Category Archives: Trump

The Smoking Gun

 

I will never forget how as a young lad going to law school the Watergate case was unraveling. Watching the hearings on television was mesmerizing. even when things started getting rough for Nixon, I thought he would survive the onslaught. There was evidence leading to deep suspicions that he had been involved in a cover-up, but there was never a smoking gun. Never that is until the tapes were discovered. President Nixon had amazingly tape-recorded for posterity all his discussions with his henchmen. When that was discovered the sharks starting circling. When people listened to the tapes there was a smoking gun. Nixon’s gig was up. He was done.

I got exactly the same feeling this week when I heard parts of the tapes released by Bob Woodward as a result of 18 taped interviews with President Trump. I thought this was the smoking gun. Trump was done.

Donald Trump admitted that he did not tell the truth to Americans as thousands were dying. They could have avoided thousands of deaths had they known the truth. Yet, since then has there been an uprising as there was for Richard Nixon? Not yet.

Why have more Americans not called this out? Frankly I am stunned. How could Americans countenance their president lying to them about the dangers of Covid-19 while people—particularly young people—were going out and taking chances they should not have taken and likely would not have taken had they known the truth that their president already knew, but had assiduously hidden from them for the sake of protecting his own political fortunes at the expense of American lives? Surely this would do it! The people would rise up in fury. Even his own supporters would abandon him. I really felt that last week. Yet it did not happen. Now I feel like a fool (again).

Why did that not happen? With some introspection I think I know. The critical difference between now and 1972 when Nixon was under examination consisted of two facts.

First, in 1972 the American political world was not as strictly divided into 2 polar opposite camps as it is today. In 1972 when Republicans looked at the damning evidence against Nixon, a couple of Republican Senators visited Nixon at the White House and said he had no alternative but to resign. Nixon’s support among Republicans had vanished. The game was over. That could never happen now. Today, most believe, “our side” can do not wrong.

Secondly, in 1972 Nixon was originally a popular president. He had won the election in a landslide. But—and here is the critical difference—Nixon was not worshipped. Nixon attracted no theological devotion. That is not the case with Trump. Trump was right when he said he could go to Times Square, commit a murder, and loose no support! This is not absurd; it is the truth. That is devotion that only beloved religious leaders receive. Trump attracts true believers!

Just like no free-thinker, no matter how wise, smart, or profound could ever hope to defeat the resolution of a religious followers of Christ, or Mohamed, no one could persuade a Trump follower to forsake him. His position is secure. Theological devotion is rock solid. Political support is far from that.

That is a pity. Truth does not matter any more. The world has changed. That means a leader like Trump can do almost anything and still count on the support of his devoted followers. That is a terrible thing for democracy and freedom. Truth should still matter.

Truth Matters

 

I admit I have been on a bit of a harangue about truth. I have been picking on Donald Trump and that is too easy a target. It is like shooting fish in a barrel. But we must remember that he has millions of supporters. Perhaps 50 million Americans or more support him. Many think he will still be President of the United States after the next election. So Trump—no matter what any one says is important. He is important because so many people support him.

One of my friends told me he thinks Trump haters are lazy and ignorant. He said they find the most simplistic explanations that just don’t bear any resemblance to the Trump supporters he knows. He calls the Trump haters lazy and arrogant. I think he is right about them. Many of them are exactly that. No matter what Trump says or does they reject it. However exactly the same thing could be said about Trump supporters.

And he knows many. Well I know some Trump supporters too. Some of my American friends are Trump supporters. Some of my relatives are Trump supporters. Some of these are intelligent people. I respect them. But that does not get them off the hook.

The most recent revelation that Trump lied to the American people about the risk of the Covid-19 epidemic and endangered millions of lives is important. It is no secret that Trump has been a recurrent liar. Everyone knows that including his supporters. They discount the significance of those lies. They say they are an acceptable price to pay for all the good things Trump does such as appointing judges they like and cutting taxes to juice the economy. They have shrugged at the lies and overlook the shenanigans.

