Yet now, in a propaganda effort that can only be described as obscene, the Trump administration is trying to convince us not only that the pandemic is all but behind us, but also that its spectacularly incompetent response has been a great triumph.
This will without a doubt go down as one of the worst presidential failures in American history. And we can see now that it had three distinct (if overlapping) phases.
The first was the denial phase, in which President Trump dismissed the danger from the virus and did almost nothing to prepare for its arrival. The second was the mismanagement phase, in which his administration utterly failed to control the virus as it swept across the country.
The third was the polarization phase, in which, for his own vulgar political reasons, Trump attacked Democratic governors trying to contain the virus, discouraged social distancing and mask-wearing, and quite intentionally created an atmosphere in which loud refusal to take the measures that we know reduce the spread of infection is how you prove you’re a loyal Republican.
We’re now seeing the effects, as states where Republican governors lifted stay-at-home orders and encouraged people to resume normal commercial and social activities are experiencing dramatic spikes in infections. Texas saw its highest one-day total of new infections on Tuesday; the governor there says there’s “no real need” to slow the opening of businesses. Florida saw its highest one-day total this week as well, as did Arizona.
But the Trump administration wants you to know that everything is going great, as Vice President Pence wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. Here’s how it begins:
In recent days, the media has taken to sounding the alarm bells over a “second wave” of coronavirus infections. Such panic is overblown. Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and the courage and compassion of the American people, our public health system is far stronger than it was four months ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.While talk of an increase in cases dominates cable news coverage, more than half of states are actually seeing cases decline or remain stable.
Let me translate that last bit for you: In nearly half the states, infections are increasing, while in others they’re remaining stable, which is itself not a victory — it’s a nightmare.
As The Post’s Philip Bump notes, Pence is right that we’re not in a second wave — but it’s because we never left the first wave. This graph comparing infections in the U.S. to the European Union shows how poorly we’re doing compared to our peers:
But Pence wants you to look at the morgue not as half-full, but as half-empty:
Cases have stabilized over the past two weeks, with the daily average case rate across the U.S. dropping to 20,000 — down from 30,000 in April and 25,000 in May. And in the past five days, deaths are down to fewer than 750 a day, a dramatic decline from 2,500 a day a few weeks ago — and a far cry from the 5,000 a day that some were predicting.
To repeat, cases “stabilizing” is not what we want. I don’t know who Pence thinks was predicting 5,000 deaths a day, but that’s a preposterous straw man. As for the 750 dead Americans each and every day that he considers a great success, if we maintained that pace, it would mean almost 150,000 more Americans dying from the pandemic by the end of the year, on top of the 115,000 who have already died.
A quarter of a million mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, all dead. A quarter of a million shattered families and grieving communities. Congratulations.
You’ll forgive my blunt words, but describing 750 Americans dying each and every day as good news is simply monstrous.
Here’s how Pence ends his op-ed:
But our greatest strength is the resilience of the American people. From the outset of this pandemic, the American people have stepped up and made great personal sacrifices to protect the health and safety of our nation. And it’s because of their embrace of social-distancing guidelines that all 50 states have begun to reopen in a safe and responsible manner.The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different. The truth is, whatever the media says, our whole-of-America approach has been a success. We’ve slowed the spread, we’ve cared for the most vulnerable, we’ve saved lives, and we’ve created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future. That’s a cause for celebration, not the media’s fear mongering.
The mind reels. Pence compliments Americans for embracing social distancing guidelines when the president whose boots he licks with such enthusiasm has derided and undermined those guidelines at every available opportunity, turning what could have been an actual “whole-of-America approach” into a partisan divide in which gathering in closed and crowded spaces without a mask on is how you show you’re a freedom-loving Republican.
It will be nowhere more apparent than at Trump’s upcoming rally in Tulsa this Saturday. Local officials are pleading with him to cancel it, but he is determined to pack 20,000 people into an arena where they can shout and cheer and breathe each other’s air — and you can bet that almost none of them will be wearing masks, because that would just show that they aren’t devoted to the president who refuses to wear one himself.
This pandemic is an era-defining catastrophe, and it didn’t have to be this way. It’s almost impossible to imagine a president more ill-prepared, by virtue of experience and temperament and judgment, to handle it, and all our worst fears have come true. Don’t let him or any of his lackeys tell you otherwise.