Andrew Sullivan on Trump’s bungling of the pandemic crisis, face masks, and the silver lining

Every Friday reader Simon sends me a link to Andrew Sullivan’s New York Magazine column, which is always a good read, even when you disagree with him. Over the years, Sullivan seems to have not only moved to the Left (or perhaps the Left just moved further Left while he stayed where he was), but has also become more and more vociferous—and eloquent—in calling out the perfidies of the man known as our “President.” In this week’s column, another tripartite effort, Sullivan calls out the Moron in Chief for not only bungling the crisis, but missing a big political opportunity by not handling it more deftly. He also chastises people for not wearing face masks when they go out (I disagree on this, but won’t discuss it here), and then finds some good amongst the viral horrors, including a benefit I had overlooked.

Click on the screenshot to read:

As usual, I urge you to read it for yourself, but will give a few excerpts:

First, let’s reprise Trump’s statements on the pandemic for those misguided souls who claim he’s done a good job and steered a steady course. Sullivan mentions Trump’s travel ban to and from China for non-American citizens and residents, noting that, according to people like Steve Bannon and Tucker Carlson, this could have been his big popularity moment had he followed it up with further decisive action. But. . . .

And then what? Nada. Actually, worse than nada. Trump immediately reversed himself on the threat, stomped all over his political advantage, and pooh-poohed any kind of news that might rattle the markets. You know the series of staggeringly inept, false, and delusional dismissals by now. February 10: “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” February 26: “Within a couple of days, it’s going to be down to close to zero.” February 29: “Everything is really under control.” March 10: “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” And then, of course, for maximal looniness, returning to his initial position, on March 17: “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” And then, less than a week later, he started again with the mangled metaphor that the cure could be worse than the problem.

It would be a fool’s errand to try to discern what political judgment or tactical decision led Trump to reverse himself three times (and counting). It was just how he felt on those days when he vented. The inconsistencies were resolved simply by denying them, or smearing reporters who brought them up. With Trump’s clinical narcissism, there is no rational road map to his decision-making.

Remember, though, that despite his ham-handedness, lies, and waffling, Trump’s approval rating is the highest it’s been since he was elected (the average of two polls is 47%). It’s likely that this is due to people supporting a leader in times of crisis.  But it’s still disheartening, especially in view of other polls showing the between 49% and 60% Americans approve of his handling of the pandemic. Such a rating wouldn’t suffice to support somebody doing surgery on your body or flying your airplane, but it might be enough to get the guy elected again. As I noted, I bet $100 that Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic, and the concurrent economic crash, would be enough to get him dumped in November. Now I’m not so sure. We haven’t heard much about Joe Biden lately.

Here’s what Sullivan says Trump should have done not only to help the country, but to help himself. Although they should coincide, Trump’s narcissism has made him draw a distinction between the two, and, of course, to favor the latter.

Of course, there was another way available from the get-go. He could have immediately adopted a wartime presidential posture and announced an emergency response to the threat from China. From January on, he could have deployed the government’s ultimate power to get American manufacturers to produce ventilators, masks, and tests on demand, gotten the military to set up field hospitals, and announced — and even obeyed — a partisan cease-fire because of the severity of the crisis. And he could have added another layer to this by giving a speech on the danger of over-relying on China to produce basic goods, especially those essential for Americans’ health. Then a stark and clear and unwavering stance on social distancing, to buy time. If he needed a photo op, he could have donned a hazmat suit and visited patients, like his crush, Vladimir Putin, just did.

Yes, I know this is Captain Hindsight speaking. But a man like Steve Bannon understood what this crisis could do for a populist political movement. Trump didn’t. Because, as is now apparent, he was only interested in the movement in as much as it helped him gain fame and power — or jibed with his prejudices.