I want to remind my friends that lying has consequences. Sometimes it has very serious consequences. When voters don’t care about whether politicians tell the truth or not, that can cost lives. People die. In some cases many people die!

More than 190,000 Americans have died of Covid-19. That is more than 3 times the number of Americans that died during the Vietnam War and I was always appalled by the lying of the American political leaders that led Americans to support that war when they might not have done so had they known the truth.

I am not saying all Trump supporters belong to the “basket of deplorables.” Some of them are good people. In fact “there are good people on both sides” of the Trump debate. However, I submit Trump supporters are partly responsible for the unnecessary death of thousands of Americans who were misled about the dangers of Covid-19 by their president. I do call them misguided and I call them negligent.

That negligence has serious consequences. Allowing political leaders to get away with lies for the sake of getting judges you like or taxes cut is a very high price to pay. Such actions by Trump supporters has enabled and even encouraged the president to put Americans in danger. Thousands have died as a result. Millions have had their health compromised. These are serious harms.

This damage is not so remote that his actions can be excused. This is reasonably foreseeable harm as we lawyers say for which the person who caused the damage would be liable. It is Trump supporters more than Trump detractors who are lazy and arrogant. They are reckless with the lives of others.

As reporter Carl Bernstein said about Trump , “he has allowed the loss of life for his own narrow political purposes.” That is a pretty serious charge. Then Bernstein added, “and it is the most devastating cover-up in history.” And this is coming from the man who broke the Watergate story together with Bob Woodward. The two are back on the world stage again.

When truth dies the consequences can be serious. Lies have consequences.

Trump encourages Fear and panic while saying he wants to prevent fear and panic

 

Donald Trump has admitted on the Woodward tapes that he “played down” the dangers of Covid-19 when he already knew it was “deadly”. He lulled Americans into a false sense of security when he knew the dangers were real. As a result thousands of Americans did not take the precaution they could have taken had they been told the truth. I can’t think of a worse indictment for an American president. It is like the American presidents who lied to the public about the real reason for the War in Vietnam and the real state of that war while young men and women followed them and their generals into battle and died. I can think of only one word to describe such actions: egregious.

Trump did not deny lying. Instead he claimed he lied so Americans would not panic. While this is much less believable than the claim that he did this so Americans would not know how badly he had led the fight against the pandemic, he showed no hesitation at encouraging Americans to fear violence on the streets of America from the forces of antifa and Black Lives Matter. Trump’s entire political strategy is to spread fear.

As Jill Colvin of the Associated Press reported, this is what happened at a Michigan rally after the lies were revealed by Bob Woodward:

“This whack job that wrote the book,  Trump told the crowd. “They wanted me to come out and scream, ‘People are dying, we’re dying.’ No, no. We did it just the right way. We have to be calm. We don’t want to be crazed lunatics.”

Given what Trump has been doing at his rallies this claim loudly rings false. As Colvin reported,

“Trump seemed to have no issue leaning into fear at the rally. He lobbed several unsubstantiated accusations at Biden and Democrats, including charging they want to shut down auto plants — despite the Obama administration’s work to save the industry — and “delay” the production of a coronavirus vaccine. Biden, he claimed, would terminate travel bans Trump has implemented, overwhelming the state “with poorly vetted migrants from jihadist regions” and refugees “from terrorist hot spots around the world.”

Spreading fear is exactly what Trump always does. It is exactly what his entire campaign for re-election is based on—scaring Americans into voting for him. Again, as Colvin reported,

“He continued his racially charged appeal to suburban voters who turned to Democrats during the 2018 midterms, warning that under a Biden administration, “far left lunatics” would be placed in charge of the federal government and courts and American suburbs would be destroyed. “Does anyone want to have a member of antifa as a resident of your suburb? I don’t think so,” Trump declared, telling his supporters, “Your vote will save America.”

