Memo to media: Stop pretending Trump cares about the pandemic

Trump's war against America

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Embracing the false assumption that Trump cares about the raging Covid-19 pandemic and is trying to help the country heal, the press perpetuates a myth about the distressing state of our nation. On paper, the president ought to care. But this one does not, and that should be the dominant news story. Not claims that he's "still struggling to fully grasp the severity” of the crisis, as CNN recently reported. Or that the administration is merely "dysfunctional," as the Washington Post suggested last week.

"The lost days of summer: How Trump struggled to contain the virus," read the Washington Post headline, falsely implying that Trump has in fact "struggled" do anything in recent months to stop the virus. The reason tens of millions of American school children won't be back in classrooms this fall, why nearly 15 million have lost their jobs and remain out of work this year, why high-profile enterprises such as college football look less likely to happen in coming weeks is because Trump's done nothing to help fight the pandemic. (The Post headline was later changed to "Trump falls short in containing the virus," which still radically underplays the story.)

The clear evidence shows his actions have consistently made the crisis worse — that's the news story. In an excellent Slate piece that avoids the typically vague language used in so much of the pandemic coverage, William Saletan presented the unfiltered facts:

Trump knew we weren’t ready for a pandemic, but he didn’t prepare. He knew China was hiding the extent of the crisis, but he joined in the cover-up. He knew the virus was spreading in the United States, but he said it was vanishing. He knew we wouldn’t find it without more tests, but he said we didn’t need them. He delayed mitigation. He derided masks. He tried to silence anyone who told the truth. And in the face of multiple warnings, he pushed the country back open, reigniting the spread of the disease.

Against that backdrop, it's negligent for media outlets to suggest Trump has done anything to try to stop this crisis. "When will journalists drop all the old conventions and stop with the euphemisms and describe the world as it is, not as they pretend it is," asked commentator Mehdi Hasan. "Trump’s response to the pandemic has been totally insane, uniquely reckless, criminally negligent."

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"Insane" and "criminally negligent" are certainly accurate terms to use in this instance. But those phrases are not ones that most Beltway newsrooms deploy to describe Trump's unfolding national disaster — those terms are considered to be too pointed and therefore out of the realm of accepted discussion.

That's why there have been so many, Here's-How-Trump-Dropped-The-Ball process stories, followed by Here's-How-Trump-Can-Fix-The-Problem pieces. Both narratives miss the disturbing reality of what's been unfolding for the last five months — Trump doesn't care. Period.

That's not an exaggeration. Can supporters name three things Trump has done since March to suggest he cares about his national health crisis and the stunning toll it has taken on this country — three acts of sympathy or three acts of decisive federal action that have helped save lives or minimize the damage. Trump doesn't even pretend to care about the pandemic (it's going to "disappear"), as he spends his summer weekends leisurely golfing. So why does the press insist he does care, and that there's still a chance he'll spring into action to help the country through this crisis? 

Journalists either can't or won't wrap their heads around the existential crisis America faces, that the President of the United States is actively disinterested in protecting its citizens. Rather than addressing that grim reality, the press plays it safe, suggesting Trump has been "distracted" and just doesn’t "get it," to explain his historic and deliberate failure.  

For five months Trump has made clear that he doesn't care about the pandemic ("It is what it is"), doesn't care how many people die, doesn't care if children are put at risk going back to school, doesn't care if millions of Americans will soon be evicted. He doesn't care, period. ("When it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away," he predicted.)  

The press isn't willing address that stunning fact, in part because we've never had a president who has waged war on America. We've never had a president who would give a stand down order for a virus invasion. Politically, journalists also know that accurately calling Trump out as a saboteur would unleash a right-wing backlash, and newsrooms don't want to deal with that.

The same reasons reporters won't call Trump a liar or a racist or mentally unstable, now drive them to ignore the frightening realities of Trump's pandemic response and the fact he isn't concerned with the calamitous course the country is on.

The mounting evidence leaves no doubt that as a country, we're facing a defining crisis. For journalists, that means aggressively addressing the bigger picture about a president who seems determined to watch America crumble and decay. What matters now is asking the difficult questions and pondering what the Trump presidency is truly about, no matter what darkness lurks in the shadows.

And that means dropping the canard that Trump cares about this pandemic.

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GOOD STUFF:

I highly recommend Saletan’s Slate piece mentioned above, “How Trump Killed Tens of Thousands of Americans.” It’s one of the most detailed looks at the Trump’s deliberate moves to make the pandemic worse for America:

Trump collaborated with Xi, concealed the threat, impeded the U.S. government’s response, silenced those who sought to warn the public, and pushed states to take risks that escalated the tragedy. He’s personally responsible for tens of thousands of deaths.

This isn’t speculation. All the evidence is in the public record. But the truth, unlike Trump’s false narrative, is scattered in different places. It’s in emails, leaks, interviews, hearings, scientific reports, and the president’s stray remarks. This article puts those fragments together.

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FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK

Blake Shelton, "Happy Anywhere"

With some vocal help from Gwen Stefani, Shelton here delivers a kind of classic Nashville, Music Row easy listening single with is latest release — and I can't stop listening. With a clever hook that burrows into your brain, the song delivers a three-minute, breezy respite from whatever’s stressing your mind.

I'm running wide open
I was born with my feet in motion
But since I met you, I swear
I could be happy anywhere
Any map dot location
You're always my destination