But in this case, Trump’s announcement — of an emergency authorization of convalescent plasma as treatment for some coronavirus patients — actually demonstrates why that’s increasingly unlikely to happen.
This affair also shows why the GOP convention will likely fail at one of its most urgent goals — erasing and rewriting the history of Trump’s towering failures on the pandemic — perhaps in spectacularly buffoonish fashion.
The starting point when considering any new Trump announcement on the coronavirus between now and Election Day is this: Nobody believes a single word Trump says on this topic anymore, and everybody knows Trump has so thoroughly corrupted the government that any new initiatives will only be a nakedly deceitful effort to serve his personal and political interests, and nothing more.
Okay, perhaps “nobody” is an overstatement. But there are solid grounds for believing majorities have reached this conclusion — and this new trick from Trump itself actually illustrates why.
Another deranged conspiracy theory
That’s because Trump’s new announcement came packaged with another demented conspiracy theory. Trump had rage-tweeted that the “deep state” was getting the Food and Drug Administration to delay trials for coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics, for the explicit purpose of harming his reelection. He even cited FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn in the tweet:
Trump’s new announcement was immediately denounced by scientists and physicians. As The Post reports, many felt the announcement had “misled the public by overstating the evidence behind a therapy that shows promise but still needs to be rigorously tested.”
Specifically, Trump overstated its immediate benefits. He claimed it is “proven to reduce mortality by 35 percent,” when in fact, the FDA itself offered a much narrower assessment, saying patients under 80 who also met a range of other conditions were 35 percent more likely to be alive one month later.
Meanwhile, some experts said even the FDA’s conclusions hadn’t received enough examination. Importantly, they noted all this could have adverse consequences: The overstatement of the treatment’s value and scientific grounding could create a false public sense of security about the coronavirus. As one noted: “The reality is what we have today to treat covid is extremely limited.”
Perhaps most important for our purposes here, some experts said Trump’s use of a conspiracy theory to pressure the FDA into action is itself deeply destructive.
As the New York Times reports, that pressure came after top administration scientists — including Anthony Fauci — had questioned whether the evidence of the treatment’s efficacy was sufficient.
In this context, by bludgeoning the FDA with his conspiracy theory, Trump will make whatever the agency does now look like it is being shaped by his political pressure on it. As the Times notes:
Democrats and some health experts said the president’s criticism of federal regulators undermined public confidence and threatened the credibility of the agency charged with determining whether drugs and medicines are safe and effective.
The crassness of holding the announcement on the day before the GOP convention only makes this worse.
Trump’s latest nonsense shows weakness
Take a step back and all this shows how this conspiracy theory underscores his political weakness. Trump thinks his magical reality-bending powers are so potent that people will actually believe his claim that the deep state had been holding up this announcement, when the real culprit was a good-faith scientific impulse to do more testing first.
But the demented nature of this pressure just demonstrates for voters — again — his corrupt tendency to try to manipulate the government into producing conclusions that are designed to serve his ends, rather than being driven by any meaningful determination of what’s in the national interest.
In turn, this perception of Trump — that he perpetually and pathologically subverts the national interest to his own — will surely color much of what he says or announces about the coronavirus from now until the election.
Remember, we already know scientists inside and outside the government have good grounds for believing that the White House is pressuring the FDA to produce kind of limited approval for a vaccine before the election.
This sort of corrupt manipulation has been a defining feature of Trump’s whole tenure. He pushed his health officials to minimize the coronavirus threat early on to avoid spooking markets and harming his reelection. The White House built an overly optimistic statistical model of projected deaths to justify Trump’s early push to reopen. Administration guidelines for reopening schools downplayed risks and were edited by the White House.
The list goes on and on. Trump pressured a top official to find “evidence” of large inaugural crowds. The White House created a commission whose mission was to validate his lies about voter fraud. Officials have repeatedly cooked official materials to prop up his border falsehoods. Remember Trump’s magical Sharpie?
The larger context here is that this week’s GOP convention will be all about completely rewriting the events of the past six months. As The Post reports, Republicans say it will “present an affirmative case for Trump’s management of the pandemic.”
But a recent Post/ABC poll finds that 64 percent of Americans don’t trust what Trump tells them about the coronavirus. These percentages are crushingly bad for Trump among the groups he needs to persuade most: seniors (61 percent); college-educated Whites (65 percent); and even non-college-educated White women (62 percent).
In addition to the outpouring of rage and white grievance we all know is coming, Trump’s convention will be a festival of propaganda and lies about the coronavirus. But why would the voters he needs to win back believe a word of it, especially after seeing this latest conspiracy-mongering nonsense?
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