Donald Trump’s alternative reality

During the Covid-19 crisis, his lies and delusions are putting Americans at real risk.

Wendy Kaminer
columnist

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Topics Politics USA World

It’s obvious that we can’t shut down our economy indefinitely without inflicting unthinkable damage that might equal or even eventually outweigh the damage wrought by this awful virus, if relatively unchecked. It’s equally obvious that businesses, schools and cultural institutions ought to be reopened gradually, with new safeguards in place, according to a process informed by a reliable, widespread testing regimen. If only such a regimen existed in the US. If only we had a competent, functional federal government, dedicated to establishing one.

Instead we’re at the mercy of a president who imagines (and boasts) that he’s imbued with absolute, monarchical authority but doesn’t exercise the powers he actually enjoys, under law, to provide hospitals and healthcare workers with equipment needed to care for people safely or ensure that everyone who should be tested can be tested. A longstanding federal law, the Defence Production Act, authorises the president to order industries to produce ventilators, masks and other healthcare essentials; but Trump invoked the Act, under pressure, belatedly and ineffectively – out of ignorance, incompetence, or an effort to pass the buck.

The mechanics of controlling the spread of the virus without overwhelming healthcare systems and destroying the economy are problems for state officials to solve, he has insisted, in a predictable abdication of responsibility that displaces blame for any operational failures or the costs of shelter-in-place policies. At the same time, he has ignorantly claimed ‘ultimate authority’ to end these policies, eager to assume credit for an economic revival that he hopes will quickly occur to facilitate his re-election (and perhaps boost the business from which he continues to profit. Forbes estimates that Trump’s net worth has dropped by one billion dollars during the shutdown).

In his alternate reality, the president has absolute power accompanied by absolutely no responsibility. ‘I don’t take responsibility at all’, he has proudly declared.

The power on which Trump is most dependent, and the one he most enjoys, is the power of his bully pulpit to create flattering and highly mutable realities. We’re accustomed to presidents who evade hard truths and sometimes flatly lie. But Trump doesn’t just lie at a staggering and well-documented rate: the Washington Post counts 18,000 false or misleading statements in a little over 1,000 days. He routinely acts on the basis of his imaginary facts. (Who knows if Trump is deluded enough to believe in them?) Inconvenient realities are fiercely denied and people who raise them condemned as mean, nasty or incompetent. He attacks a report from his own administration documenting disastrous hospital-equipment shortages and inadequate testing capacities. His daily briefings, ostensibly intended to inform and guide us through this crisis, spread ever-evolving fictions devoted to self-glorification and the demonisation of any public-health experts, governors and journalists, among others, who implicitly or explicitly question his omniscience and the perfect record it’s enabled. ‘Everything we did was right’, Trump brags. He is, after all, a ‘very stable genius’ whose actions are always ‘perfect’.

It isn’t just the pandemic and attendant fears and hardships that have so many of us feeling trapped in a dystopian novel — it’s the bizarre spectacle of the daily Trump show. Addressing a fearful nation confronting a potentially deadly virus and collapsing economy, Trump brags about his ratings, airs a campaign video, and whitewashes his record, accusing others of making all the mistakes we have witnessed him make in the past several months. Everyone except him (especially the ‘fake media’) downplayed the virus, Trump asserts; never mind his own numerous previous claims that it was entirely under control, would soon dissipate in warmer weather, was no worse than the seasonal flu, and, in any case, that a vaccine would be available in a few months. He cuts funding to the World Health Organisation for praising China’s reaction to the virus – as he did, in a January tweet: ‘China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency.’

He distributes a xenophobic campaign ad replaying out-of-context quotes about China from his presumptive presidential opponent, Joe Biden, that sound just like Trump’s previous statements praising China. But that was then. He even sues a media outlet for airing Democratic ads accurately reciting his series of wrongheaded claims about the virus. Trump resides, and demands that we reside, in his revisionist history and manufactured present. It doesn’t bode well for our future.

Wendy Kaminer is an author, a lawyer and a former national board member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Picture by: Getty.

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Comments

Walter Mitty

18th April 2020 at 1:52 pm

It’s fake news that the checks were delayed. They went out on time as planned, yes everyone knows Trump has an ego hence the signature but the article in the Washington Post that lead to blue checkmark media elites pushing this narrative on Twitter actually stated within the article itself that they went out on time.
These tactics play into Trump’s hands as the media end up doing everything he accuses them off.

Jerry Owen

18th April 2020 at 11:26 am

Little Jonnie
How funny you whinge about the speed or lack of about the billions Trump had given to US citizens and business. Let’s cut to the chase Trump has made this incredible gesture. What a star. Look at the UK little Jonnie and what it hasn’t done for its citizens.

Jonnie Henly

18th April 2020 at 2:40 pm

Oh, are you upset at Boris?

Well that’s not my problem.

