Trump’s Chernobyl

Brian Klass at the Washington Post:

The rapidly worsening coronavirus outbreak is President Trump’s Chernobyl. By putting dangerous myths above objective facts, Trump has turned the crucial early phases of government response into a disaster. Some public health experts in government have undoubtedly kept quiet, having seen repeatedly what happens to those who publicly contradict this president. And Trump himself, along with those who surround him, has tried to construct a reality that simply does not exist.

In a Chernobyl or an epidemic lies can be murderous.

Two weeks ago, today, Trump tweeted that “The coronavirus is very much under control in the United States … Stock market is starting to look very good to me!” At that point, there were a small number of cases, but public health experts clearly stated that the number was likely to spike. Nonetheless, Trump accused his critics of perpetrating a “hoax” and said their concerns was overblown. He said that the number of cases — 15 at the time — would soon be “close to zero.”

On the basis of absolutely nothing other than his wishes.

The stock market is crashing. Every indicator from bond markets predicts a serious recession. The death rate is climbing. And if the outbreak in Italy is any indication of what we should expect, everything is about to get much worse.

Trump played golf yesterday.

Mind you…it’s probably better for us that he played golf rather than trying to “fix” the problems. What it says about him is another matter entirely.

So far, Trump has been able to glide through crises of his own making because his base of support has often believed him over reality. When fact-checkers expose Trump’s lies, many of his supporters distrust the fact-checkers, not the liar.

But coronavirus is different. Spin won’t make dead bodies disappear. Recessions can’t be warded off with a blistering tweet in all-capital letters. You can’t blame Hillary Clinton for hospital overcrowding. The Trump playbook works when everything else is working. It falls apart when the world is falling apart.

“Who would have thought?” Trump asked during his recent visit to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention. In fact, public health experts were warning for years that this would happen. “The threat of pandemic flu is the No. 1 health security concern,” one official in the White House’s global health security unit warned early in the Trump administration. “Are we ready to respond? I fear the answer is no.” The following day, Trump shut that office in a reorganization.

Dud theory of mind again. He never thought there would be a flu pandemic, and he assumes that what he thinks or doesn’t think is what everyone else thinks or doesn’t think.

For years, it has been obvious that having as president a self-aggrandizing liar who constructs his own reality is dangerous. We’re about to find out just how deadly it can be.

Lucky us.

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