Trump’s failure to grasp the politics of coronavirus is, I’d argue, a microcosm of his entire administration. As with COVID-19, Trump had so many potential advantages at the beginning, after his surprise victory. Imagine if he’d started his presidency with a massive infrastructure spending bill, followed by an immigration compromise that would have funded his wall, beefed up enforcement, but also gave security to the Dreamers. Imagine if his tax bill had been geared to help working families, rather than the superrich, or that he promised to change Obamacare by expanding it. He would have had a chance to be a transformative president.

But to do that, he would have had to have been someone other than himself. He would have to have developed a long-term political strategy, thought structurally about the country first, and seen his base as a building block to reach out to others in building a durable coalition. But as so many of us pointed out, he was and is simply incapable of this. He’s a prisoner of his own psyche, there is nothing he can do to tame it, and he will allow no one to overrule it.

So he will improvise and reverse himself again before this is over; he will turn vital government information into performative propaganda; he will undermine his own appointees; he will use the epidemic to punish enemies and reward friends; and he will be focused at all times on himself. As tens of thousands of Americans will literally gasp for air, their lungs sustained only by ventilators, he will grasp at petty slights. As social distancing becomes ever more vital, this man will want Easter churches packed with congregants. And as he lies and distorts and emotes, the casualties will mount.

Given the crisis, we have only one option. We need to listen to the experts, rely on governors, trust in Drs. Fauci and Birx, and do our bit. But we also have a more urgent patriotic task: to ignore this president until we can eventually rid ourselves of him. This is too grave a crisis to give him the respect he doesn’t deserve.

This all seems quite sound, though you may disagree with stuff like spending money on the border wall. But the conclusion is one I agree with, and contrasts with that of the commenter who wrote yesterday that we need to support Trump rather than criticize him, as criticism will make him behave even worse. To me, that’s palpable nonsense, not only because it won’t work given Trump’s history, but also because it is not just our right but our duty to criticize our leadership, even in times of trouble. After all, this is a democracy.

I’ll pass over Andrew’s call for universal mask-wearing (he is medically compromised as he has chronic asthma and presumably takes drugs to control his HIV infection), and go to his eloquent ending. It is true that the Woke haven’t been as loud lately, and I, like Sullivan, have enjoyed the respite from the obsessive and ubiquitous hectoring. Both paragraphs are great:

I also have to say how lovely it has been to have been spared the constant harping of the woke. For a blessed amount of time, they’ve become relatively silent. The virus has made our common humanity the central question, rather than our various identities. Viruses are not, it seems, social constructions, but biological realities, with qualities that are not a function of someone’s narrative, but of molecules. For a blessed period, the truth matters — not a narrative, not a construct, and not your truth or my truth, just biology and humanity in a dance repeated endlessly in human history between viruses and bodies.

And then there’s simply birdsong. As the roar of traffic evaporates, and the Earth heals a little from human assault, this is the sound you hear. Even in the center of a city, the chirping pierces through. I grew up surrounded by woodlands, awakened every morning in the spring and summer by the dawn chorus of rural England, and the sounds now floating in the urban landscape resonate deeply within me. This is their moment to shine and ours to withdraw. The world is theirs again. It always was.

And now it belongs even more to the ducks!

 

 

99 Comments

  1. yazikus
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Agree very much on the birdsong. Out here in the forest, they’ve been positively rowdy of late.

    Here in WA things are a bit surreal. As a lab worker, I’m one of the (many) essential employees still working onsite and full time. The streets are pretty dead, save for emergency vehicles, which there seem to be an abundance of. The trains are still running, which feels almost comforting. The trees are blooming, though, and spring is still doing its thing.

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Right on

    I’d add that the current president is clearly led by fantasy and only fantasy. Fantasize the pandemic as a war because it fits a story for re-election. “Open” the country- anywhere, at any definition of “open” by Easter because it fits the story of resurrection of Jesus, and fits his claims, because he has everything to gain. Everything fitting a story of a rough edged but brilliant leader who had a “vision” (that is, fantasy) when no other did, and experts said it couldn’t be done. Ghastly.

