Media's taboo topic: Why's Trump doing this?

Incompetence doesn't explain pandemic debacle

Stay healthy.

Be kind.


Everything Trump has done in response to the coronavirus national emergency has been dead wrong. That's confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that were established over a decade ago for when dealing with a health crisis. The agency created a 450-page manual and Trump and his team have not only ignored the recommendations — be consistent, transparent, factual, and credible — they've actively done the opposite.

To date, Trump has ignored intelligence warnings, called the crisis a hoax, downplayed the threat, lied about virus testing, lied about the government's on-the-ground response, lied about the rate of infection, blamed the Obama administration, misled the country about a cure, packed his days with non-action, blamed governors, failed to order a national lockdown, refused to work with certain Democratic officials, and has provided zero national leadership. (“I don’t take responsibility at all.")

"The U.S. response will be studied for generations as a textbook example of a disastrous, failed effort," said Ron Klain, who was tapped by President Barack Obama to oversee the nation’s fight against Ebola in 2014.

Trump has seemingly done everything to help spread the disease. "We have to understand that faced with "the invasion" of this virus the President has chosen to stand down, do nothing, let people die and it ravage America," wrote Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg, in an entirely accurate description of what has transpired — Trump stood down and let a virus invade the country, knowing from intelligence briefings what that would mean for the U.S. population.

No other country is facing the coronavirus disaster while its national leader appears not to care how many of his country's citizens die, and who day after day refuses to take common sense steps to address the crisis. (Where are the tests, masks, hospital beds, and respirators?)

Trump's behavior has been shocking — except it hasn't been. For five years, since entering the national political scene in the summer of 2015, Trump has shown us who he is everyday, a deeply damaged narcissist who can't stop lying.  Yet the press treats his sociopath tendencies as taboo.

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The larger, looming question is, why is Trump doing this? Or as Greg Sargent recently asked at the Washington Post, why must Democrats and other officials try to force Trump to do the right thing? Why is he refusing to protect the population from a deadly invasion?

Maybe he's vengeful. A fatalist? Maybe he wants to wreck the economy to create investment opportunities? He's under the thumb of a foreign entity? He wants to cancel the November elections? Who knows. And honestly, the "why" isn't what matters now. It's increasingly not credible to suggest Trump has simply been distracted or incompetent during this crisis, leading to constant "flip-flops," as the New York Times politely calls his hourly contradictions, as the country faces dire circumstances.

It’s time for journalists to stop expressing shock regarding his erratic and heartless behavior, because that unwarranted shock just helps normalize Trump's dangerous behavior. It plays into the idea that Trump at times behaves rationally, and picks and chooses when he should act like a leader, and when he does not need to — that Trump can mimic the actions of a sane person when the situation calls for it.

If we take a step back, the scale of government’s failure is so complete and so sweeping it borders on the incomprehensible. After a while, explaining this away as Trump being unfocused, or not having a plan, or being shortsighted just doesn't add up. The failure to protect has been so thorough, it's difficult to suggest it’s happened coincidentally.

Why is it taboo? The possible answers are too disturbing for the press to ponder, therefore they're deemed off-limits. Instead of addressing the reality, the press prefers to stick with the safe narrative that the White House is muddled and disorganized. To address the other possibilities would raise stunning questions about the President of the United States —the types of questions that have never been asked about any president in this nation's history.

In essence, the press plays dumb, as the Wall Street Journal urges Trump to "rethink the coronavirus strategy," as if there was ever a Trump "strategy" to begin with, while Politico suggests the life-and-death problems the U.S. faces today stem from Trump's "short-term thinking."

That's the simple explanation. What's going on is far more complicated, and far more disturbing.

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Yes, I just watched Netflix’s quarantine sensation, “Tiger King,” the strange, real-life tale of big cat eccentric, Joe Exotic, and his conviction last year of hiring a hit man to kill an animal right’s advocate. The real revelation to me though, was that between 5,000-10,000 tigers live in captivity in the U.S. today, which is far more than the number of tigers that roam free around the world.

Rachel Nuwer’s new piece, “The Strange and Dangerous World of America’s Big Cat People,” offers an excellent deep dive into the odd world:

Joe did cop to something else, though. He said being locked up in jail had made him realize he’d mistreated the animals all those years, depriving them of their freedom and robbing them of their dignity by keeping them behind bars. Joe told me he regretted having done that. “Now that I have nothing to do besides sit in a cell with no TV, no radio, no nothing, I know exactly what I did to those [animals],” he said. “We can all be drove crazy by doing nothing.”


Pearl Jam, "Alright"

New Pearl Jam music is always welcome, no more so than now. Arguably the most important American rock band of the last 25 years, the Seattle five-piece just released its eleventh full-length album, Gigaton. Highlighting a nifty experimental streak, the record covers a wide musical range, including the softer, more contemplative sounds of "Alright," featuring Eddie Vedder's warmly reassuring meditations:

It's alright to say no
Be a disappointment in your own home
It's alright to turn it off
Ignore the rules of the state, it's your own
It's alright to shut it down
Disappear in thin air, it's your home
It's alright to be alone
To listen for a heartbeat, it's your own