Like a carnival barker, President Trump is trying to market the feds' coronavirus response as though it was all his doing, and he wants us to be grateful that "only" 60,000 or 70,000 people will die from the pandemic rather than the previously announced best case scenario of 100,000.
But it is not Trump who deserves our gratitude, it is the frontline men and women working in our hospitals and medical centers, our fire and police stations, our grocery and drug stores, and yes, even the people who deliver our groceries, pizza and restaurant meals. Because as they do their jobs, they risk their own lives and those of their family members.
Yesterday, while Trump was busy patting himself on the back for his belated, weak, confused and inept response to the deadly virus that has now claimed nearly 20,000 lives and counting, I was being tested for the coronavirus at a clinic near my home in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Literally, as a nurse was gently inserting the test swab into my nostrils, Trump was telling reporters covering his press briefing that holding the death toll to 70,000 or less would be a tribute to his administration's response.
As he spoke, the young nurse, clothed in mask, plastic face shield, gloves and robe, chatted with me, assuring me that the test would not be painful, a smile in her voice as she bravely did her job. "Don't worry, I'm really good at this," she said as she inserted the probe, "Little tickle, little tickle, little tickle."
Then she did the second nostril with the same refrain.
"Does this worry you?" I asked her? "Aren't you afraid you'll catch the virus being so close to people who might be infected?"
"I just try not to think about it," she replied. "I just try to do my job and I'm glad to have a chance to help people. And I hope your results come back negative."
That encounter was a minor one compared to those taking place in ambulances, emergency rooms and hospitals across the nation, especially in hot spots like New York, Chicago and New Orleans. There, medical personnel are intubating patients, placing them on ventilators, and performing other procedures that put them in much closer and more prolonged contact with infected patients -- at the risk of their own lives.
The Benevelent Monarch
And while they perform their heroic work, Donald Trump stands before the microphones and cameras and pats himself on the back, branding the government's wholly inadequate response as though it were a glitzy new office building, hotel or golf course with his name emblazoned in fake gold.
The Washington Post has a terrific article on this topic today in which writers Robert Costa and Phillip Rucker note that Trump "often speaks of federal payments coming to many Americans as an act of his own benevolence, calling the bipartisan stimulus legislation 'a Trump administration initiative' and reportedly musing about printing his thick-and-jagged signature on the government checks."
Of course, the fact is that Congress enacted the $2.2 trillion emergency legislation that guarantees those payments and loans, and it was the Democrats who insisted the program actually provides meaningful help to those in need, rather than being a piggybank for big business with little control or oversight.
The Post article notes that "Trump talks about the Strategic National Stockpile of ventilators and medical equipment being shipped to hard-hit states as if it were his own storage unit, with governors saying they recognize that in turn they are expected to tread gingerly with him or risk jeopardizing their supply chain."
Yes, governors, if you want some of Trump's goodies to help dying patients in your state, you'd better be nice and tell him what a great guy he is and what a wonderful job he's doing. Otherwise, you're on your own, pal.
“Honestly, people should respect, because nobody has ever seen anything like what we’ve done,” Trump said this week, a point he has been making regularly in his press briefings that now have become a crucial part of his reelection campaign.
“Trump has cast himself in the role of generous monarch who is saying, ‘I have given you this, dear subjects’ — and it’s a remarkably selfish and self-referential performance,” historian Jon Meacham said in The Post's article. “It’s our money, for goodness sake,” he added, referring to taxpayers. “It’s not his money.”
David Axelrod, who was a senior White House advisor under President Barack Obama, put it this way, per The Post:
“Donald Trump has spent his life marketing himself and products associated with himself, so it’s not surprising that he would approach this the same way. Even the press briefings, the gist of his remarks every night is, here is what I am doing for you, and everybody is happy and nobody’s ever seen anything like it. He can’t help himself. He is a frenetic self-promoter.”
Meanwhile, as he markets himself, brags, stretches the truth and outright lies, our frontline workers across the economy -- especially our first responders and healthcare workers -- are doing the real work -- often without the protective gear and medical supplies they need.
They are doing the work that saves lives. The work that will hold that death toll down sufficiently for Trump to claim credit and bolster his chances for reelection.
After all, that's what's important, right?