Wade Crowfoot, California’s secretary for natural resources, objected: “I wish science agreed with you.”
“Well, I don’t think science knows, actually,” Trump replied.
Sound familiar? This is the same president who has insisted — repeatedly — that the novel coronavirus would simply “go away.”
“It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear,” he said in February, when U.S. coronavirus cases still numbered in the dozens.
As we now know, from what he told Bob Woodward at the time, the president knew that the virus was far more dangerous than he was telling the country.
Had Trump been more honest about the threat, he might have generated great support for social distancing or put in place a widespread testing regimen, as other countries did, potentially blunting the impact of covid-19.
Instead, the president continues to thumb his nose at safety measures. On Sunday night, he held an indoor rally in Henderson, Nev. Thousands of his supporters packed a warehouse, disregarding a state order limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people.
“We are already making the turn. We’re making that round, beautiful, last turn” to a post-pandemic future, Trump told the generally mask-free crowd.
None of this comports with reality. The country is approaching a grim milestone of 200,000 covid-19 deaths.
Yet Trump expects Americans to suspend any doubts that a safe and effective vaccine could be available by “a very special date. You know what date I’m talking about.”
That date, of course, is Nov. 3, which happens to be Election Day. Scientific advancement is worth pursuing, Trump apparently believes, if it aligns with his political advancement.
Even if a vaccine is rolled out by year’s end, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautions that life will not return to anything that resembles pre-pandemic normal until the middle or end of 2021.
Meanwhile, as Fauci tries to temper expectations for the days and months ahead, the administration gave a conspiracy theorist and Trump sycophant a leading role in shaping the Department of Health and Human Services’ messaging.
Michael Caputo was appointed assistant secretary of public affairs in April despite having no background in health care. He came under fire in recent days for his efforts to manipulate and quash the weekly reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which painted a less rosy picture than Trump does about the pandemic.
On Sunday, Caputo went on an unhinged rant on Facebook Live, first reported by the New York Times, in which he claimed that CDC scientists who put out data undercutting the president’s version of reality are engaging in “sedition.”
“There are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president,” Caputo claimed. His 26-minute tirade included urging Trump supporters to prepare for armed conflict with left-wing “hit squads” after the election: “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.”
Caputo apologized on Tuesday and said he is considering a leave of absence. But the question remains: Why was a political operative put in such a critical job during a mounting national health emergency?
Meanwhile, Scientific American, the country’s oldest continuously published monthly magazine, has broken 175 years of tradition and, for the first time, endorsed a candidate for president.
“The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people — because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September,” editors wrote. “He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges.”
They added: “That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment.”
Imagine how refreshing it would be to have a president who sees science as a solution, not the enemy.