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FINTAN O’TOOLE. Donald Trump has destroyed the country he promised to make great again (Irish Times 25.4.2020)

 

Usually, when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder.

US President Donald Trump has claimed he was being sarcastic and testing the media when he raised the idea that injecting disinfectant or irradiating the body with ultraviolet light might kill coronavirus.

Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.

However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.

Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode? The US went into the coronavirus crisis with immense advantages: precious weeks of warning about what was coming, the world’s best concentration of medical and scientific expertise, effectively limitless financial resources, a military complex with stunning logistical capacity and most of the world’s leading technology corporations. Yet it managed to make itself the global epicentre of the pandemic.

As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted … like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”

It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – wilfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.

The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.

If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated.

Other than the Trump impersonator Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, who is now looking to the US as the exemplar of anything other than what not to do? How many people in Düsseldorf or Dublin are wishing they lived in Detroit or Dallas?

It is hard to remember now but, even in 2017, when Trump took office, the conventional wisdom in the US was that the Republican Party and the broader framework of US political institutions would prevent him from doing too much damage. This was always a delusion, but the pandemic has exposed it in the most savage ways.

What used to be called mainstream conservatism has not absorbed Trump – he has absorbed it. Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety.

Thus, even at the very end of March, 15 Republican governors had failed to order people to stay at home or to close non-essential businesses. In Alabama, for example, it was not until April 3rd that governor Kay Ivey finally issued a stay-at-home order.

In Florida, the state with the highest concentration of elderly people with underlying conditions, governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump mini-me, kept the beach resorts open to students travelling from all over the US for spring break parties. Even on April 1st, when he issued restrictions, DeSantis exempted religious services and “recreational activities”.

There is, as the demonstrations in US cities show, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic.

Georgia governor Brian Kemp, when he finally issued a stay-at-home order on April 1st, explained: “We didn’t know that [the virus can be spread by people without symptoms] until the last 24 hours.”

This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. There is, as the demonstrations this week in US cities have shown, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic. It is fuelled by Fox News and far-right internet sites, and it reaps for these politicians millions of dollars in donations, mostly (in an ugly irony) from older people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

It draws on a concoction of conspiracy theories, hatred of science, paranoia about the “deep state” and religious providentialism (God will protect the good folks) that is now very deeply infused in the mindset of the American right.

Trump embodies and enacts this mindset, but he did not invent it. The US response to the coronavirus crisis has been paralysed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy. On the one hand, they want to control all the levers of governmental power. On the other they have created a popular base by playing on the notion that government is innately evil and must not be trusted.

The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority”, and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence.

But this is not just Donald Trump. The crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it.

There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection.

Usually, when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder.

And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks. There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realisation that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here.

If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics

That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behaviour has become normalised. When the freak show is live on TV every evening, and the star is boasting about his ratings, it is not really a freak show any more. For a very large and solid bloc of Americans, it is reality.

And this will get worse before it gets better. Trump has at least eight more months in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked “American carnage” and promised to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is revelling in it. He is in his element.

As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-wish defiance of reason and decency, into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics.

Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.

Fintan O’Toole is an Irish columnist, literary editor, and drama critic for The Irish Times, for which he has written since 1988.

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Nice American follow up piece.

Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, a vice president at New America and a professor of practice at Arizona State University. He is the editor of the Coronavirus Daily Brief and author of the new book "Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

(CNN)What is most galling as the nation faces its worse crisis since World War II is how the Trump family keeps demanding recognition for their brilliant work and also our thanks for the catastrophic mess they have helped land us all in.

Case in point is Jared Kushner, who has fallen upwards throughout his life, inheriting a vast real estate empire and then making one of the worst purchases in the history of Manhattan, which was buying the office building 666 Fifth Avenue for a then-record $1.8 billion in 2007, a lemon which was only finally taken off his hands after his father-in-law became president.
So, perhaps it was only fitting that he was awarded the job of shadow secretary of state at the beginning of the Trump administration.
Kushner was in charge of managing the US-China portfolio, a responsibility that drew criticism, given Kushner's own business interests with China.
 
