Here’s a Democratic campaign ad for you: show Trump speaking at a rally to a stadium full of people who gradually disappear and their cheers die away.
Weakness in a president is deadly.
The day after Donald Trump suggested injecting disinfectant and using ultraviolet light inside people’s bodies as treatments for COVID-19 during his daily improv routine in the White House briefing room, which resulted in a viral video of Dr. Deborah Birx struggling to compose herself, he walked it back and blamed the press.
“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen.” No you weren’t, clown. STFU.
Everyone from the Environmental Protection Agency to cleanser makers to song parodist Randy Rainbow urged people not to follow the president’s dangerous suggestion. Across the nation, the ridicule was as rampant as the warnings. Jokes about chewable Clorox tablets went around. During cocktails via Zoom with friends from Nellie’s Sports Bar, one couple drank what I am sure were not really “Lysoltinis.”
My first impulse after hearing Dr. Trump’s brainstorm was to say “Go right ahead,” but the thought of gullible parents poisoning their children stopped me short.
On April 24, a White House official threatened to summon the Secret Service when Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson refused to switch seats in the briefing room with CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan’s questioning had displeased the Maximum Leader, so they ordered her back to Chris’s seat. Well sorry, but the White House Correspondents’ Association, not the Trump Administration, determines seating assignments. Kudos to Chris and Kaitlan for staying put.
Imagine the insecurity that would impel a president to blame and punish reporters for his own murderous ignorance. When members of the press corps refuse to be bullied or set against one another, they uphold their crucial role enshrined by our Founders in the First Amendment.
Trump’s lies, threats, and wishful thinking, his responsibility dodging and refusal to respect expertise, have already killed more Americans than the 58,220 who died in Vietnam. The question is whether that and the tanked economy will cost him reelection, and there the news is encouraging. Polls show he is in trouble, and his desperate flailing shows that he knows it. Republicans are afraid that his disastrous handling of the public health crisis will cost them the Senate as well as the White House.
Still, the election is six months away, and Trump’s mischief proceeds apace. A few examples:
The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at the Department of Health and Human Services (which sounds like something George Orwell thought up to entertain himself during the Blitz) is going to let doctors refuse to treat LGBTQ patients for religious reasons. Never mind that there are far more biblical injunctions against everything Trump does than against queers.
Trump issued an executive order last week temporarily suspending the issuance of new green cards, though it carved out exceptions such as for essential workers—including, presumably, resort staff and Slovenian models. His invocation of health and jobs as justification is a thin veil for the racism that he and advisor Stephen Miller have fomented all along.
Trump’s decision to speak at West Point, prompted by Mike Pence’s Air Force Academy appearance, will require 1,000 graduating cadets to return to the military academy from the homes to which they scattered because of the pandemic. They will be tested for the virus, given masks, monitored, and segregated in the mess hall—all to serve as props for one insatiable ego.
We respond to a challenging time in various ways. Businesses adapt, fresh connections are improvised, new charities spring up. A few blocks from me, Metropolitan AME Church, like many other houses of worship, has gone enthusiastically virtual with a range of programs.
As for that confrontation in the briefing room, it is notable that the president’s aide backed down. Secret Service agents are not a dictator’s thugs, as he may discover if he refuses to leave the White House on January 20. For now, he will resort to any destructive act and tell any lie in his growing fury, while the reporters he slanders and abuses labor on. Let them be our inspiration.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at firstname.lastname@example.org.