Thursday, March 12, 2020

Old, mad, despised

Highlighting by Benjamin Wittes, from 25 January, the day the Senate started hearing Trump's defense in the impeachment trial.

The thing that absolutely struck me about the Oval Office coronavirus address was Trump's/Miller's characteristic effort to blame the "foreign virus" crisis in the US on Europe:
At the very start of the outbreak we instituted sweeping travel restrictions on China and put in place the first federally mandated quarantine in over 50 years. We declared a public health emergency and issued the highest level of travel warning on other countries as the virus spread its horrible infection. And taking early, intense action, we’ve seen dramatically fewer cases of the virus in the United States than are now present in Europe.
The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots. As a result a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe...
So that the travel restrictions on Europeans seemed aimed at punishing them rather than protecting the US, something they can hardly help with. anyway, since the horse was already long out of the barn (the outbreak of Covid-19 in the Kirkland nursing home, reported 28 February with the death of the man Trump referred to as a "wonderful woman", can't be traced to any foreign sources, so it's clear the virus was already established in the Northwest by then).

He excepted the UK from the restrictions and, the White House later clarified, Ireland as well (though Ireland is still part of Europe), for no conceivable epidemiological reasons. I thought it might be a case of his and Miller's believing "the wogs begin at Calais", that is nobody from east of the Channel can be considered altogether civilized or clean, but a suggestion from tweep @AndyWitney reminded me that Trump Organization owns golf courses in Scotland and Ireland, so it's probably just a business decision. Overriding the interests of the American people in favor of his own finances. Again.

He looked extremely tired and possibly drugged down, and read even more sluggishly than usual, in three- or four-word clumps, which didn't stop him from making errors bad enough to cause some panic, when the reading disability made the policy sound the opposite of what it was supposed to be:

In fact two of the errors were definitely a result of his reading disorder. "Only" was an initial stab (fixating on the second syllable) at "apply", quickly replaced by the correct reading:
These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground. There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. [Editor’s note: The White House has since clarified that the ban “only applies to human beings, not goods and cargo.”] Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. (Vox transcript)
He didn't realize that he'd changed the meaning, but he knew he'd done something wrong, as you can hear from the Trumpian "tremendous amounts" he interpolates immediately afterwards to refocus the audience's attention from the mucked-up content to the bigness. The other, simpler error was reading "treatments" when the text said "testing".
I met with the leaders of health insurance industry who have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments...
I imagine the confusion about the exemption for citizens was yet another reading failure, but I'm not sure how; I think it's partly Miller's fault for complicating the sentence with "appropriate screenings".

There was another of his "and" repairs too:
This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history. I’m confident that by counting—and continuing to take these tough measures we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens and we’ll ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus.
However the virus works out—people who know what they're doing are being allowed to take on more and more of the decision-making burden, and Congress is belatedly getting resources to our beleaguered cut-back healthcare system, and maybe it won't be as bad as it looks right now, insh'Allah—it's making it broadly clearer to just about everybody who doesn't actually worship him that this sick, fatigued, malevolent, and delusional old man is a real danger to the nation.

The acting DNI is afraid to testify to Congress for fear he might say something that will get Trump mad—
Acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell has declined to appear before Congress on Tuesday to speak about foreign election threats, citing apprehension about his preparedness to address sensitive subjects that tend to upset the president, according to three people familiar with the matter.
—and yesterday three hours' planned testimony by Drs. Fauci and Redfield before the House Oversight Committee was cut back to an hour and a half when they were summoned to a previously unscheduled "meeting" at the White House.
On Wednesday morning, medical experts, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, were testifying before the House Oversight Committee on what to expect from the coronavirus epidemic in the United States. According to Fauci, “The bottom line: It is going to get worse.” Again and again, the information provided in the hearing completely contradicted the rosy statements that have been coming from Donald Trump and other White House officials and warned of a dire situation ahead. (Mark Sumner/Kos)
They were hauled out of the room practically in mid-sentence, at 11:30 precisely, and not allowed to say when they would be able to return, as Chairwoman Maloney noted:
Let me intervene here. I’ve been told that our witnesses need to leave now. I don’t know what is going on at the White House. The White House is telling reporters that this meeting is not an emergency. They are saying it was scheduled yesterday. However that’s not what your staff just told us.
Your staff said the White House did not tell them about this sudden meeting until this morning, right before our hearing. There seems to be a great deal of confusion and a lack of coordination at the White House. I hope this does not reflect on the broader response to this crisis. We have asked your staff if you can come back and resume this meeting at 2:00, after your meeting at the White House. They have not responded to our request.
Later on, the White House announced that the doctors had a different meeting to attend at 2:00. It's not known when the hearing will continue.

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