The world right now. Front line health workers arrive at an infected nursing home in Washington. Reuters photo
"Leadership: Whatever happens, you're responsible. If it doesn't happen, you're responsible." - Donald J. Trump, Nov. 8, 2013
Hell of a week, or in the words of one meme making the frazzled rounds, "What a fucking year this week has been." The country nigh-on collapsed under the weight of coronavirus and the stupefying ineptness of a delusional loser who flamboyantly stumbled and rambled and flailed, offering only "head-snapping misinformation and mendacity," unfathomable cruelty and the sure-to-be-legacy-defining horror, “I don’t take responsibility at all” - followed by the inevitable swipe at a black reporter and at this point the stunningly deranged claim, “We’re doing a great job." Meanwhile, U.S. cases rose to over 1,600, health workers warned of dire consequences from lack of resources, and officials scrambled for vital test kits - ie with a population of 327 million, America has tested just 8,000 people, while South Korea, population 51 million, has tested over 210,000, and is daily testing 20,000 more. His too-little-too-late declaration Friday of a national emergency freed up $50 billion in federal funds to fight the pandemic; he used the opportunity to bail out his fossil-fuel cronies by buying oil "at a very good price," while ignoring the issue of free tests or paid sick leave or help for those struggling. Minutes later, as the stock market rose at the news, his team of ghouls sent a gleeful note to supporters with a boast of "biggest day in stock market history!", somehow failing to mention its deadly 20% decline in recent weeks or its preceding day's 30-year-record drop of 2,352 points - this, right before the markets closed, leading some to speculate money was behind the whole performance, 'cause grifters gonna grift.
Except at his fetid Nazi rallies and at Fox, where it's all good, there's little surprise at the calamitous "one rock slide after another" that has been the crisis response of an idiot who swooped down a gold escalator and smugly proclaimed, "Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” In truth, he has grievously, often cruelly failed one test after another - leaving 700 vacancies at CDC, infamously killing off its pandemic team, excluding health experts from coronavirus meetings, blocking states from expanding Medicaid 'cause sure hurt the poor, criminally delaying testing and warnings, saying quiet parts out loud by urging infected cruise ships languish at sea to keep numbers down, and lying, ceaselessly. His "intolerable failures of leadership" led the advocacy group Public Citizen to demand his resignation as "a clear and present danger to the nation's public health." Instead, he went on TV, looking "undeniably orange," to give a sniffling, stuttering, now-historic speech swiftly dubbed "a debacle," "a disaster," "a slow-motion train wreck," "leadership failure broadcast live," and "a cry for help" from a guy who's fallen down a well and can't get out. He offered no plan, testing, infrastructure. There was a random, unilateral travel ban from Europe, excepting the U.K., home to his fucking golf courses. There were mistakes, lies, "foreign virus" dog whistles, bellicose boasts - "The virus will not have a chance against us.” Said David Litt, who wrote speeches for Obama, "My careful rhetorical analysis is that he’s gonna get us all killed.” As Trump spoke, the markets sank.
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Still, as in addiction or any other kind of recovery, hitting bottom can galvanize. For many, the spectacle of his catastrophic speech seemed to signify a turning point, a tough realization there would be no point in looking for leadership from the feds or this panicked liar and incompetent. Even David Brooks, not exactly a radical, called out the deep dysfunction: "That's what happens when you elect a sociopath." Others began taking responsibility to fill the gap - cities and states stepped up; schools, public places, Broadway closed; sports franchises cancelled or postponed seasons; suffering businesses worked to protect employees; chef Jose Andres, in gas mask, brought his non-profit World Central Kitchen to California to feed stranded cruise passengers; and Joe Biden got presidential, releasing a detailed, sensible, pro-active plan to battle coronavirus that must be “led by science." In a brief, powerful press conference light years away from Trump's bumbling mess, Biden offered a reminder of how far down the rabbit hole we've fallen: Sentences! Science! A plan! He slammed the misinformation, xenophobia, lies, dismissal of science, lack of testing - "a colossal failure of leadership, planning, and execution” - and called for hundreds of free mobile testing sites, more hospital beds, protective gear, FEMA logistical support, fast tracking of anti-virals, paid leave for workers, local emergency funds, global health resources etc, "not 10 months from now, but today." Full Disclosure: Biden was not my 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th choice candidate. Nonetheless: He rose to the task, and it offered solace.
The cretin in power responded with his usual grace, calling Biden "the same rotting corpse of a candidate he was three weeks ago." The contrast was marked. Trump "can't help that he's intellectually, psychologically and morally unfit for any public office," wrote George Conway, adding vital context. "But there are 52 people who could’ve done something about it 5 weeks ago." Analyst Benjamin Wittes echoed him: "A quick reminder to every Republican senator not named @MittRomney that a few weeks ago each and every one of you voted against removing Donald Trump from office...Every one of you chose to risk today happening." The acknowledgement of Trump's inability to do his job ranges from goofy - The Daily Show's "Pandumbic" - to searing. "Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain," writes Peter Wehner, a lifelong Republican who rips Trump's "virulent combination of ignorance, emotional instability, demagogy, solipsism and vindictiveness" before declaring his presidency over. "It’s hard to name a president who has been as overwhelmed by a crisis as the coronavirus has overwhelmed Donald Trump," he notes, describing a desperate man “enraged for having been unmasked" and "shrinking before our eyes." As he goes, enjoy the world's social distancing and self-isolating strategies: Stress-baking, steak-grilling, watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre, playing Game of Thrones Monopoly, sharing shameful TV ideas, arguing it's much like Twitter every day, debating with their husbands the plural of "platypus," naming their dog Employee of the Month, feeling inadequate to Isaac Newton when he stayed home from the plague and developed the theory of gravity, dealing with a 12-year-old who wants to give herself bangs - "Things have taken a dark turn" - and, in Italy, singing to each other from your respective balcony. We're in this together. Stay safe.