    • docbill1351
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      As I observe below “open the country” is a fantasy that only a true moron could imagine. A person who has never worked a day in his life. A person who has never run a business, and, face it, Trump’s crime family is hardly a business.

      My neighbor spent three years establishing his restaurants and in two weeks they are nearly wiped out. He owes rent to the strip mall owner, who pays a mortgage to his property which is owned by a bank somewhere and so it goes. He is the bottom of the food chain, ironically. In another couple of weeks, the anticipated peak of the viral spread here, he won’t be able to “open for business.” He’s going to have to start over.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Yes, ghastly, but ever so true to some.

  3. bswanney
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Why on earth is his approval rating going up?

    • Posted March 28, 2020 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      When the tribe is under threat, people tend to rally behind their leaders whatever.

      • Posted March 28, 2020 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, and it’s not circling the wagons in this case but a circling of the drain.

        • frednotfaith2
          Posted March 28, 2020 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

          I fervidly hope they all go down that drain and don’t come back up.

  4. Silvia Planchett
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Birx is looking more and more like a sycophant the longer this goes on.

    • John Dentinger
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      I have recently read that Birx is an Evangelical.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      Watching Dr. Birx’s credibility seemingly slip day by day brings to mind James Comey’s warning that Donald Trump eats souls one bite at a time.

      • Posted March 28, 2020 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        Fauci seems to be able to get the truth out while avoiding crossing Trump. He’s quite adept at it. When asked about Trump’s hint of opening up the country on Easter, Fauci said that it was a decision that hasn’t yet been made, or something to that effect. Birx, on the other hand, has gone full-blown sycophant in praising Trump’s response to the virus.

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      +1

  5. docbill1351
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Ah, Andrew, spoken like a true dilettante; peace, quiet and birdsong. Must be nice to be a lily of the field.

    Contrast that to the life of my neighbor whose two restaurants are closed by county order. His phone rings all day long as he deals with spoiled food, canceled supply orders, pleas for help from his workers who he is trying to help as best he can. He is trying to navigate a bureaucracy that changes its rules daily and is overwhelmed.

    Multiply my neighbor’s situation and panic by 30,000, roughly the number of small businesses in the area shuttered, and realize that only a fraction of those will reopen. Rents won’t be paid, mortgages will be defaulted, strip malls will close and hundreds of thousands of people will be without livelihoods.

    • EdwardM
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Millions. Tens of millions will be without livelihoods. The layoffs are only just beginning and the 3.3 million unemployment applications last week is the just a trickle of what’s to come. It will be a tsunami.

      I like him noting the birdsong. As a matter of fact there is one singing outside my window now. It’s lovely and though it was common before the epidemic, I welcome it now maybe more so because of the uncertainty and fear.

    • Filippo
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      “Ah, Andrew, spoken like a true dilettante; peace, quiet and birdsong. Must be nice to be a lily of the field.”

      What would you have him write about?

  6. Posted March 28, 2020 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    A fine article. But I would be most happy if columnists from his base start at last to turn on him. That would be a welcome break in the clouds.

  7. tomh
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Trump’s latest attempt to make himself king in all things, is his claim to have authority to override the new Inspector General office, created in the stimulus bill, that is to oversee where and how the loans and grants are sent. Surprise– Trump wants hotels at the top of the list.

    This is in a “signing statement” released when he signed the bill, which purports to have constitutional concerns about the oversight provision. “Accordingly, my Administration will treat this provision as hortatory but not mandatory.” Just because it’s a law that passed Congress and he signed, doesn’t mean he has to abide by it.

    • Posted March 28, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      These “signing statements” have always bugged me. They are totally unconstitutional, AFAIK. On the other hand, the Executive has a lot of leeway in executing laws. The Trump admin in particular would presumably have no trouble at all “forgetting” to forward information to such an inspector and, if caught, claiming the right to do so with a “see you in court” to finish it off. Trump’s use of a signing statement here seems to more of a “Suck on this, bitches!” signal.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted March 28, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        Don’t know that the “signing statements” are “unconstitutional” as such; but they are (and ought to be taken as) ineffectual.