What could be scarier than that? So Trump has lied in a sad attempt to get around his earlier lies. Trump’s lies only get more outrageous. Now I am not trying to beat a dead horse. Everyone knows Trump lies. He does it all the time. He probably can’t tell the difference between lies and the truth anymore. There is nothing interesting about that. That is not the point.

The point is how will the American public respond? In particular how will his loyal supporters respond? Will they continue to acquiesce to the lies? Will they again shrug them off? If so, they are revealing a lot of truth about themselves.

Lying while People are Dying

What Trump did by his response to the Covid-19 pandemic and admitted “playing down” of the dangers undermined public confidence in the public health system. He issued directives and then ignored them. He even urged his followers to ignore his own directives. He mocked people who wore masks.

Dr. Craig Spencer was interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN about Trump’s lies about Covid. The physician was a Director of Global Health Emergency Medicine at Columbia University. In that position he became experienced at delivering bad news to sufferers of Covid and their loved ones. It’s not easy to tell people their loved ones are going to die. He was infuriated by what Trump did in misleading the public. As Spencer said, “the lies coming from the president are almost impossible to keep up with and correct.” This is what Dr. Spencer said about the Trump: “As a public health professional I am furious.”

On February 26, 2020 president Trump said his administration was doing a ‘terrific job” of handling the pandemic. I’m glad he thought so. No one else did. Dr. Sanjay Gupta a frequent CNN medical commentator had this to say about Trump: “He knew the truth and just didn’t do it.” Instead Trump made not wearing a mask a political statement. As Jamie Gangel said, “He was really paranoid about getting re-elected.” That is what was on his mind.

The terrible result of what Trump did, according to CNN’s Jim Accosta, was that “he lulled the country into a false sense of security.” As a result many Americans let their guard down. And they  paid a horrible price for doing that. It was a scandal. Trump got his supporters to sign waivers of claims they could have against Trump while he misled them about the truth of the dangers. Even on the White House grounds for his convention speech the fans, squeezed in tight without social distancing had to sign a waiver releasing Trump when Trump knew it was dangerous and did not tell them. How would you feel if one of your loved ones died as a result of being misled by the President of the United States. As he admitted on the Woodward tapes, he knew the virus was “deadly” and not only kept quiet about that, he actively encouraged people to attend rallies whether or not they socially distanced. I hope the lawyers of those people are urging their clients to sue Donald Trump for those waivers would likely not hold up in court. That could mean 190,000 lawsuits.

Yet Trump is running his current campaign on a platform of fear. He is deliberately trying to get people to be scared. As he said, “leadership is all about confidence.” Confidence in this context is another word for the flim flam game. Trump did not want to look weak in the campaign.

Carl Bernstein, the other Washington Post investigative reporter in the Watergate file, called the Woodward tapes the “ultimate smoking gun revealing probably the greatest felony of any president in history!” Just as with Eugene McCarthy, over confidence caught up with Trump. Hubris has been the Achilles heel of many a tyrant.

Abby Philip another CNN reporter said, “the president thinks he can create his own reality—the one he thinks fits his re-election chances or political prospects best.”

The important question is whether or not his supporters buy into that “reality.” That is what counts. It will say a lot about his supporters if they do.

 

Cheerleading or Misleading

 

While president Trump privately knew the Covid virus was “deadly,” he told journalist Bob Woodward that he was being a “cheerleader.” He wanted people to remain calm and confident in their leader. Publicly for months he minimized the danger, calling it a hoax or suggesting it was a Democratic Party ruse or fake news, putting millions of Americans at risk of serious harm.

Even though the knew the virus was “deadly” because it could spread through the air, he mocked people for wearing masks. No doubt many of his followers who take to heart everything he says, unknowingly put their lives in danger. He admitted privately it was “deadly” while saying publicly it was just another flu. As CNN analyst Jamie Gangel said, “it’s a striking contrast to what he was saying publicly.” After he continued to hold indoor public rallies with no social distancing he demonstrated clearly that he did not care about his supporters. He did not even warn those who supported him. Publicly at the time, he said, “I think the virus is going to be fine. We have it very much under control.”

