Panic Might Have Helped

Let’s get this straight — we’re talking about the guy whose entire political career has been about fear mongering, the guy who kicked off his bid for the 2016 Republican nomination with the famous line about Mexicans entering the U.S. — “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He has since devoted considerable time to scaring us about caravans of “illegals” and the Salvadoran-American street gang MS-13. He’s gone on to “rioters and looters,” stirring up hysteria over antifa and the destruction of (affluent, white) suburbs through Democratic housing policies. And did I mention socialism? What does he ever talk about but to tell lies to stir up fear in his base?

But when it came to the pandemic, the one thing that really was and is a danger to the United States, he decides to “play it down” so that people don’t “panic”? Seriously?

Truthfully, a little panic might have helped. We couldn’t possibly have overreacted to what was coming, I don’t think.

Here is NBC News White House correspondent Geoff Bennett from last night’s All In With Chris Hayes. Sums it all up pretty well.

Today, the Trump campaign is trying to pretend Trump lied for the benefit of the American people. Like not being prepared for the coming pandemic was in everyone’s best interest. See Greg Sargent, There’s a big hole in Trump’s frantic spin about the Woodward revelations.

Throughout February, Trump was utterly obsessed with the impact that public news about the coronanvirus was having on the markets. And as Slate’s William Saletan demonstrated at the time, Trump openly cast the markets as inextricably linked to his own political fortunes, regularly suggesting efforts to use the coronavirus to rattle them were the work of political enemies out to tank him.

Indeed, Trump repeatedly raged at the media for deliberately trying to panic markets to harm him politically. Trump approvingly tweeted a media ally accusing CNN of trying “to stoke a national Coronavirus panic” as part of its “anti-Trump” agenda. He blasted the media for trying to make the coronavirus “look as bad as possible” and “panicking markets” to help Democrats.

Worse still, Trump’s obsession with panicking the markets — and harming his reelection chances — deeply hampered his governmental response to the coronavirus crisis.

This is Ryan Bort, Rolling Stone, February 25:

The warning isn’t surprising considering the virus — of which over 80,000 cases resulting in nearly 3,000 deaths have been reported — is now making its way through Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, after originating in China last year. But you wouldn’t know it from listening to President Trump discuss the disease. “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away,” Trump said Tuesday during a press conference in India.

“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” he added on Twitter. “We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

Though Trump wants Americans to believe otherwise, the coronavirus is very much a problem, one his administration still doesn’t seem to grasp. …

… The confusion can be traced back to the president, who seems utterly unwilling to acknowledge the reality of the virus, opting instead to stick his fingers in his ears and repeatedly insist everything is going to be fine and the administration is taking care of it. His belief that the virus will simply “go away” is likely based on how past pandemic scares have come and gone, but those diseases were contained in part because the government was working in tandem with the CDC. Now that Trump is in charge, there’s appears to be a disconnect as the White House tries to project a rosy view of the crisis while the agencies tasked with handling it are forced to work in reality.

Back to Greg Sargent:

In late February, after one of Trump’s most senior health officials publicly warned about the threat of the virus spreading, which Trump’s own officials wanted to do so the American people could protect themselves and each other, Trump privately raged because it “was scaring the stock markets,” as The Post reported.

Even into early March, Trump was still resisting pressure from senior officials to take big steps to halt the spread, such as making a full-throated call for major social distancing efforts and lockdowns, out of fear that it would harm the markets.

Trump actually knew on some level that the pandemic was terribly dangerous, and he not only chose to lie about it to the public; he chose to not respond out of fear that any kind of response, preparation, or warning to the public would spook the stock markets. It would have been one thing if he had downplayed the danger publicly back in February while ordering an all-hands-on-deck response from federal agencies to prepare for a pandemic. But other than the disasterous testing fail from March, there was no response and no preparation. And there still hasn’t been on a federal level, including whatever mysterious thing Mr. Ivanka was doing about ventilators and PPE.

See also Thanks to Trump, We Have No Good Options from May 19

Today the Trump campaign put out a press release arguing that it was Joe Biden, not Donald Trump, who was behind the curve on the coronavirus. One, I hadn’t noticed that Joe Biden has been POTUS any time this year. Two, Biden didn’t have access to the same intelligence and briefings from public health experts that Trump enjoyed. Three, it’s not hard to find examples of Biden (and many others) being way ahead of Trump. See, for example, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders Rebuke Trump Over Virus: ‘The Clock Is Ticking’ from March 12.

Mr. Biden, the former vice president, spoke Thursday afternoon from the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Del., about the grave challenges the country faces, and he detailed his ideas for managing the outbreak. He also aimed to draw sharp contrasts with Mr. Trump a day after the president addressed the nation from the Oval Office, establishing a preview of what Mr. Biden hopes will be a general election matchup. …

… In his remarks, Mr. Biden offered his own plan for combating the virus, with proposals that included rapidly and vastly expanding testing — tests, he said, should be available at no charge — moving aggressively to boost hospital capacity and supporting an accelerated push for a vaccine that he said should be “again, free of charge.” And he argued that “the administration’s failure on testing is colossal.”