        What tells is the statutory language itself.

        • tomh
          Posted March 28, 2020 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

          I don’t see why this should be any more ineffectual that Trump’s resistance to oversight for the last two year. That has worked pretty well for him.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted March 28, 2020 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

            I’m speaking of the “signing statements” per se.

            Trump’s success in resisting oversight has been the result of his hubris being matched by congressional timorousness (especially on the part of the Republican-controlled senate).

        • Posted March 28, 2020 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

          I had to take to Wikipedia to remind me but signing statements have been quite effective, especially as applied to laws that require executive action. As I said, they are not enshrined in the constitution or anywhere else but they are also not declared illegal and SCOTUS has not ruled on their legitimacy.

          https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Signing_statement

      • rickflick
        Posted March 28, 2020 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

        On the other hand, the agencies are still full of professionals who work against tRumps directives, but in the nicest possible way. Scientists add data to reports which allow opposition groups to challenge the implementation. The data is true valid data, but included to give opponents something to point to in court. This kind of subversion has delayed some environmental and consumer disasters. The Moron in Chief may work around these road blocks. Another term in office would give him the chance he wants.

  8. Martin Knowles
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Wouldn’t Sullivan agree that it’s the “constructions” and “narratives” we get from leadership that contribute to the success or failure of policy? To point out that the the biology of this virus is not constructed is a straw man.

  9. Posted March 28, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I’m curious, Jerry, why you don’t think mandatory masks are a good idea. It seems to me that they do offer some protection for others, if the mask-wearer were infected.

    I’ll take you up on Trump bet again this time around, if you still want to do it. $100. Biden’s been sidelined; he should be working to unify people to solve this problem but he seems completely irrelevant.

    And the Democrats put pork in the coronavirus stimulus bill! What stupid idiots. I think the Republicans didn’t fight it much so that they can bring this up during the campaign.

    I really don’t want to win again, I’ll be quite pleased to lose. But I think the Democrats are screwing this up (again).

    • tomh
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Today’s NYT features an article, More Americans Should Probably Wear Masks for Protection.

      “Experts have started to question whether masks may offer at least some protection to healthy individuals and essential workers.

      And since asymptomatic individuals can transmit the virus, it’s also about reducing transmission. In Asian countries, where everyone is encouraged to wear a mask, individuals protect each other, reducing overall community transmission. The sick automatically have one on.

      • Posted March 28, 2020 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Yes, it’s not for protecting yourself, it’s for limiting the trajectories of airborne droplets while you talk or cough or just breath.

        • tomh
          Posted March 28, 2020 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          More on masks. A piece today in the Washington Post by a research scientist at the University of San Francisco:
          Simple DIY masks could help flatten the curve. We should all wear them in public.

          When historians tally up the many missteps policymakers have made in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the senseless and unscientific push for the general public to avoid wearing masks should be near the top.

          Among other arguments he has “found 34 scientific papers indicating basic masks can be effective in reducing virus transmission in public — and not a single paper that shows clear evidence that they cannot.”

        • Posted March 28, 2020 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

          I concur with everything you’ve said.

    • Posted March 28, 2020 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Well, I think masks should be worn by those who are infected, of course, but the protection for those who are uninfected was reported (to my knowledge) to be marginal.

      I’m not so sure I’m willing to take a $200 loss as opposed to a possible $100 loss. But Ceiling Cat help us if we have to face another 4 years of Trump as President. Those who vote for him will get what they deserve.

      • Posted March 28, 2020 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I also understand that a mask doesn’t do much to protect the wearer against infection, but since carriers can be asymptomatic and not know that they are infected, it seems essential that everyone always use a mask in public to protect others. That is now obligatory here in Ecuador.