 

In one interview with Woodward, on March 19, 2020, Trump acknowledged this: “Now it’s not just old people, Bob, but just today, and yesterday some startling facts came out. It’s not just old, older, people, plenty of young people.” This was more than a month before he publicly declared that young people were almost immune. A bald faced lie that put young people at risk. How many parent believed Trump adn let their children walk into danger? Unfortunately millions of American youths believed their president and put their lives at risk without being aware of the real risk. If people are fully informed and then take chances they have assumed the risk and must be responsible for the consequences of their actions. That is very different than where political leaders withhold the truth for their own person political purposes. That is heinous.

In one interview with Trump, Woodward told Trump that he must have pivoted on the virus because what Trump said publicly was so different from what he was saying to him. Trump was too ignorant to take the hint. He responded this way: “To tell you the truth I always wanted to play it down. I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”

First, as we all know, Trump is never shy about creating fear and panic. He does that all the time. He is a sower of panic. That is precisely his specific and clear strategy in the 2020 election campaign. He continuously tries to convince American that there is rioting in the streets and only he can deal with.

Secondly, this wasn’t about panic. Plenty of countries were told the truth by their political leaders, and did so seriously, and fared much better as a result than the United States did. The United States currently has about 190,000 deaths as a result of the pandemic, many other countries where political leaders told them the truth have done much better. As Jamie Gangel of CNN said, “Americans dealt with 9/11, they dealt with Pearl Harbour, they dealt with World War II. To say it was about preventing panic or calming people down is simply outrageous.” Naturally Trump lies to conceal his previous lies. No surprise there.

Another CNN commentator had another interesting comment about Trump’s claim that he was a cheerleader . “He hasn’t been a cheerleader; he’s been a misleader.”

He urged people to storm state legislatures when he knew how dangerous the virus had become.

As Anderson Cooper said, “True political leaders rise to the occasion. Americans can handle the truth.” They must be told the truth, that is the first lesson political leaders taken in managing a health crisis. Exactly that  advice was in the Obama playbook that his team assembled for dealing with pandemics that unfortunately Trump tossed in the waste basket as a unnecessary expense. The current big question is whether or not Trump and his administration is telling the whole truth now. I think we know the answer.

Truth or Consequences

I have been blogging lately about the death of truth. Then 2 days ago we have had a shocking example of what I have been talking about.

For months we have known that Trump played down the importance of the Covid-19 epidemic. Yesterday we got proof. Trump assured us the pandemic was under control and would likely “magically go away”. Those were comforting words, but they disguised the truth and Trump knew that.

Yesterday a new book was released about Trump by Bob Woodward one of the Watergate investigative reporter at the Washington Post, called Rage. Amazingly Trump granted 18 exclusive interviews to Woodward and consented to him recording them. That is how we have his exact words. And those words are damning. Shockingly the statements Woodward claimed Trump told him were actually taped. You can hear him in his own words. This is not fake news.

The first of those conversations between the two men occurred on February 7, 2020. Trump acknowledged the virus was tricky because it is transmitted through the air. This is what Trump said:

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus. This is deadly stuff.”

But that is not what he told the public. As the Associated Press reported,

“Just three days later, Trump struck a far rosier tone in an interview with Fox Business. “I think the virus is going to be—it’s going to be fine.”  (emphasis added)

How differently would Americans have acted if they knew the truth—i.e. if they knew the truth that it is “deadly stuff?” How many lives would have been saved or health damage avoided?

Trump admitted on February 7, 2020,  this virus was unlike the flu where we lose 25,000 or 30,000 people a year.  He also admitted this is 5% versus 1% or less than 1%…this is deadly stuff.