 
He also destroyed any vestige of American leadership in the Middle East with his promotion of the reckless Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his sabotage of the two-state solution in Israel.
 
 
 
According to officials cited by The New York Times, early on in the Covid-19 crisis, Kushner privately agreed with his father-in-law that this whole coronavirus thing was being overblown by the lamestream media.
Kushner then championed a new Google site where you could go and get your virus symptoms tested. His father-in-law touted 1,700 Google engineers who were working on the site at a White House news conference in March. If that sounds like a fantasy, it was.
And now, Kushner comes to Fox News, the Pravda of the Trump administration, to marvel on Wednesday that the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus is "a great success story," claim that that "we have all the testing we need to start opening the country" and state his hope that "by July, the country's really rocking again."
This is as more than 60,000 Americans lie dead -- more than the death toll of the Vietnam War -- and more than 1 million have been confirmed to have been infected with the virus with no end in sight. There is widespread agreement among experts that we don't have the testing capabilities to return to any semblance of normal life and also that a second wave of infections could hit the country badly later in the year.
During World War II, the United States had Franklin Delano Roosevelt and George Marshall to navigate us through a crisis that saw the US spend more than a third of its GDP and during which more than 12 million Americans donned military uniforms.
Today, we have a completely unreliable President -- anyone can get a coronavirus test, the virus will disappear when the warm weather comes, the list of Trump's whoppers goes on and on and on and on -- and his feckless son-in-law as coronavirus czar prattling on about bringing more private sector efficiency to government. Meanwhile, Trump demands thanks from governors when he is just barely doing his job as president.

This is the kind of thing we expect in a banana republic: the nepotistic incompetence and the demands from the public to lavish praise on the brilliant ruling family.

It would be laughable if there weren't so many lives lost already and so many more in our future.

So, Jared Kushner, we, the American public, want to thank you for your service.
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51 minutes ago, James DiEugenio said:

JFK had Bobby Kennedy, Trump has Jared.

I think we got screwed on that one.

Make that screwed on that two, James.

Edited by Ray Mitcham
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Great article from the Irish Times.   Thanks to Joseph McBride for the post.

And, sadly, this is going to get uglier, IMO.

It's not just Trump's truly inept mismanagement of the pandemic response, it's the incipient 2020 Recession following on the heels of the recent stock market Crash.   (That, in turn, was largely a result of the 2018-20 stock market bubble created by corporate stock buybacks after the 2017 Trump/GOP tax cut for the so-called "job creators.")

How many times do we have to watch GOP supply side tax cuts fail spectacularly before the American people finally say, "We won't get fooled again?"

Edited by W. Niederhut
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That is a really good question William.

I blame this on the MSM and the inept Democratic party.

What we have seen since the Reagan presidency is a massive transfer of wealth from the lower and middle classes to the upper 10 per cent, and especially the upper 1 per cent.  This idea that somehow supply side economics works is a pure fantasy.  How has it worked?  The only way it has worked is that its made the rich beyond rich, and the middle class and working class worse off.  And it has given us a chronic class of bereft people with no homes to live in, who have given up trying to find jobs and are therefore not part of unemployment statistics.

At the same time this has happened, since the tax cuts hurt the treasury, and military spending is sacrosanct, plus the GOP because of their PNAC beliefs wants to go to war in the Middle East and Central Asia, it has essentially bankrupted the Treasury.  Therefore when the crash of 2007-08 hit, it was the Federal Reserve that took the lead in the bail outs.  Just like they are with the pandemic.  JFK did not like to run fiscal deficits at all. Period. When Clinton left office, he had two years running of surpluses. 

The other thing these barbarians have done is they have laid off more and more mandates on the states.  Therefore, it has strained their budgets also.  The GOP ideal is to have no moneys left over for any social programs so therefore the Democrats cannot say, see the good things we can do?  And thus hark back to FDR and the TVA, which produced electric power cheaper than private companies and sold it for less, and thus making Roosevelt a marked man by the upper classes. 

If the Dems had chutzpah, and the MSM had any honesty, this would be a lead story during these times.  But it won't happen.

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