Tuesday, October 06, 2020


Briefing reporters on Sunday, President Trump's physician, Dr. Sean Conley, was asked whether he'd omitted key information about the president's condition in a briefing the previous day. He effectively acknowledged that he had, but he insisted that it was for a sound medical reason:
Conley was also asked why he had avoided saying during the Saturday briefing whether Trump had ever been given supplemental oxygen.

“I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude the team, the president through his course of illness has had,” Conley said. “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction, and in doing so it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”
Yesterday, when the president returned from the hospital, he released a video statement in which he suggested that beating the virus -- although there's good reason to believe he hasn't done so yet -- is largely a question of mind over matter:
“Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it. We have the best medical equipment. We have the best medicines, all developed recently,” Trump, who was not wearing a mask, said in a video message taped at the White House and disseminated on his Twitter account.

“Don’t let it dominate. Don’t let it take over your lives. Don’t let that happen,” Trump continued.
The Conley statement was criticized at the time -- how can a doctor's words describing a patient's condition to third parties affect how well the patient responds to treatment? -- but the president's statement makes clear that the official coronavirus policy of the United States, derived from the religious teachings of the twentieth-century minister Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, is that if you want to defeat the coronavirus, the best medicine is the Power of Positive Thinking. The implication is that only negative-thinking losers get seriously ill from COVID-19.

So in March, when Trump didn't want the passengers of the cruise ship Grand Princess to disembark in San Francisco because the ones who tested positive for the coronavirus would be added to America's total, he didn't say "I like the numbers being where they are" strictly for personal reasons. That was epidemiological -- keeping the case numbers low would make the virus less powerful, in the president's view, even though the degree of virus spread didn't actually change. The president was also trying to reduce the virus's potency when, over the past few months, he frequently uttered variations on the same point: "If we didn't do testing, we'd have no cases.... When you do tests, you have cases."

In March, when Trump told Bob Woodward, "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic," he wasn't saying he chose to do that in order to deceive the public. He was saying that "creating a panic" would have made Americans mentally weaker, which would have let the virus "dominate." Downplaying the pandemic would "steer the course of illness in another direction."

This, of course, is nuts. But it's our policy now. It's been our policy since the winter. And it will be our policy -- and state religion -- until we have a new president.

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