Anderson Cooper put this into perspective for the viewers of his show:

“The President lied to us when it really mattered, when action could have been taken had people known taken had people known the truth. That could have saved lives. In case you are wondering the numbers are simply heart-breaking. Researchers at Columbia University have estimated that instituting social distancing just 1 week earlier would have prevented at least 36,000 deaths. 2 weeks sooner could have prevented 84% of all fatalities.”

 

Think about that: more than 68,000 deaths could have been avoided had Trump and his team told Americans the truth and promptly started taking the virus seriously and taking serious measures to curtail as other countries did, rather than dismissing it as insignificant!

As Cooper said, “During what has been called ‘the lost month’, he could have mobilized the public and saved lives. He could have but he didn’t.”

During this time Trump admitted he didn’t want his Covid numbers to go up. In a March interview Trump admitted to Woodward, as was recorded on tape, “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down. Because I don’t want to create a panic.”

This was like America’s political leaders during the Vietnam that claimed Americans could not handle the truth when really they hid the truth because it would make them look bad. It seems obvious that Trump’s real goal was not to panic American voters (over this issue at least unlike others such as ‘rioting’ in the streets) in order to enhance his chances of being re-elected. As CNN analyst Jamie Gangel said, “hearing the truth did not panic South Koreans who had just 21,000 cases and only 344 deaths in the last 6 months.”

Is it true that Americans cannot handle the truth? Or is it true that Trump does not care about the truth and would rather feed the American public lies to enhance his political position? I think the answer is obvious.

The Paranoid Style in American Politics

 

Way back in 1964 Richard Hofstadter in an important essay nailed down what he characterized as “the paranoid style in American politics”. It did not appear out of nowhere. It was part of the soil in which the country was born. It did not suddenly disappear from American politics in the 60s either. It has been around for a long time and it is far from dead. In fact I think it is more alive than ever before and Hofstadter’s analysis is still vital.

Remember the word “paranoid” may sound odd, but it really means an unreasonable fear. Fears are good because they alert us to dangers. But unreasonable fears are well unreasonable. They are without reason, or at least in sufficient reason.

Kurt Anderson in his very readable book called FantasyLand which I have posted about earlier, traces the roots of this paranoid style to the arrival of Puritans 400 years ago! It is baked in to America.

I really think it has something to do with America right from the start being subjected to the dominant will of groups of people, like the Puritans, who wanted to abandon reason in favor of faith—but only their kind of faith. When this is done for long periods of time—and 400 years is certainly plenty of time—people learn to abandon reason and when that happens  as Goya said, “the sleep of reason brings forth monsters.” And no one knew this better than Goya.

America, like Canada, has always had plenty of those. I have commented on this in an earlier post as well. That is why the United States thinks that it must spend more on its military than the next 9 highest spending countries combined! That is why I call this paranoia in high def. Fears are natural and good. They help us stay alive. But unreasonable fears are something else. Unreasonable fears are delusions. They are dangerous. And America has plenty of those. I would not be surprised if someone counted them and found they have more of them as well than the next 9 countries on the list combined.

This is what Hofstadter said:

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.”

I think this is even more important today than it was 50 years ago. Does this not describe to perfection Sean Hannity and a legion of Fox News pundits? Hofstadter pointed out the toxic brew that was created when anger, resentment, heated exaggeration, a suspicious mind and conspiratorial fantasy were combined. Anyone who follows American politics is very familiar with it. Donald Trump is merely the most recent practitioner in a long line of ignoble politicians and other demagogues who took advantage of this poisonous strain for their own political advantage.

 Hofstadter acknowledged that this was a pejorative phrase, but he was comfortable with that because “the paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent.”

Hofstadter in the 1960s pointed to the toxic brew that was created when anger, resentment, heated exaggeration, a suspicious mind and conspiratorial fantasy were combined. Anyone who follows current  politics is very familiar with it. Donald Trump is merely the most recent practitioner in a long line of ignoble politicians and other demagogues who took advantage of this poisonous strain for their own political advantage.