    • Posted March 28, 2020 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      I think masks make sense for the reason you state: we might be infected. It is well known that people with COVID-19 often infect others without symptoms or knowing they are infected. Even if masks only protect others from your infection, which Sullivan reasonably doubts, it makes sense because we just don’t know if we have it.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted March 28, 2020 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        I couldn’t agree more, even simple masks reduce the chance of the asymptomatic wearer infecting others. If everybody would wear a mask in public, I’m sure it would contribute to ‘flattening the curve’, more than the 2 meters, possibly even more than hand sanitizers. After all we do talk to each other. (More specialized masks, such as the N95 masks, give some personal protection too.)
        Although there are no data for CoVID-19 it is widely accepted for TB transmission. TB is less contagious than this virus, but it also spreads via airborne micro-droplets.

    • Posted March 28, 2020 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      We just saw a youtube interview with a doctor from South Korea (English subtitles) and the widespread use of masks was/is an integral part of their containment strategy in addition to the other mitigating activities. He maintains that it’s wrong to say that masks don’t help. He thinks the countries that are saying this don’t want have enough and don’t want to have a run on them.

      I would get some, even the ordinary surgical ones that are not N65 (which are even harder to get). Every little bit helps to protect your facial orifices.

      • tomh
        Posted March 28, 2020 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        The WaPo article linked above referenced a 2013 paper which found that something as simple as two layers of a cotton T-shirt is highly effective at blocking virus particles of a wide range of sizes.

        • Posted March 28, 2020 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

          Yes. Even wearing two plain old dust masks for painting around the house must surely help. Good thing I have a bunch of those for house reno. I might consider sewing some extra masks if I can find time.

          As one helpful expert explained, imagine shooting an arrow into a forest. All the intersecting tangle of branches help to knock/slow down/stop the arrow from its direct flight.

          • tomh
            Posted March 28, 2020 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

            The Czech Republic, where masks are apparently widely used, has a simple slogan: “My mask protects you; your mask protects me.”

      • Posted March 29, 2020 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

        … N95! not N65!

    • Filippo
      Posted March 29, 2020 at 2:00 am | Permalink

      “Biden’s been sidelined; he should be working to unify people to solve this problem but he seems completely irrelevant.”

      “Irrelevant” to whom or what?

      What would you have Biden do or say?

      • Posted March 29, 2020 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        Biden has suggested we need a national lockdown. While he’s probably right, Trump and his followers are bound to weaponize this against him. Anything Biden says now that SOUNDS like an overreaction will garner accusations of it being a plot against Trump. While Biden is still running a campaign and, therefore, has a duty to go after Trump, I think he should find other ways to do it.

        BTW, a recent nationwide poll has Trump gaining on Biden. That’s probably the “rally around the flag” effect which may well dissolve when more people experience the direct impact of the virus. On the other hand, this is Trump we’re talking about so who knows?

        https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-03-27/biden-coronavirus-national-lockdown

        • Filippo
          Posted March 29, 2020 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

          I see in the NY Times that the noble, intellectually-curious Trump acolytes are after Dr. Fauci for what they perceive to be a face palm in response to a news conference statement by Trump.

        • Filippo
          Posted March 29, 2020 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

          In the last couple of days I’ve received (addressed to “Postal Customer”) a post card, dated March 16, 2020 (date it was printed, I gather), on the front of which is, “PRESIDENT TRUMP’S CORONAVIRUS GUIDELINES FOR AMERICA.”

          This locution seems suspicious and peculiar and political and partisan. Are these guidelines somehow all the more credible due to being Trump’s?

          On the lower right-hand corner is the picture icon of the White House and the logo “CDC,” and the website “CORONAVIRUS.GOV.” On the back are listed are all the precautions one hears from scientific/medical experts.

          Looking at the above website, I notice it does not say “PRESIDENT TRUMP’S CORONAVIRUS GUIDELINES FOR AMERICA.” Why not? The heading is “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” THAT is what should have been on the front of the card.