This was the day after Trump’s disasterous Oval Office address in which he announced travel and cargo restrictions from Europe, as if the virus wasn’t already spreading like a California wildfire here already. Travel from the UK and Ireland — where Trump owns resorts — was exempted, of course.

Charles Pierce wrote at the time:

This was not a speech. This was a cry for help, an SOS from a guy who knows, as Micheal Ray Richardson once put it, that the ship be sinking. You could almost imagine thousands of tiny feet running for lifeboats behind his eyes. You could see him reacting to storm sirens only he could hear. He is thrashing and floundering and he is surrounded by thrashers and flounderers who owe their entire careers to him now. This isn’t chaos. It is surrender to it.

Trump made so many misstatements in the speech that White House staff spent the next several hours issuing “clarifications.” The big takeaway, though, was that Trump was more interested in “protection theater” than dealing with the hard choices somebody should have been making at the time.

For that matter, here is Joe Biden on February 26 slamming Trump on his inaction on the coronavirus.

And here is Joe on February 1 slamming Trump’s response to the coronavirus.

“We have, right now, a crisis with the coronavirus,” Biden said in Iowa Friday. “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia – hysterical xenophobia – and fearmongering to lead the way instead of science.”

The former vice president accused the president of curtailing progress on global health oversight that was made during the Obama administration.

Biden cited “draconian cuts” to the budgets of agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Where was Trump? Let’s review:

Bob Woodward is facing criticism for not releasing the “downplaying” tape sooner, but that would have been the end of his research for his new book. We’re getting other valuable bits of information now, such as Trump’s bragging that he protected Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder. Do tell, Bob? And Woodward provides more information on Russian hacking of election systems in 2016. See also The most outrageous revelations in Bob Woodward’s book ‘Rage’ aren’t the ones you’ve heard about.

10 thoughts on “Panic Might Have Helped

  1. In point of fact, I view Woodward's decision to hold the reporting as being very similar to a reporter and photographer witnessing a massacre.

    This is a seemingly crazy, but actually quite sensible, set of rules. The reporter wants to report as if they weren't there. While one can understand the urge to grab a bullhorn, and shout out that this *will* be reported on, that changes the nature of the story entirely… and, if a few people will be killed, and then the officers come in screaming and demanding arrests, it's vitally important to report that, just as it's vitally important to report that the same thing didn't happen. While I don't like it (I dream far more of being Superman than Clark Kent or Lois Lane), I really do understand the idea of "report as if you weren't there – don't try to be any part of the story."

    The key thing to remember is this: the Republicans had the same information that the Democrats had. They had the same positive duty to protect the US that Democrats had. They should have been taking action because it was the right thing to do, not "because some reporter might have evidence against us on tape."

    And instead, they covered up for wrongdoing, *and* continued to slander the Democrats, for the unforgivable crime of being correct and trying to do the right thing.

    Just as we wouldn't eventually learn that the massacre had orders from (whichever corrupt ruler) unless the journo&photog grit their teeth, and keep monitoring and recording, we wouldn't learn just how corrupt (and, in fact, evil) the Republicans were, if Woodward had reported earlier. The President was far from the only Republican who can be accused of being not merely grossly negligent regarding, but in active opposition to, his sworn duty.


  2. LHW said what I would have, and will anyway. I've had the occasion to meet at length with two Pulitzer-caliber journalists. One with the Washington Post and one with the Tampa Bay Times. They DON'T interact with the story. It's malpractice to do so. The photojournalist who abandons his camera post to save a drowning person (and should) no longer has the impartial role. He's part of the event. 

    One one occasion, I was outraged by the distortion by the prosecutor to the judge in a written submission. I contacted him for a quote I know I'd made which directly refuted the claim. He refused to give it to me or look it up. I was asking him to interact. He did tell me how to use google to find all the instances I was looking for and I think he was on the very edge of journalistic objectivity giving me that. 

    The reporter with the Times know of the DC flight in advance. He did not tell me what he was going to write and I never asked! He might have had suggestions or ideas about what I might do or not do to improve the idea of the flight to DC. He never made them, 

    If Woodward was ever shocked by what Trump was revealing, it was Woodward's job NOT to react, to NOT tell Trump to alter his delivery. In this way a journalist is akin to a police interrogator. (And I know a few of them.) If you are giving them details, they want to keep you talking. They won't say, "You know that's also a felony." If they smile and nod, you might admit to a third crime.

    If you're going to buy one Trump book, this might be the one. 

  3. Woodward worked a moment in time.  He was trusted enough to get time and a tape recorder into interviews with Trump.  It show Trump was not misinformed and was able to voice, in that moment in time, generally accurate information about the threat of the virus.  Trump opted for psychotic denial in his messaging to you and me at the same time.  So the question remains.  Was he lying to Woodward or to the American people?  