Is what Trump did merely a “gesture” now? I thought it was supposed to have a meaningful purpose, not merely as a gesture.

At least the GOP can never attack the Democrats for spending too much ever again.

Jerry Owen

17th April 2020 at 1:23 pm

What no mention of the big fat cheque the Americans got yesterday?
Do you not approve?

Jonnie Henly

17th April 2020 at 4:19 pm

Is that the one Trump delayed so they would all have his name on them?

Jerry Owen

17th April 2020 at 5:09 pm

No little Jonnie
The democrat States wanted the money sent to them so they could then forward it on to the public thus pretending it came from individual states. This was not necessary. Federal government sending it was the most efficient method as it was federal government that decided this policy. Trump did the right thing and putting his name to it was so funny as it deranged the already deranged Dems.
Lol!

Jerry Owen

17th April 2020 at 5:45 pm

Further to my post little Jonnie
It was the Dems that held it all up anyway. Trump split the money 50/50 citizens and business. The Dems would not sign it off unless their equality and Co2 demands were met, eg the airlines upon receiving cash would have to meet certain emissions levels before they were granted money.
In short the Dems were playing politics in a pandemic, what utter little shites they are.

Jonnie Henly

18th April 2020 at 2:00 am

So yes, Trump did delay the checks to put his name on them… anything to recover his plummeting approval ratings….

And now he’s getting upset and Democratic governors for holding press conferences…. Like he does every day.

Oh dear.

Jonnie Henly

18th April 2020 at 2:03 am

Trump has been withholding equipment from blue states so he can make himself look better in swing states ahead of November. What a nasty piece of work.

And of course he blocked the Democrats bill because he was too petty to let theirs pass. And, no, the check he gave citizens was not fat at all.

Unlike his bailout of business.

Jonnie Henly

18th April 2020 at 2:04 am

The Dems demanded citizens get a meaningful check, not a measly token gesture.

Trump said no because he didn’t want the Dems to be seen as successful. Not a good look.

Jerry Owen

18th April 2020 at 10:57 am

Poor wee Jonnie. You don’t dispute what I say… You whinge about business bail out … In the real world of course it’s called support.
Tell me my little deck scrubber, what happens after the lockdown when workers need to earn money and businesses have folded? I’ll tell you… They suffer!
Bitter socialist clap trap Jonnie.

Jerry Owen

18th April 2020 at 1:59 pm

Measly ! So how much did you get!

Jonnie Henly

18th April 2020 at 2:38 pm

Jerry, Trump wanted to waste taxpayer money bailing out business.

The Democrats said, ‘we should only do so if it’s in the public interest’.

What’s wrong with that Jerry? How is that politicizing anything?

Oh wait… it isn’t. Wrong again Jerry!

Jim Lawrie

18th April 2020 at 1:26 pm

I think her Trump articles are written from a template where she is master of the “facts”, shoves in some new ones and the software does the rest. Her facts are garnered from the headlines of newspapers that are on her approved reading list.

Walter Mitty

17th April 2020 at 10:46 am

Trump knows in comparison to the media who cover him he fairs well. The polling emphatically shows this. I believe if he was covered fairly his flaws would be much more visible as currently they get lost in all the noise.

The reasons these briefings are a brazen spectacle is (almost all) the journalists go with the sole purpose of political point scoring rather than trying to illicit information in order to inform the public. By now you should now that Trump is the kind of character to push back on that.

I find it laughable that journalists who have been covering Trump for years now don’t understand or see the patterns in how he operates. He always manages to get his opponents (I include the media) to defend the wrong side (MS-13, Iran, China, WHO etc.) purely to oppose Trump. The public notices the media defending people like MS-13.

The media constantly call him stupid yet he manages to play them like a fiddle every time.

Jonnie Henly

17th April 2020 at 4:18 pm

What polling shows this?

Jerry Owen

17th April 2020 at 5:10 pm

Open your eyes, stop scrubbing decks and read the papers.

Jonnie Henly

18th April 2020 at 1:57 am

Oh dear, Jerry can’t answer.

Go back to the groceries Jerry.

Jerry Owen

18th April 2020 at 11:05 am

CNN, Guardian, DM
Take your pick.

Jonnie Henly

19th April 2020 at 1:39 am

I pick whichever you like.

Now show us the polling Jerry.

Jerry Owen

17th April 2020 at 9:54 am

Kaminers links provide no more information than she does. No contexts for her quotes are given, how unsurprising ! Given that Kaminer has lied about Trump .. (some ‘neo nazis’ are very fine people he once said ) she is not to be trusted. But of course just like all the other rabid leftists they use the Chinese virus knowingly spread by the Chinese Communist party as an excuse to attack the west, why does Kaminer not once put the blame where it lies.. yes kaminer talk about China? Trump built up the American economy to one of its highest levels ever, and the left with their retarded dislike of western civilization/capitalism seek any opportunity to destroy it just as XR do. American deaths per capita are less than those of European countries.

