Donald Trump is no longer shuffling out to do the multiple-hour free association test that passed for a briefing on COVID-19. So he no longer has the cameras of every network focused on him as he explains how everything is “totally under control,” or how “it miraculously goes away,” or when he repeatedly insists that “this is just like flu.” We’re no longer getting a briefing on how good it would be to “clean out our insides” with an injection of bleach, and no longer being pushed to take a malaria drug without evidence of benefit. But just because the briefings have disappeared doesn’t mean that Donald Trump is sounding one bit more sensible.
In two new interviews—one with Sean Hannity, and another with the Wall Street Journal—Trump picks up the slack in distributing generic misinformation, absolute lies, and statements so irrational they’re actually painful. Did you know that World War I ended because the soldiers got too sick to fight? It’s true! Well, no. It’s not. But Trump did say it. Let’s get started …
Trump’s phone interview with Hannity is, like all things Trump, shambling, rambling, and way too long. Fortunately, CNN has distilled the essence of the call into a series of statements that show just how other-side-of-looking-glass Trumpland really is.
Trump spends a good deal of time on the protests against police violence that followed the murder of George Floyd. And Trump points out the real problem … which is protests. Most of the protesters, according to Trump, “don’t even know what they’re protesting.” And they also don’t appreciate how much Trump has done for them to make everything “the best.” Trump also spends some time explaining how the police are not being treated fairly and are “under siege.” That was right before Trump explained how police were justified in shooting Rayshard Brooks because Trump “got a report that the police officer’s lawyer heard a sound like a gun.”
After all, what better source for accurate information can there be than the lawyer for the guy who shot a Black man twice in the back while that Black man was running away? The officer involved is being charged with felony murder, so it must be nice to have Trump on his defense team.
Eventually, Trump wandered in and out of talking about the COVID-19 crisis where, as you might expect, he’s done a fantastic job. Trump explained again that after “one person report[ed] it” he closed down flights from China. In the real world, Trump restricted some flights from China a full month after the World Health Organization reported the outbreak in China, and two weeks after the first identified case in the United States. It’s absolutely clear that Trump’s flight restriction did nothing to slow the spread of the disease, but since it’s the only thing he did for two months, he has to keep talking about it.
Trump then explains how the Spanish Flu happened in 1917 and how the flu “[p]robably ended World War I, because all the soldiers, they were—they were so sick.” Which is a level of ignorance that would be staggering in a third grader. Trump missed the date, the order of events, and everything else about the last great pandemic. You might think that considering he’s now watched over the death of more Americans than the entire 1918-1919 flu season, he might be studying those events. You would be wrong.
However, you will be thrilled to learn that Q-conspiracy types have already incorporated Trump’s wild trampling of the facts as a series of clues letting the cognoscenti know that the United States is secretly at war with the Queen of England. And if you have to ask how that works, you’ll never understand.
In addition to his history less-on the
1918 1917 pandemic, Trump also insists that kids have to go back to school because “their immune systems are so strong.” He, of course, ignored the fact that hundreds of kids across the country have either died or suffered long-term damage from COVID-19. He also displayed no concern for parents, teachers, coaches, or anyone else working with those kids.
And in the play-me-another-excuse department, Trump rolled out a claim that “nobody knew that it was going to be that contagious.” Nobody knew, except everybody, since the WHO had already published estimated transmission factors by the early part of January and the wildfire growth in China’s first weeks made the seriousness of the disease obvious to a stump.
That was far from all Trump had to say in his extended chat with Hannity, but he also made time to talk to the Wall Street Journal, where his interview was again peppered with statements that, in normal times,—or even highly abnormal times—should have brought on mentions of departing town on a rail.
In addition to inventing Juneteenth, Trump went to some lengths to explain how Confederate statues should make Black people “proud,” and how removing those statues would only further divide the country. By which Trump presumably means it will piss off white supremacists and divide them from everyone else—a measurable good. As with Hannity, Trump’s response to questions about police violence against the Black community resulted in a lot of statements about how Trump had created a bajillion jobs and done everything so well and Black people never had it so good.
Then Trump got into more talk about the coronavirus and … it was all so far on the other side of reality that you could not see here from there.
Among other things, Trump revealed a conspiracy theory that the Q-crowd doesn’t even need to elaborate: Trump explained how China allowed COVID-19 to seep beyond their borders expressly to sink the U.S. economy since under Trump, America was doing so well and China was being taught a lesson. No. Seriously.
“There’s a chance it was intentional,” said Trump. Asked if China had loosed the virus to cause economic consequences, Trump eagerly agreed. “Correct. They’re saying, man, we’re in a mess. The United States is killing us. Don’t forget, my economy during the last year and a half was blowing them away. And the reason is the tariffs.” The tariffs … that were being paid by U.S. consumers, and costing U.S. farmers billions. That’s why China engaged in biological warfare by allowing thousands of their citizens to die so America would catch it.
Trump doesn’t explain the part of this where it requires China to understand that his response would be utterly incompetent, or how it was that China was able to halt the spread of the disease there, then sit back as it exploded across the United States. But it’s in the nature of a Trump conspiracy theory that it contains enough holes for a decade of Swiss cheese.
On the basis of what evidence did Trump accuse another nation of engaging in biological warfare to destroy the U.S. economy? None. Trump said that he “had no intelligence to support that claim, only an internal sense.” Then Trump appeared to back off a notch, saying that the epidemic in the United States was only “incompetence or a mistake” … on the part of China. Though he also made no effort to explain how that might work.
Trump then moved on to explaining how he had “created the greatest testing machine in history” before having a sad. “In many ways,” said Trump, “it makes us look bad.” If there was no testing, then COVID-19 would magically go away. And hospitals would magically fill. And hundreds of thousands of people would magically die. And wouldn’t that be much nicer?
And then there was stuff about John Bolton but … After learning that Spanish Flu had ended World War I in 1917, that China had sacrificed thousands to kill Trump’s superior economy, and that Trump’s testing machine was creating an image problem, whatever Trump said about Bolton just didn’t seem that important.