In politics or religion or other social settings this toxic brew is particularly dangerous. I think it applies even more to current times than the 1960s when Hofstadter  wrote about the paranoid style. It helps us to understand the crazy times we live in.

Donald Trump Passes Mental Competence Test. What About America?

 

Recently Donald Trump decided to, or was asked to, take a mental competence test. These are not the most difficult tests. They are designed to see if a person is competent enough to hold a bank account or remember the rules of the road in order to quality for a driver license. One would certainly expect the leader of the country to pass such a test. It appeared that Trump must have had some doubts about passing the test because he felt the need to brag about passing it.

Dana Milbank reported about it this way in the Washington Post:

“We should be relieved that President Trump claims he “aced” his cognitive assessment, including what he calls the “very hard” last five questions. Such as:

  • Identifying the similarity between a train and a bicycle.
  • Repeating the sentence: “The cat always hid under the couch when dogs were in the room.”
  • And naming at least 11 words beginning with the letter “F” in one minute.

 

Forgive me for finding fun and frivolity in our fearless first minister’s feeble self-flattery, for his felicitous finesse, fluid facility and firm familiarity with F-words, far from folly, are fully fitting, and fundamentally and fantastically fortuitous.

Many of us have been making jokes about this at the president’s expense. The thought that someone would brag about passing such a test is astonishingly absurd. He even bragged that the last few questions were hard.   The image of this is stunning. Not funny at all.

The bigger question however—much bigger—is what does all of this say about the United States that it has a president who feels the need to brag about passing competency test? What does it say about millions of American voters?  Malik put the issue this way:

“The real question is whether we, as a nation, could pass a cognitive assessment test. At the moment, we’re struggling with the national equivalent of distinguishing a lion from a rhinoceros: 17.8 million Americans are without jobs — but Trump is pushing to cut payroll taxes for those who already have jobs.

Unemployment assistance has held off a wave of evictions, foreclosures and mass hunger — but Trump and congressional Republicans are proposing to cut it.

Schools need new funds so that they can protect teachers and students from the virus if they reopen their doors — but Trump threatened to withhold money from schools if they don’t open.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health are struggling to contain the virus and to get remedies to the public — but Trump seeks to phase out funding for both, as well as for testing and contact tracing, ABC News reports.

The federal government poured trillions of dollars into coronavirus recovery legislation, and tens of millions of Americans sheltered in their homes to limit the spread — only for the country to squander both by reopening too soon without following public health guidelines.

State and local governments are hemorrhaging cash as they fight the virus — but instead of providing them relief, congressional Republicans are focused on protecting private businesses from lawsuits if they make workers sick.”

 

This question is not a joke either. I think the evidence is in and clear—America is incompetent. It does not qualify to govern its own affairs any longer. It should appoint a substitute decision maker (power of attorney) unless it is too late. Some people are so incompetent they have lost the capacity to appoint a substitute decision maker. That might really be the case with the United States.

Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans bragged at the recent convention how the whole world wishes it was as successful as the United States in combating the coronavirus. On what planet do these people live? The United States has had more coronavirus cases and more deaths than any other country in the world. It’s per capita rate is also among the world’s highest. Wuhan China, where the virus appears to have started went into a strict lockdown for 3 months and is now out of it after having no new cases for about 3months.

Virtually every country in the world has done better at combatting the virus than the US has done. Europe has banned Americans from traveling there. The richest country in the world has done the poorest job at containing the virus. Meanwhile it’s large yahoo contingent is clamouring to open up the country because the Covid restrictions are hampering their freedom. Meanwhile its economy has gone into the tank as the pandemic in that country drags on and on.