          I’ll look forward to another such post card giving Trump Tips for entertaining and occupying oneself during this time of social distancing.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted March 29, 2020 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

            This is on the Hili for today

            I’m wondering where the money came from to pay for all the mail

          • Posted March 29, 2020 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

            Trump is such a joke. As if putting his name on every damn thing really helps. Of course, that’s the core of his business: branding. Perhaps he’s charging the Feds for the use of his name.

            In case anyone missed it, today he’s tweeted twice about how his daily COVID-19 briefings are getting HUGE ratings and, according to him, the MSM are floored by it.

            How can anyone need more proof of the complete unsuitability of this guy for dogcatcher, let alone POTUS?

    • rickflick
      Posted March 29, 2020 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Biden’ just bidin’ his time. He’ll watch tRump crash and burn and then play the white knight.

  10. rickflick
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Moron in chief, exactly. Andrew Cuomo for president. There’s a guy who everyone (relatively speaking) could get behind.

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      I disagree. Cuomo is the new Rudy Giuliani and is looking good right now but is for the most part unvetted. Who knows what dirt is there if someone start digging into his past.

      Although I share many people’s concern that Joe seems a little slow, he’s withstood the full brunt of the GOP machine and still has a steady lead over Trump.

      • rickflick
        Posted March 28, 2020 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        Just wishful thinking on my part. I want a white knight. 😎

  11. JezGrove
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    A good article. The Guardian also has a damning analysis of tRump’s response to Coronavirus: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/28/trump-coronavirus-politics-us-health-disaster

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      There is also an article in the Atlantic, by Peter Wehner: “The President Is Trapped” (25 March).

      Quote:
      “The qualities we most need in a president during this crisis are calmness, wisdom, and reassurance; a command of the facts and the ability to communicate them well; and the capacity to think about the medium and long term while carefully weighing competing options and conflicting needs.
      […]
      There are some 325 million people in America, and it’s hard to think of more than a handful who are more lacking in these qualities than Donald Trump.”

      Like we say in French “[Wehner] n’y va pas avec le dos de la cuillère” (he pulls no punch).

  12. Mike Anderson
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Although Trump’s approval rating is going up, it looks like that will not correlate with more votes in the general election. The same poll that showed Trump getting his best approval rating (48%) also show Joe Biden’s lead holding steady at 9 points (actually 1 point up from a month ago).

    https://www.foxnews.com/politics/fox-news-poll-march-21-24-2020

    Most polls seem to agree – Trump’s approval going up but Biden’s lead holding steady.

  13. Posted March 28, 2020 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what we will see over the next two months, thanks for sharing.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone else noticed that Trump looks like living hell lately — the baggy eyes, the jowlier jowls, the sloppily applied pancake makeup no longer quite making it all the way to the hairline, the baldness below showing through the elaborately filigreed comb-over?

    Makes one wonder whether there might not after all be some small, heretofore strangled, voice of self-reflection within. It’s one thing to bullshit your way through being a Manhattan real-estate flim-flam man, or playing el jefe on a scripted reality-tv show; quite another to be trapped daily in the previously little-used White House press briefing room, standing alongside a couple bona fide experts, facing questions from a newly aggressive press about a worldwide crisis that’s put the health and lives of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of Americans in jeopardy.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      He does look a bit like death warmed over. Probably due to slow business at the golf resorts and little going on at the hotels as well. He may have to call in more help from Moscow. Just reading those stock reports can age a billionaire.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Think of the Wicked Witch of the West shriveling down to a smoking puddle. “I’m melting! Melting!”

  15. sted24
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    “From January on, [Trump] could have deployed the government’s ultimate power to get American manufacturers to produce ventilators, masks, and tests on demand, gotten the military to set up field hospitals…etc”

    There is FAR too much hindsight here. Indeed, generally. Even at the beginning of this month where in the MSM were the loud cries for extreme measures, of any kind? Certainly not from Sullivan! Nor anyone else, so far as I can see, bar a few outliers.

    To bring home just how rapidly this crisis has over taken us, consider our own experience at this site (PCC & readers).

