Thursday, March 05, 2020


Ross Douthat is right:

Right-wingers could be demonizing globalism and a foreign country (or several foreign countries, including Iran) right now -- but the main target would be China, and the head of America's right-wing personality cult has a mild mancrush on China's totalitarian leader, as he does on most totalitarian leaders.

And, of course, Trump is a lifelong believer in Norman Vincent Peale and the Power of Positive Thinking, so he gives us preposterous happy talk like this, from the White House briefing yesterday:
... it's affecting the airline business as it would and a lot of people are staying in our country and they're shopping and they're using our hotels in this country, so from that same point I think probably there's a positive impact.
And appalling misinformation like this:
In a [phone interview] with [Sean] Hannity on Wednesday night, Trump reacted to the World Health Organization's data-driven assessment of the global death rate for the novel coronavirus — 3.4% — by saying "I think the 3.4% is really a false number."

"Now, this is just my hunch," Trump said, ... "based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this, because a lot of people will have this, and it's very mild -- they'll get better very rapidly, they don't even see a doctor, they don't even call a doctor -- you never hear about those people, so you can't put them down in the category of the overall population, in terms of this corona flu, and/or virus. So you just can't do that."

Trump continued by discarding his own administration's advice to stay home if you're feeling sick: "If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work, some of them go to work, but they get better, and then when you do have a death, like you've had in the state of Washington, like you had one in California, I believe you had one in New York." No deaths have been reported in New York.

"You know," Trump said, "all of a sudden it seems like 3 or 4%, which is a very high number, as opposed to a fraction of 1%. But again, they don't know about the easy cases because the easy cases don't go to the hospital. They don't report to doctors or the hospital in many cases. So I think that that number is very high. I think the number, personally, I would say the number is way under 1%."
If -- when -- this virus is at epidemic levels in America, can Trump keep this up? Can he remain in denial forever, even if we have thousands of deaths?

I think by then even Trump will have to admit that we have a problem. I assume he'll switch to scapegoating.

He's already done some of that:
President Donald Trump sought to lay blame on the Obama administration for slowing down new diagnostic testing, but a Republican senator's office and a lab association said this is not correct.

"The Obama administration made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we're doing," Trump said Wednesday during a meeting on addressing the coronavirus outbreak. "And we undid that decision a few days ago so that the testing can take place in a much more rapid and accurate fashion."

An aide to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, said the Obama administration made no such rule change. The aide, Taylor Haulsee, said the Obama administration did propose that the Food and Drug Administration have more oversight over approving diagnostic tests, but that did not go through.

Alexander served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions while those changes were being considered during the Obama administration.

A policy expert at the Association of Public Health Laboratories agreed with Haulsee's assessment.

When asked about Trump's remarks, Peter Kyriacopolous, chief policy officer at the association, said: "We aren't sure what rule is being referenced."
You'll notice that the coronavirus is showing up in and around large, well-off cities in America -- Seattle, Los Angeles, New York. Eventually we'll hear about the virus spreading through an urban homeless population, or a Democratic mayor or governor will make a policy decision that Trump (and Fox News) will be able to mischaracterize as likely to accelerate the spread of the virus.

That's when Trump will pivot. He'll stop trying to pretend that the virus is as harmless as the seasonal flu -- but he'll need a way to persuade himself (and his fans) that it's all some damn liberal's fault.

It's easy to imagine the coronavirus in one homeless encampment in L.A. or San Francisco, at which point the right, including Trump, will proclaim that all homeless people should be rounded up everywhere and forced into quarantine. When that doesn't happen -- because, of course, public health officials in the various cities will be responding to reality, not ideology -- Trump will have his scapegoat. He and the right-wing media persuade the conservative base that the outbreak is caused by homelessness and the way liberals run cities.

If it's not that, it will be something like that. Trump will eventually pivot from see-no-evil to scapegoating, even though he doesn't realize that yet.

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