A Defense of the President

On a US government website you can read this timeline of Republican talking points of how the Deep State put “Operation Crossfire” into motion, that baseless attempt to illegally set up Mr. Trump, his campaign, his donors, every patriotic citizen actively trying its best to make America great again, before it’s too late (2045 — the year US whites are expected to be a minority).

I don’t know what to make of those talking points being posted on a government website, except that the government itself has been weaponized by Mr. Trump in ways previously impossible to imagine. This is nothing new, certainly but conspiracy theories and random incendiary talking points have never been as commonly endorsed by government officials (Barr- massive voter fraud, for which there is no evidence, is “obvious”) as under “the most transparent president in history” as the president’s latest press secretary called him the other day. I’ve been meaning to transcribe the intro to Amy and David Goodman’s great Static, a pre-Obama work of journalism that is now a history book. I’ll do that soon (here you go, well-worth a read).

It’s always possible to defend anything, literally. Here is the defense of a well-spoken pro-Trump caller to yesterday’s Brian Lehrer show on WNYC (NY Public Radio) during a segment about the release of some exchanges from Bob Woodward’s recorded interviews with Mr. Trump showing that although Trump knew the pandemic was serious, deadly and airborne, he kept downplaying the severity of the virus:

David in Paramus (at 16:10 at “Trump Called COVID ‘Deadly’ Despite Publicly Downplaying It”)

I’m a little bit taken aback by your guest today, he seems to think that you have Trump painted into a corner, that he said things to famous Watergate author Bob Woodward that maybe he thought wouldn’t go out into the public air, which we all know, obviously he knew it would all be played at some point, but why play it today and what’ll be played tomorrow and what’ll be played over the next two months prior to the election? He did the thing that he thought was best, that’s why we elected him president, and that was to set a tone to keep the country at ease [1].

He wasn’t a fact finder, he’s not a scientist, he’s going on the best information that he had at the time, that you had, that I had, that we all had, which is what is the coronavirus and where is it going? And for him to err on the side of not causing panic is a much better option than telling the whole country “oh, this is really, really bad!” [2].

And I’d like to bring up the point with regard to 9/11, I remember nineteen years ago tomorrow, George Bush sitting in that classroom with that look on his face when his aide whispered in his ear that the towers had been attacked. George Bush didn’t turn around and jump up and tell America “run for the covers!” It was a moment when he made the best decision with the facts he had at hand and he did keep the public from going into a panic [3].

And the comment with regard to panic on the street, Wall Street, I feel it’s also not appropriate.

Lehrer: …if he knew that it was more deadly than the flu and he turned around and told everybody it’s not so bad, you can go about your normal lives, why isn’t that like a doctor (who fails to give sound medical advice after detecting a potentially deadly heart condition in a patient)?

David: That’s an excellent point, I won’t say I’m not 100% fantastically appreciative of what he did on that day, I’m saying that I take it with a grain of salt, I don’t wake up in the morning and say “well, President Trump said this today so I’m going to conduct my life the way he said to. I feel strongly about not inciting panic, I think that’s a tremendous responsibility, and to the young lady that lost her father, who I send my my condolences to, that spoke at the Democratic National Convention, for Trump to say it’s OK to go out to karaoke tonight and don’t wear a mask, it just falls flat for me, on its face [4].

I’ve seen Facebook responses from people that I went to high school with that feel strongly that this is the most momentous thing that they found that Trump did that was so egregious and his responsibility for the 190,000 deaths that have occurred. I don’t blame the Trump administration, I wouldn’t blame Biden, or Roosevelt or anybody else for an insidious pandemic that struck the world like we’ve never seen in our lifetime, any more than I would blame you or anybody else.

Very fair-minded, David.

some caviling, tell-tale notes:

[1] It is a key part of the job of the president to keep us calm during a national crisis. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” was famously uttered by FDR during a very frightening time in world history. Mr. Trump often fans fear, of things real and imagined (a cabal powerful cannibal pedophiles; evil, black uniformed men flying in to cause riots) because it leads to other strong emotions, like anger and violence, that he and his political base feed on. There is some irony in this defense of the president as the man who keeps the country calm.

[2] This is the precise reason that the weather service NEVER broadcasts terrifying predictions about incoming killer storms. It only causes panic, and keeping people calm before a raging climate event is a small price to pay for a few theoretical extra deaths.

[3] OK, I’ll leave off with this beating of a straw man, y’all get the point. If you select a single talking point, in this case “keep everyone calm,” you can beat it like a drum, over and over, no matter what other points are raised. This is called “making an argument” in Trump’s America.

[4] One last note: the “resistance” the “tyranny” of mandatory face masks and social distancing is a regular feature of every Trump news conference and campaign rally. The president refuses to wear a mask and has weaponized the wearing of protective gear, one of the few proven ways we have to minimize risk of infection. So that last bit, about “don’t just blindly do what the Leader says” and making his dead follower responsible for blindly following his calming advice about no need to fear the “pandemic”, well, for Trump’s base, that claim falls a bit flat, for me, on its face.

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