Jim Lawrie

18th April 2020 at 12:06 pm

In her world putting “it’s obvious …” in front of anything makes it fact. Obviously Jerry, you don’t don’t get this, or you wouldn’t ask pesky questions.
I’ve noticed quite a few times on here that writers think a link per se is proof and that no-one will check it.

She ends “It doesn’t bode well for our future.” Although she doesn’t say it, she obviously means Donald is going to win the next election.

Mor Vir

17th April 2020 at 9:39 am

“In his alternate reality, the president has absolute power accompanied by absolutely no responsibility. ‘I don’t take responsibility at all’, he has proudly declared… his omniscience and the perfect record it’s enabled”

Yes, Trump is having his God episode.

He fancies that he has solved the Epicurean Trilemma; that he has squared his all- power, knowledge and goodness with the evils of corona; he fancies that he has taken recourse to the ‘free will’ of the individual states to defuse the problem.

Trump thinks that he is God now. And as with any god, it is everyone else who is to blame – for everything. All-Holy is Trump and everyone else is a damned sinner. Trump does not merely see himself as a king with absolute powers, but as an ancient God-King beyond any criticism and due All-praise.

‘All praise be to Trump. Holy, holy, holy.’ Swing the incense and sprinkle the holy water. All kneel before the Holy of holies. Trump is about to give a press conf.

This odd turn raises serious questions about his mental state and the state of the USA.

Jerry Owen

17th April 2020 at 6:34 pm

The state of the USA before the pandemic was very good even some Dems acknowledge that.
Trump hasn’t started a war yet…is that what you miss and why you dislike him?

Mor Vir

17th April 2020 at 8:42 am

Wendy nailed this one.

Trump refused to take the virus seriously because he just wanted to keep the economy running. He refused to socialise the production of emergency health care equipment like ventilators and PPE because he is a dogmatic free marketeer. He refused to take any responsibility because he wanted to shift the buck. Similarly he let rip at China and WHO to stir up xenophobia and to prepare for future USA hostilities. He claimed absolute authority and a perfect record because, well, that is the imaginary universe that he wants everyone else to live in. Next he will reopen the economy without any adequate preparation; it is hard to see how that is going to work out for him when corona does its party-time.

Trump is a very limited man, limited by his ideas and his personality, and by the decline of USA, and he has been disastrous as a president in a crisis. The full scale of that disaster will be evident after he reopens the economy. The west has some very deep problems, least of all its inability to take the situation seriously and to take a good look at itself.

Jerry Owen

17th April 2020 at 6:38 pm

What are your opinions on China …. comrade?

Mor Vir

17th April 2020 at 7:22 pm

I have asked you before not to try to drag me into your spats. You have your say and I have mine. Apart from that, let us stay away from each other. Not everyone agrees with you, cope with that with some dignity.

Jonnie Henly

18th April 2020 at 1:58 am

What are yours Jerry?

Jerry Owen

18th April 2020 at 10:59 am

Little Jonnie
I gave made my thoughts on China clear .. perhaps you were scrubbing decks at the time… Lol!

Jerry Owen

18th April 2020 at 11:01 am

More Vir
If you come here expect to be challenged. Or are you to weak for that ?

Jerry Owen

18th April 2020 at 11:00 am

So you have no criticism of China then?

Jonnie Henly

19th April 2020 at 1:38 am

Oh dear Jerry, you can’t answer.

Too busy with the groceries?

John Lewis

17th April 2020 at 7:00 am

Normally I have a good chuckle at Wendy’s rants. This time I gave up reading it before halfway. Maybe the shutdown is getting to me.

Jonnie Henly

16th April 2020 at 10:36 pm

Trump’s criticism of the WHO for praising the Chinese response to the virus was just laughably hypocritical given his own record on this.

His desperation to pass the buck onto anyone else is painfully evident.

Even Piers Morgan turned on him the other day, slamming his response. Now that really is saying something.

Jerry Owen

17th April 2020 at 6:37 pm

“Even Piers Morgan….” Lol Jonnie is behind that self serving pompous narcissist!

Jonnie Henly

18th April 2020 at 1:57 am

I detest Piers Morgan, Jerry.

But he’s been very supportive of Trump in the past.

Jim Lawrie

18th April 2020 at 12:19 pm

Why do you hold Piers Morgan in such high regard?

Jonnie Henly

18th April 2020 at 2:38 pm

I don’t.

steven brook

16th April 2020 at 10:27 pm

Trump Derangement Syndrome – A contagious, debilitating psychiatric disorder.

Dominic Straiton

16th April 2020 at 9:32 pm

The west are dealing with populations who think they are immortal and insist government is god. Your all going to die. Eventually or tomorrow. Get used to it.

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