    On Mar 3 we were welcoming our host back from an entertaining week in Paris. None of us worried about COVID-19. Here is the record from Fance:

    Mar 3: 212 cases

    10 days later.
    Mar 13: 3,661

    2 weeks later (now).
    Mar 27: 32,964

    None of this is intended as any defence of Trump’s chaotic performance.

    Finally (I genuinely don’t know the answer): when did Cuomo initiate extreme measures?

    • Posted March 28, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Not quite right on none of us were concerned – read the comments to see that some were.

      • sted24
        Posted March 28, 2020 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        DS: I’d forgtten that exchange. On the other hand, I’d claim my ‘none’ has a built-in error bar of ±5%.

        Still, there was very little real concern back then [Mar 2, edited]:

        DS: US news reports the Louvre is closed and that coronavirus concern is spreading…

        PCC:…We’ve had 178 cases in France with three deaths…I’m glad I saw the Leonardo exhibit on its last day a week ago…It is a very crowded place–surely the most crowded exhibit space in Paris.

        DS: Thanks for the update!

        Little concern about crowds. Incidentally, just noticed I can visit your website. So I did.

        Re Lizzo & Obesity. The Guardian’s advocacy of ‘Body Positivity’ drives me nuts. Relevant here is evidence that obesity makes people more vulnerable to flu and the flu vaccine less effective. Some epidemiologists have noted this in comparing China v USA C-19 expectations. It’s not good.

        • Posted March 28, 2020 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

          Agreed. And thanks for dropping by Planet Boulder, and the nuttiness of the the whole obesity-is-ok campaign; it’s Whacko-Lizzo 🙂

    • rickflick
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Somebody should have known something. Bill Gates (and others) was warning about exactly this scenario in 2015:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Af6b_wyiwI&feature=emb_logo

      At least Obama had established organizations to work the issue.

    • Taz
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      The president is supposed to lead, not the media.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      None of the commenters here (and presumably not Andrew Sullivan either) were receiving the intelligence briefings about COVID-19 available to Donald Trump in January 2020. For that matter, none of us here ignored the 69-page pandemic-preparedness handbook the Obama administration had handed over to the Trump transition team. Nor were any of us here aware of the weaknesses revealed by the national government’s 2017 pandemic war-gaming. Nor had we disbanded the pandemic unit in the National Security Council in 2018.

      So, in light of recent revelations regarding these things, I think some hindsight consideration of Trump’s nonfeasance is warranted.

    • sted24
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for all your comments. We need more of this! A couple of counter comments.

      1. I don’t doubt that various medical, intelligence, and other parties have been warning about this for years. Including Bill Gates. And I don’t doubt Govts (everywhere) didn’t do enough.

      But the media–and hence us–weren’t doing enough to pressure them to do more. Which election manifesto, where, made prominent ‘plans to fight global pandemic’? None ±5%.

      The ignoring happened not just under Trump, but everywhere. Obama prepared a plan, good; Trump ignored. How much did Obama spend on implementing the research Gates suggested necessary in 2015? And how much was actually required?

      2. Bill Gates. I have the greatest admiration for what he tries to do with his foundation. But. In his latest TED Talk (Mar 24) he mentions that in late Jan, alarmed by what had happened in China, he set up a $100 million initiative. Good.

      How much is he worth? $100 BILLION. So urgent was the situation, he spent .1% of his net worth helping the rest of the world out!

      That’s WAY simple-minded, of course. But: perspective.

      • Posted March 28, 2020 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

        Some counter-counter comments:

        1. It is not the media’s job to demand planning for the future. Same for the average citizen. Can you really imagine CNN, for example, demanding that the federal government treat future pandemics seriously? Or a march on the National Mall for such a thing? Instead, our country has teams of people in several federal departments whose job it is to assess risks and report on them to decision makers. AFAIK, that happened several times in recent years. Trump not only ignored it, he disassembled what had been done by earlier administrations.

