We will never love Donald Trump the way he loves himself, it's become painfully clear. And his presidency is all about punishing us for that original sin.
"Anyone with gumption and a sharp mind will take the measure of two things: what's said and what's done", wrote Ireland's poet laureate, Seamus Heaney
I've been thinking of Heaney's famous line a lot as I watch Donald Trump's daily campaign events. I can not bring myself to call them presidential briefings because, as many journalists have already made plain, they are filled to the brim with dangerous misdirections and obvious lies.
For me though, it's what is not being said and done by this president that is far more interesting.
He has remained weirdly untouched by the fact that America is facing the worst health crisis in a century, with an already catastrophic body count.
How do I know this? Because he talks about the American economy and the corporations that run it with real urgency and feeling, but he develops a detached tone when he talks about the hundreds of thousands of us who will soon be condemned to die.
The United States now has more cases of coronavirus than any other country, with over 380,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19, and at least 11,830 Americans dead (already almost four 9/11's).
This animated graphic from the BBC shows the worldwide progression of the pandemic through this week. It's worth watching.
Watch, in particular, for the appearance of the US at the beginning of March, and then the speed at which the US epidemic takes off. pic.twitter.com/jcvUPUSl7u— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) April 8, 2020
Faced with catastrophic numbers of the dead or dying and the sheer scale of his own failure to protect them his task is actually simple, to share with us his own fears about what we are facing into and to reassure that he understands and will work night and day to alleviate the nations suffering.
But he simply can't do it. Instead, when asked point-blank “What do you say to Americans who are scared right now?” Trump's reply has come to define who he really is. “I say that you're a terrible reporter,” Trump shot back, trying to avoid any potential blame for their mass suffering, and condemning the reporter instead of the news.
The question he was asked was a fair one and for every preceding president a typical one. But our current president couldn't handle it at all, saying instead, “I think that’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people.” Later he added “I’ve dealt with ABC's Peter (Alexander) a long time, and I think Peter is not a good journalist when it comes to fairness.”
Fairness? He's the President of the United States of America and he was asked what he would say to Americans who are scared? His reply was that he had no reply. When people show you who they are, wrote the poet Maya Angelou, believe them.
Twenty million people are projected to file for unemployment soon (over two times the number that did so during the Great Depression). Hospitals do not have the beds, ventilators, protective equipment or staffing numbers to effectively fight COVID-19. Americans have already started attending memorial events for the dead on their laptops via Zoom meeting groups. Things are grim as hell and getting worse by the hour. We need real moral leadership.
“I don't take responsibility at all,” Trump told the press when asked why there have been almost no tests made available for the coronavirus. Then he pivoted to something he enjoys, his own apparent popularity. “Did you know I was number one on Facebook?” he asked? He is not number one on Facebook, but he likes to reassure himself and look in the mirror when faced with too much reality.
Nurses are wearing garbage bags. Doctors are wearing ski masks: 21st Century health care in the wealthiest country on the planet.
Nurse at Brooklyn hospital on coronavirus clothing: ‘It’s a garbage bag. It’s like something out of the Twlight Zone’ https://t.co/PtQhQLuL2W— Quentin Fottrell (@Quantanamo) April 7, 2020
We will never love Donald Trump the way he loves himself, it's become painfully clear. And his presidency is all about punishing us for that original sin. Because Trump believes that the media are a stand-in for the voice of the people, and he detests both.
He also detests much bigger showboats than himself, which is why he has struggled so much with the coronavirus. The coronavirus is global, it has much bigger ratings, and it's all anyone wants to talk about to him. He hates it. He hates all the attention it's getting. He would rather that we all talk about him.
So if there is any human sadness in Trump's daily events, if there is any strong feeling, any empathy at all, it's entirely reserved for himself. He expresses sympathy for the daily indignities he has to put up with from the press. For the celebrity status of the disease that is overshadowing his own and for the distress of the big man instead of the little people.
Because it's become clear by now that the one person who is really suffering here is himself.