Many countries including Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and others are slowly gradually returning to normal after suppressing the virus while in the United States roughly 1,000 people per day of are dying as a consequence of the virus and they are finding it very difficult to do the testing all the experts say they need to do. Everyone realizes they are not doing well, except for Trump, his cohorts and his millions of implacably loyal followers who will follow him slavishly and blindly no matter how close to the precipice he leads them. None of these people want to look at the truth it is too uncomfortable for them.

I think Malik was right in reaching this conclusion about American competence:

No, our national cognitive assessment is not promising. But now come the “very hard” last questions:

 

Will Republicans, in these final months before the election, find the elusive courage to disavow Trump’s madness?

Will the people reject him and his enablers in 106 days?

And, if Trump loses, will all Americans insist he do what he refused to commit to on Sunday: honor the will of the people?

If not, we will have earned ourselves a big, fat F.

And meanwhile the American president brags about what a great job he and his administration have done in combatting the virus. This is madness in high definition! Insanity on steroids. No wonder there isn’t any truth left.

The Attack on Truth

 

My last post in this blog was about how the President of the United States suggested that Dr. Stella Immanuel who believes  various  health problems were caused by people having sex with aliens and that scientists are trying to figure out how they can create a potion that will stop people from being religious, had “an importance voice” that should be heard and she was “impressive.” This indicated to me that there was no longer anything like truth. It is not just that the President said that, it is that he has more than 80 million Twitter followers as of May 2020. Here is what the Washington Post said about his followers in May of 2020,

President Trump has more than six times as many followers on Twitter as he did when he was elected to office in 2016.

He gained nearly 1.7 million followers in the past month, bringing his total to 80.3 million followers and making him the eighth most followed account on the site, according to social analytics company Social Blade. Trump has tweeted more than 52,000 times total and tweeted or retweeted more than 50 times on Tuesday and Wednesday. Each received thousands of comments, likes and re-tweets.’

 

Since making these comments  Trump’s ratings among Americans has improved! How can that be? Americans don’t care about truth? Truth died without a defender. Is any other explanation possible?

Of course there is one person who is a genius at taking advantage of this sorry state of “thinking”. That of course is Donald J. Trump. Andrew Sullivan, a conservative pundit, not some left wing radical, described the situation this way:

“And the president — who knows exactly what he is doing — is making it far, far worse. His war on the nation’s traditional press is a part of the same scheme: information warfare, meant to mess with reality and sow as much confusion as possible.’

The great political thinker Hannah Arendt understood the dangerous connection between abandonment of truth and authoritarianism and fascism. She pointed out that through an onslaught of lies, which may be debunked before the cycle is repeated, totalitarian leaders are able to instil in their followers “a mixture of gullibility and cynicism,” she warned. Over time, people are conditioned to “believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible, and that nothing was true.” And then such leaders can do pretty much whatever they wish. That really is the point.

 When such outrageous lies are given the seal of approval from the President of the United States and his followers soak it up and don’t abandon him, but instead support him more loyally than before, you know, you absolutely know, the battle is over. Truth has been slain. Unreason rules the land. Authoritarianism is around the corner. We are doomed.

Nietzsche’s madman in Also Sprach Zarathustra said “God is dead and we have killed him.” That of course is not literally true. But I do know this: truth is dead and we have killed it. Dostoevsky’s Ivan in that great novel Brothers Karamazov added, “if God is dead all is permitted.” I would add: if truth is dead all is permitted.

The truth had better not be dead. If truth is dead we are dead.

Fox News or Good Government

 

I am not suggesting that all problems created by the prevailing contempt for government in the United State are Donald Trumps responsibility (although in the US the buck stops with him.) In fact it is in part because he tapped into that contempt for government that he got elected. Recall, he was going to drain the swamp!

