a man who, if his supporters were on fire, wouldn’t so much as piss to put them out unless they wrote a large check first. And a man who now has contracted the very disease he told the world was insignificant and essentially harmless, one that affected “virtually nobody.”
No screenwriter could come up with a scenario of events so unlikely or a leading character as absurd and criminally, idiotically irresponsible.
There’s a saying that the difference between a religion and a cult is that in a religion, the savior dies for their followers; in a cult, it’s the other way around. And so we’ve seen the spectacle these last months of hundreds of thousands of Donald Trump supporters, Proud Boys, QAnon followers and other assorted nuts deliberately throwing themselves in harm’s way because they made the refusal to wear a mask or socially distance a suicidal and ignorant act of political defiance. Potential sickness and worse be damned—watch their obeisance to the cult of the Fearless Leader, the nation’s savior, even as the American pandemic death toll will soon approach a quarter of a million—essentially, the entire population of Buffalo, New York, or Reno, Nevada. Dead.
The latest 10 days of hubris, presidential and otherwise, began on Saturday, September 26, when Trump threw his party in the White House Rose Garden to welcome his newest choice for the U.S. Supreme Court, federal judge Amy Coney Barrett, a right-wing, strict constitutionalist who was a protégé of Antonin Scalia. She’s anti-labor, anti-Obamacare, anti-Roe v Wade, anti-pretty much anything even vaguely progressive. Barrett once signed a newspaper ad published by an extremist anti-choice group in Indiana: The St. Joseph County Right to Life is described as supporting life from the moment of fertilization and has been involved in “super intimidating” protests at an abortion clinic in South Bend.
If the good judge believes in the signs and portents of her faith, she might want to rethink whether this whole Supreme Court thing was a good idea. Increasingly, the crowded, maskless shindig at the White House seems to have been a super spreader event, with at least nine of the 150 in attendance testing positive for COVID-19—so far. Judge Barrett was there with her husband and seven kids, all exposed to the virus. And all because Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell are obsessed with jamming through her appointment no matter what.
This on top of the hypocrisy of a Republican Party forcing through a court nomination before the election, even though four years ago they loudly prevented President Obama from doing the same thing—and he had many months, not merely weeks before the November balloting.
There followed a Saturday night Trump rally in Middletown, Pennsylvania, and on Sunday, a White House East Room ceremony for Gold Star military families at which few masks could be seen, an event that, according to Bloomberg News, “has forced the nation’s top military brass into coronavirus testing.” That night saw The New York Times’ release of Trump’s tax returns, a massive reportorial feat of legwork and forensic accounting that finds “his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed,” plus a tax audit that could penalize him more than $100 million and records showing “he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.”
Hundreds of millions were made—and lost by Trump—from “The Apprentice” TV series, which created the gimcrack illusion of boundless success that helped him win the presidency, including “seven-figure licensing deals with hotel builders, some with murky backgrounds, in former Soviet republics and other developing countries. And there were schemes that exploited misplaced trust in the TV version of Mr. Trump, who, off camera, peddled worthless get-rich-quick nostrums like ‘Donald Trump Way to Wealth’seminars that promised initiation into ‘the secrets and strategies that have made Donald Trump a billionaire.’”
On Tuesday came the first debate with Joe Biden, a pathetic hour and a half during which Trump interrupted, screamed and bellowed like the bawling brawling baby he is, alienating much of the nation. Subsequently, we learned that Trump and his entourage, including his wife and kids, arrived at the debate venue too late to be tested for COVID and refused to wear the mandatory masks offered by a doctor in attendance, violating the rules agreed to by both sides. Trump, wife Melania, advisor Hope Hicks and others in attendance may have been contagious even then. Because when you’re a star, they let you do it.
There were more events and fundraisers, all largely conducted without masks and distancing, callously exposing hundreds to the contagion. An increasing number of reports indicate that Trump and his minions were attempting a coverup of how bad things really had gotten, only to be exposed when Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs revealed that Hicks was ill. The ruse quickly fell apart. Not long after, it was admitted that Trump and his wife were positive, and early Friday evening, Trump was on the helicopter to Walter Reed.
What a weekend. Sunday afternoon, Trump released a video on his Twitter feed. “It’s been a very interesting journey,” he said. “I learned a lot about COVID. I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn’t the let’s-read-the-book school. And I get it, and I understand it, and it’s a very interesting thing, and I’m going to be letting you know about it. In the meantime, we love the USA and we love what’s happening.”
“We love what’s happening?” Tell it to the families and friends of the 211 million plus American dead. Then Trump went off on his little motorcade joyride, endangering Secret Service agents and goodness knows how many others just so he could greet the zealots who were noisily cheering and honking their horns, driving their pickup trucks and vans round and round the hospital zone.
Seventy-two hours after his arrival at Walter Reed, Trump was back at the White House, after three days of his staff and medical team dissembling, and the spread of confusing, conflicting, and misleading information amidst intimations of malpractice. He climbed the stairs to the Truman Balcony, arrived out of breath and after one false start, all but burst into a medley from Evita as he whipped off his mask, made salutes, fist pumps and thumbs up signs, then told the American people to lift up their chins and not let this fatal disease get them down.
“We’re going back,” he proclaimed. “We’re going back to work. We’re gonna be out front. As your leader I had to do that. I knew there’s danger to it but I had to do it. I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did. I know there’s a risk there’s a danger. That’s OK. And now I’m better, and maybe I’m immune? I don’t know. But don’t let it dominate your lives. Get out there, be careful.”
His remarks echoed the tweet he sent just before returning to the executive mansion: “Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of COVID. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
A gaudy reelection stunt. Bogus bravado, lies and reckless foolish endangerment, plain and simple. The medical world was appalled. “Don’t be afraid of COVID?” Be very afraid. For one, you won’t be getting the medical treatment experienced by your president; the preferential treatment, the round-the-clock individual attention, the ridiculously expensive pharmaceuticals to treat the king. And even so, Trump’s not out of the woods. As we’ve seen all too often with this infection, there‘s plenty that could still go wrong.
Yes, it’s easy to let this distract us from all the other crimes of this administration. Black lives are still being snuffed out as criminal injustice and discrimination are encouraged by officials rather than resisted. Immigrants are still being abused, and ongoing deregulation threatens to turn the planet into one big French fry before we know it. Millions remain unemployed and small businesses are failing.
Just when this miserable ten days began, The New Yorker’s editors wrote, “Contempt has been at the core of his time in office: contempt for the Constitution; contempt for truth and dissent; contempt for women and people of color; contempt for champions of civil rights as great as John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump’s contempt for science and the basic welfare of Americans is so profound that, through an enraging combination of incompetence, indifference, and stupidity, he has failed to meet the pitiless demands of a viral pandemic.”
Let this week and a half sum up and represent once and for all this immoral man’s lack of empathy and concern for the citizens he is under oath to serve and represent. Remember his indifference to the country he destroys in the name of his own vaulting ambition and avarice.
We say all the time that this man’s reign lacks transparency, but this much is crystal clear. Whether you’re against him or even part of his death cult, for the sake of us all, he must go.
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Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer for Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship.