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THOMPSON: Amid pandemic Americans get Trump's Theatre of the Absurd

May 11, 2020 - 12:11 PM



President Donald J. Trump and his Coronavirus Task Force - headed by Vice-President Mike Pence and with a cadre of doctors and political appointees standing beside him - hold almost daily White House briefings on the pandemic.

The briefings have become laughable…not by intent or in any truly comedic way…but in a pathetic-high-school-production-of-“Cats” way. Of course, these briefings should be serious…filled with facts and truths…and delivering advice based on science. It is - after all - a matter of life and death for tens if not hundreds of thousands.

Americans should have known they were in deep weeds when a mid-March briefing to advise people to distance themselves, wash hands, and not touch their faces or shake hands turned into another episode of Trump Theatre of the Absurd.

There they were…17 officials standing shoulder to shoulder, shaking hands, adjusting microphones, touching their faces…even Vice-President Pence wiping his nose, then shaking someone’s hands. The briefings would - like the pandemic - get worse…and worse.

But the bad decisions started back in 2018 when Trump closed the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense. He was even warned in transitional briefings two years earlier by the Obama White House staff of the threat of pandemics.

Trump dismissed those warnings, and more recently ignored the dire warnings of intelligence agencies this past January and February. He downplayed the coronavirus threat, and literally ignored Congressional inquiries from Democrats in early February.

Trump failed to prioritize testing that could have saved tens of thousands of people, and limited economic damage. But rather than acting early on to marshall the power of the federal government to ensure enough personal protection equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and first responders, Trump misplayed politics and misled the American public.

Indeed, Trump has lied from day one…and he lies dozens of times during every daily briefing. When he’s not outright lying, he dealing in disinformation and misinformation. Remember immediately after Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control’s Anne Schuchat both warned of more cases in mid-March, it was Trump who said, “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done."

And if you doubted Trump’s character, you only have to recall what he said when asked by reporters a week later about his administration’s stumbling start in managing the pandemic.

Without so much as a moment’s hesitation, he told America on live television: “I don’t take any responsibility at all.” Surprise! Did you think his naming Vice-President Pence the head of the task force was anything but needing a scapegoat when things went bad?

Really, if you want the truth about how many people are contracting and dying from COVID-19 in America, it’s at your finger tips. Go online. Pick a town…any town…in any state. Then, use Google and search for local news media outlets in that town. 

This is where you will find truth…from people who report locally and deal in facts from local doctors and hospitals and law enforcement and government officials on the front lines. This war isn’t being fought and certainly not won in Washington, D.C. It is is New York City and Peoria, IL and Birmingham, AL and Wichita, KS…and a thousand more urban, suburban and rural communities in America.

No doubt, Canada is doing a much better job - provincially and nationally - than the United States. The numbers don't lie. Canadian politicians acted sooner and more decisively…based on science and medicine…and while unable to avoid the impact of a pandemic, Canada is faring much better.

The day before Good Friday, Trump’s briefing lasted more than two hours…with him taking up almost all of that time. That stream of unconsciousness might be the best evidence yet that this man is incompetent. He lied more times than you could count…his claims were those of someone disconnected with reality. I watched and listened to his ravings as if I were watching someone about to be institutionalized.

The day after Easter brought another marathon Trump Show. Again, viewers witnessed not only a virtually unhinged president who, when asked what metrics he would use to re-open the U.S. economy, pointed to his head and said, “It’s right here.”

He claimed four separate times in a rambling defence of his reputation and image that re-opening the economy would be the biggest decision of his life. The truth is…it’s not his decision…but governors, says the U.S. Constitution…not to mention companies and workers.

Trump airs his grievances against the new media, against Democrats and as he tries to re-write history, he mostly focuses on settling scores with those who use facts and science. Trump starts each briefing with an acknowledgment of the deaths…but shows no empathy for those who died or their loved ones…before turning into a reality show starring him.

How small of a person is Donald Trump? Well, a few weeks ago he insisted on having his signature on U.S. Treasury checks…stimulus payments to most Americans. He dodges all responsibility…but takes all credit. He is - in fact - a composite of every a-hole you ever knew.

So, keep it up, Donnie, you’re well on your way to being forever known as “The Mad President of America!” You deserve nothing less. And those Americans who lose loved ones to COVID-19…and still support and plan to vote for Donald Trump…What can you say?

Really, Trump supporters, what will you say when people move past questioning Trump’s sanity…and question yours?

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.

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