It’s time to Break It Down!
The year 2020 has earned numerous mocking descriptions, based on a near apocalyptic litany of, “if it wasn’t for bad luck, there’d be none at all,” cataclysmic events, including only the third Presidential impeachment in the history of the Republic, the tragic deaths of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash, the spread of a global pandemic, and the end of the magical string of economic and job gains that began early in the Obama era. Now as a nation, we have familiarized ourselves with an array of new nomenclature and habits ranging from COVID-19 to regular mask wearing for the most mundane of outside chores. Sports ground to a screeching halt, movie theaters shut down, schools from Pre-K to colleges and universities closed, or transitioned to online operations, and a larger than ever swath of Americans, who are still fortunate enough to have a job, are working from home.
Through it all, the one thing Americans could reliably depend on was the Leader of the Free World was spinning and weaving a tale liberally mixed with positivity, fantasy and denial. Despite, presumably being apprised and armed with the best and most accurate intel on planet earth, for months he suggested the ultimate relief was right around the corner, or just over the proverbial rainbow. Here’s a sampling of a dozen times Mr. Trump teased relief, that in reality, was nowhere in sight.
February 10th in a meeting with Governors (12 documented cases) – “Now, the virus that we’re talking about having to do — you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April.”
February 25th at a roundtable in New Delhi (53 documented cases) – “[China is] getting it more and more under control. So, I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away.”
February 26th during a news briefing (59 documented cases) – “Again, 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.”
February 27th at a photo opportunity at the White House (60 documented cases) – “We have done an incredible job. We’re going to continue. It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear. And from our shores, we — you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens. Nobody really knows. The fact is, the greatest experts — I’ve spoken to them all. Nobody really knows.”
March 6th during a bill signing (278 documented cases/14 deaths) – “It’ll go away.”
March 10th during a meeting on Capitol Hill (959 documented cases/28 deaths) – “We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”
March 12th during a bilateral meeting (1663 documented cases/40 deaths) – “You know, we need a little a separation until such time as this goes away. It’s going to go away. It’s going to go way. I was watching [former FDA administrator] Scott [Gottlieb] — I was watching Scott this morning, and he was saying within two months. … It’s going away. We want it to go away with very, very few deaths.”
March 30th during a coronavirus news briefing (161807 documented cases/2978 deaths) – “It will go away. You know it — you know it is going away, and it will go away. And we’re going to have a great victory. … I want to have our country be calm and strong, and fight and win, and it will go away.”
March 31st during a coronavirus news briefing (188,172 documented cases/3873 deaths) – “It’s going to go away, hopefully at the end of the month. And, if not, hopefully it will be soon after that.”
April 3rd during a coronavirus news briefing (275,586 documented cases/7,087 deaths) – “It is going to go away. It is going away. … I said it’s going away, and it is going away.”
April 7th during a coronavirus news briefing (396, 223/12,722 deaths) – “It did go — it will go away. … The cases really didn’t build up for a while. But you have to understand, I’m a cheerleader for this country. I don’t want to create havoc and shock and everything else.”
April 28th in a news conference (1,004,908 documented cases/58000 deaths) – “I think what happens is it’s going to go away. This is going to go away.”
So, in the event anyone was to place Mr. Trump’s early spitball assessment that 15 cases would soon be zero, the cases by April 28th totaled just 92 shy of 67,000 for every one of those 15 cases he referenced on February 26th, a two-month span of time. For the record, that would total 1,005,000 cases. Yesterday, for the first time since early June, the death toll from the virus exceeded 1,000 per day. In the backdrop, Mr. Trump stood in front of a bank of reporters and TV cameras and in, given the above statements, made what amounted to a 180-degree reversal. After nearly three months, he revived the coronavirus task force and conceded the trauma that is COVID-19 would get worse before it gets better. Those who represent that as doing a great job, are undoubtedly skilled in the art of truthful hyperbole. (You either get it, or you don’t).
Over the course of the pandemic, three Golden Rule protocols emerged. They are frequent hand washing, social distancing (maintaining six feet of separation between yourself and other people especially folks with whom you do not share a household), and mask-wearing. Well before Donald Trump became a political figure, he was known to be a germaphobe, who disdained shaking hands. He revealed this nugget to the world, via his 1997 book, “The Art of the Comeback.”
Taking into account his aversion for the microbes other people carry, it’s actually an interesting dynamic, that he resisted wearing a mask. It took months, millions of cases, and more than 100,000 deaths before he would deign to don a mask in public. At one point he offered that he refused to give the media, with which he has a perpetual battle, the satisfaction of taking his picture in a mask. While that may have been part of his motivation for what seemed both a stubborn and, under the circumstances, bizarre behavior, a likely deeper rationalization was his commitment to pitching himself as an exemplar of strength to his loyalists, and partisans. With that in mind, it is no surprise, many Trump supporters also eschew, if not downright refuse to wear a mask. In fact, a great many of them appear not to care much for social distancing either. I’m in no position to speak about their penchant for hand washing, or the lack thereof, but if they are rejecting two of the three principal protocols, they are certainly increasing their odds of contracting, or spreading the virus…or both.
A couple of interesting developments happened over the past week and a half. After publicly saying on a number of occasions, he had nothing against masks, but they were not for him, on a Saturday, July 11th trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he wore a mask in public for the first time. Then on Monday of this week, he tweeted a picture of himself wearing a mask, with the message
“We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!”
The message, though not resoundingly enthusiastic, positive or encouraging mask wearing, was still a sharp departure from Mr. Trump’s stance over the course of several months. His grudging acceptance of reason was welcomed by the medical and scientific communities, amid their valiant fight to subdue the virus. All things considered, it’s not even super important that the pressure for his ultimate submission was brought to bear, not by the nearly four million cases in the U.S., or as a result of the almost one hundred forty thousand deaths, but by his anemic polling, and resultant persistent efforts of his re-election team to persuade him to relent. It is what it is. What it is, was more than enough to cause me to inquire, “Who Is That Masked Man?”
I’m done; holla back!
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