        2. I don’t know exactly what Bill Gates’ $100M was spent on but a few things occur to me:

        a) He has no reason to spend more than it takes to do a certain task. A lot can be done with $100M. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t measure his response in terms of some fraction of his net wealth.

        b) His foundation does lots of good works. What reasoning says he should spend more than he has on this particular thing? He probably factors in many things when making such choices, his own skills for one thing and getting the most bang for the buck for another.

        c) A foundation generally invests the bulk of its money and spends only the profits off them on its projects. I don’t know if the Gates Foundation works this way but it may be unreasonable to look at the money he spends on one project as a fraction of its entire worth.

      • rickflick
        Posted March 28, 2020 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        I’m seeing parallels with the problem of global warming. People ignore it because it seems far off. A pandemic was known to be likely if not certain to occur eventually, but that too was ignored because it seems far off. The warming risk ends at a tipping point. The viral threat ends with a pandemic. Humans seem to be designed to react with strong emotion to immediate danger, but somehow leave the longer term future to the gods.

      • Filippo
        Posted March 29, 2020 at 2:19 am | Permalink

        “How much did Obama spend on implementing the research Gates suggested necessary in 2015?”

        How much did Congress, and Mitch McConnell in particular, allow him to spend?

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      On January 30 the WHO declared a general Public Health Emergency, which they don’t do lightly. From that moment we knew it was serious. We knew it had spread quickly to several countries, and that a pandemic was probably coming.

  16. Posted March 28, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    “. . .including a benefit I had overlooked.”

    I haven’t heard anyone say anything about the benefit for the environment of having fewer cars on the road with people staying home, less air traffic, etc. Is this negligible or have I just missed any mention of it?

  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant move by Donald Trump this afternoon in announcing that he’s thinking of announcing a “quarantine” on New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut (whatever a presidentially imposed “quarantine” may mean under the circumstances).

    I mean, it’s rather sporting of Trump to give asymptomatic residents of those states a head-start on decamping to someplace outside the quarantine zone.

    What a fucking dolt.

  18. JezGrove
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    “We haven’t heard much about Joe Biden lately”: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/27/donald-trump-coronavirus-response-us-advertisement

  19. littleboybrew
    Posted March 28, 2020 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Coyne, I know you like to address problems with the far left wing, and deservedly so. But in the case of Andrew Sullivan (and I have been reading him for 20 years) I think you missed the analysis of his position. The right wing politics moved away from him. He was always a Reagan/Thatcher type – the current right wing is nowhere to be found there.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 28, 2020 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I’ve been reading Sullivan for quite a while, too, going back to before he was editor of The New Republic, and I think it’s a combination of factors: Sullivan has drifted Left over the last decade and a half, but the American rightwing has swung way reactionary.

      That’s what left the Grand Old Party ripe for a hostile takeover by Donald Trump and his white-nationalist Birther rabble.

  20. Posted March 28, 2020 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    the person in the article who suggested that we stop criticizing Dump because it’ll only make him worse doesn’t seem to realize that you aren’t supposed to reward bad behavior.

    hell, a big chunk of the country already did that when they elected him for the White House. No, criticism is our duty when the so-called leader is lying, evading, and taking petty revenge against people who don’t like him. He has enough ass kissers. The last thing he needs is even more of them.

  21. Posted March 28, 2020 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Maybe if the disease had been named something like SARS-COVID-19 (instead of just COVID-19) people would have taken this more seriously from day 1.

  22. summer xue
    Posted April 23, 2020 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    I want to share the links with people who are in need of face masks.You can order free face masks on it.https://flexispot.com/free-face-mask

    • rickflick
      Posted April 23, 2020 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      When the page first appears, the price is $0.00, but then changes to $6.00. It appears they do charge for shipping. I’ll just make my own.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted April 23, 2020 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        Isn’t this brazen self marketing? Literally putting ads for free up on any forum?

    • rickflick
      Posted April 23, 2020 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Well, you get 10 units for the $6.00 shipping, so it’s not a bad price. Probably worth it.


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