    With Woodward he was probably working on his legacy, knowing that Woodward is quite respected as a square shooter.  Woodward writings will be heavily weighted in the history of Populism and the Trump Presidency.  Who knows what kind of bargain Woodward had to agree to even to get the interview.  Whatever it was, Woodward (in my estimation) honored his word.  That is why he got tape recorded interviews.

    So for right now I must admit I was wrong.  I did not know before now that Trump was like Sybil, a classic case from psychopathology.  Sybil had multiple personality disorder according to psychologists, a very rare disorder.  That Trump could talk to Woodward in the way he did and to us as the public in such a different way is quite Sybil like.  I defer to those more trained in psychopathology than myself, but he does seem to present himself almost as completely different people at times to different audiences.  The Trump you get may depend on if you are family, a reporter, the twitter, or the general public.  Needless to say the Trump Woodward recorded and wrote about was quite the different from the Trump  presented to the public at that time. Was the Woodward Trump and the Public Trump different personalities?  Or, was he clueless, demented, and delusional as the "normal" Trump presents himself just trying to avoid "panic"?   I am switching my view to the first idea, Why?  Because it is the explanation that fits the facts at hand better than  my previous views.  He knew Woodward would write things down.  He knew this would become a permanent record and be reported later in time.  With these factors in play his responses, to Woodward, seem of a personality quite different to the other personalities of Trump.  It is just a theory, but at this moment in time appears supported by facts at hand.

    It still has to pass scrutiny and probably a hangover test or two just for my acceptance.  I offer it as food for thought for those, like many, who find things way too odd at the moment. 

  4. Thanks for the Chris Hayes video, I did not realize the magnitude of the Woodward reveal until I saw it explained in video. 

    Some people are one-hit wonders, their next efforts never quite live up to their first big hit. Woodward managed to equal "All the President's Men" with this astonishing reveal of what Trump admitted to knowing. I am gob-smacked at how he managed to pull it off.

  5. Great Frank Rich article

    …This latest move may run down the clock over the next two months, which is all that’s needed to allow Trump to achieve his goal of delaying discovery, not to mention the handover of a DNA sample, in the Carroll case until after the election. This strategy, of course, is in keeping with his strenuous and equally bogus legal effort to stall the handover of his tax records. It’s also consistent with his administration’s illegal efforts to shut down and falsify intel about Russian election interference for the remainder of the campaign.

    But in the Carroll instance, the added outrage of Trump sticking the taxpayers with his legal bill can’t be underestimated as a secondary motive. There’s a true cash-flow crisis in Trumpland. According to Times reporting on his reelection campaign’s squandering of its once formidable trove of cash, Trump has saddled his own donors with $1.5 million in legal bills generated in part by accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination on the campaign, and another $3.5 million-plus to fight a lawsuit by a 2016 campaign aide who accused him of an inappropriate kiss. It’s nothing if not impressive how Trump’s penchant for stiffing vendors and piling up bankruptcies has remained consistent in every chapter of his career in both the private and public sectors for nearly 50 years.

  6. Some people lie to protect others; others to lie to protect themselves.  tRUMP definitely falls into the latter category.

    tRUMP wanted to show Woodward that "he was so too smart!" unlike the way most non-Reich-Wing media portrayed him, which was that he was pretty blitheringly f'in stupid – as well as very ignorant.  In other words, an unbiased observation, by our MSM.

    But he outsmarted himself – which is not too difficult a task for a f'in stupid and ignorant moron like Covid-Donnie.

    tRUMP speaks with two tongues.  With one tongue he wanted to show Woodward that he was on top of the virus situation.

    With the other, he tried to keep the stock market at or near its record highs.  But to do that, his tiny weasely brain thought he had to lie to the public, and paint a rosy picture.  That rosy picture he painted launched the counting of millions of rosary-beads among the Catholic part of our population.  Others paid their respects to their dying and dead in their own religious/non-religious ways – different totem "strokes for different folks!"

    Why didn't tRUMP plan a better, more honest message to people?

    First, tRUMP, "plan?"  A-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Surely, you jest!!!!!

    Second, he panicked!  He can't do any long-term thinking, like analyzing data, playing through different thought experiments.  Planning and long-term thinking are not tools in his skill shed!

    So he went with his lifelong ability to bullshit the suckers – which, of course, consists of everyone not named tRUMP.  He figured he could "lie like a rug,"  and get-over on everyone.  And if the lies didn't take anchor, he'd twist the truth into a Gordian Knot by blaming everyone around him!  In other words:  SOP for tRUMP.

    Biden was way ahead of tRUMP's Plague even before this year.  When tRUMP dissolved the pandemic response department he and Obama put together, Joe warned that we were leaving ourselves wide open for a major disaster.

    And so, here we are:  Almost fucked-up beyond recognition.  And if tRUMP is successful at stealing this year's election, WE WILL BE COMPLETELY FUCKED-UP BEYOND RECOGNITION – AND BEYOND ANY FORM OF SALVATION!

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