“May” is not a guarantee. But who would expect President Trump to pay attention to the fine print?
Positive thinking can’t stop a global pandemic. But that hasn’t stopped the president from trying frantically to talk up the economy and talk down coronavirus, without taking practical steps to prevent and mitigate the situation at hand.
Trump has claimed — falsely — that coronavirus is not worse than the flu. He has not only lied about how many people are infected in the United States, he out-and-out admitted that he tried to stop ill people from the Grand Princess cruise ship from coming ashore because, “I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”
And the positive thinking approach to disease control has successfully infected the Republican mind. A poll released by Quinnipiac University finds that about two-thirds of Democrats are concerned they or someone close to them will come down with coronavirus. Only about one-third of Republicans say the same. Fox News star Jesse Watters actually claimed that positive thinking could cure him of coronavirus. “If I get it, I’ll beat it,” he said.
But no amount of positive thinking can make up for the fact that the United States — despite ample warning — does not have anywhere near enough coronavirus testing kits. Here in the United States, we’re lagging. Vice President Pence boasted of plans to send out 2,500 test kits by the end of this week. South Korea can already test 10,000 people a day and is offering drive-through testing sites to minimize transmission. Meanwhile, around the United States, tales are surfacing of people with symptoms that all but scream covid-19 being denied testing due to lack of resources.
Trump has proclaimed that “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.” But that raises the question of why he believes schools are shutting down and companies are asking employees to work at home. The Monday he made that announcement, the S&P 500, Dow and Nasdaq fell more than 7 percent. Investors, it seems, are reacting more to the obvious facts of the disease than to the denial, avoidance and lies Trump has put on display. Markets regained some of the losses Tuesday morning, only to quickly give them back up. It’s clear investors and traders remain jittery.
The United States excels at promoting positive and magical thinking, leaving people believing that all forms of catastrophe can be prevented with the right attitude. This is a country where business people are told they should “fake it till they make it,” and individuals are criticized when they don’t present a positive and upbeat attitude.
Trump has gotten away with depending on positive thinking his entire life. It’s not because it works, necessarily, but because over and over again, enablers stepped forward to bail him out and give him another chance. This allowed him to present himself as a business guru when, in fact, he was a serial boaster with greatly enabling connections.
But infectious and viral diseases don’t respond to alternative facts and magical thinking. You can’t PR them out of existence. They can’t be dismissed as “fake news,” no matter what Trump thinks. Pundits are beginning to refer to the coronavirus epidemic as “Trump’s Katrina” and “Trump’s Chernobyl.” Coronavirus is Trump’s catastrophe. He owns it. And no amount of positive thinking can change that.