For 40 years, since Saint Ronald was elected President in the United States in 1980, American conservatives have been on a warpath against all government. They have not wanted good government. That government is best which governs least, is what they keep saying. Many of them wanted to reduce the size of government to such an extent that, as one of those conservatives said, it could be drowned in a bathtub. They believed that good government is impossible. Ronald Reagan was the President who said, “the most scary words in the English language are these: “Hello I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

In Canada members of the Conservative Party have commonly held similar views, though usually not as extreme. Ever since then virtually every Republican or Conservative politician and even many Democratic and Liberal politicians as well, have disparaged government and government employees. American and Canadian publics have soaked up this rhetoric for 30 years. Disparagement of government is the water in which they swim and therefore is invisible to them. As a result trust in government has vanished in America and  Canada is not much different.

Yet, in a crisis good government is crucially important. People have to believe their government is telling them the truth or the system will collapse. This pervasive attitude is the real culprit here. According to Garret Grath in a Politico article, that attitude is responsible for the following outcomes in America:

Someday, reports will be written about how the U.S. government failed in its response to the Covid-19 epidemic—failures that will surely have cost additional thousands of lives, additional millions of lost jobs, and additional billions (perhaps even trillions) in economic damages by the time this virus is behind us. And yet while those reports will surely point out specific management failures and lost opportunities to arrest the spread of Covid-19, the most basic conclusion of those future reports could already be written: Donald Trump’s Apprentice-style staffing bake-offs and his oft-voiced predilection for acting officials kept the U.S. government distracted, off-kilter and understaffed.

Trump is obviously not responsible for the appearance of the novel coronavirus—but he is responsible for the government’s spiralling failure to respond appropriately in a timely manner. He has ignored the hiring practices, protocols, norms and expertise that would have given him and the federal government a better shot at defeating Covid-19. Three years into his administration and with a Republican-controlled Senate ready to move nominees through to confirmation, he didn’t build the national leadership we needed. That inescapable fact is Donald Trump’s fault.

The “next 9/11” is happening right now because Trump ignored the lessons of the last one.

There is a heavy price to pay for mistrust of government. And Americans, and in fact people around the world, are now paying a heavy price for that mistrust.

The fact is America has a President who has no respect for government, no competence to govern, and most importantly, likes dumb! He also has no respect for brains, knowledge, or wisdom. After all who needs that when you have Fox News at your beck and call? And what really bothers me is that America still likes this President! This is what they wanted and boy did they get it.

From this analysis Thomas Friedman of the New York Times  has made the right inferences. We are in trouble. But it goes even beyond that. As Friedman said,

And Trump’s vindictiveness toward any career public servant who challenges his narrative has surely contributed to the weak response from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts are afraid to raise their hands to contradict the president.

It is clear that the US and Canada both need strategies for gradually lifting lockdowns in a rational manner. Sadly, particularly in the U.S. it is unlikely to achieve such a plan with so many holes in its government. Instead of good government it has Fox News!

Friedman concluded this way,

In sum, if we are going to save the most lives while getting the most people back to work to prevent an epidemic of unemployment, depression and despair, it is going to require a federally coordinated, democratic version of the China strategy.

But Trump resists that kind of science-based, nationally coordinated approach, because it serves him politically to urge his supporters to resist his own administration’s health guidelines.

Trump seems to think he can bluster, bluff and talk out of both sides of his mouth with Mother Nature — the way he did in real estate and has done on so many issues as president, when his party could always cover for him.

But it doesn’t work that way with Mother Nature. She is not a contestant on “The Apprentice.” She is just chemistry, biology and physics. We’re the contestants on her show. We don’t get to fire her. She gets to fire us.

She throws viruses, hurricanes, floods, droughts, heat waves and pandemics at us to sort out who’s the fittest. And the ones who survive have one thing, and one thing only, in common: They are the most adaptive at generating the chemistry, biology and physics needed to meet the challenge.

That’s all that matters. All those who can’t, get fired or, rather, are returned to the manufacturer.

 

Here is my conclusion: there is no time in recent memory where we have needed more reliance on facts, evidence, and thoughtful reasoning both by political leaders and their bureaucracy. We need good government. Sadly, there is no time where we are less likely to get what we need. That is my sorry conclusion.