Lordy, There Are Tapes

8 mins read

We learned that Bob Woodward has tapes of Trump admitting that he knew in January that the world faced a health emergency on par with the flu pandemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

Mindy asked:

I believe the answer is no.

First, recall the arguments made by the Fox-Trump-GOP for why we should do nothing–even after we knew the virus was deadly: 

They said we have a choice: People die from COVID, or we “kill the country”:

They said deaths from a shutdown could exceed the deaths from the virus. This was a made-up fact—but they never denied people would die from the virus. They just argued that it was the lesser of the two evils.

Trump made clear that his concern was to protect the stock market (which he conflates with the economy) because he believed that a strong economy would get him elected, so he resisted proactive steps that would spook the markets. Fox backed him up.

Remember all those absurd arguments on social media? 

Examples include: (1) We didn’t shut down for the flu, which killed 61K people, so why do so for COVID? (2) We drive even though traffic accidents kill. Dumb stuff like that.

On May 28, the COVID death count in the US passed 100K.

In July–after it was clear to everyone that the virus was serious–Team Trump “shied away from a national strategy” because it was hitting blue states.

And remember this:

What they mean by “social distancing is communism” is that when a government tries to help people instead of maintaining a hierarchy, it’s “communism.”

Moreover, even if Trump wanted to take proactive steps, he didn’t know how. He has no idea how to manage a pandemic. Nobody in his administration has any idea. None of them have any desire to learn.

In fact, Trump has never actually managed anything in his life except his image and the Trump Reality Show. (“I’m a successful businessman” was one of his successful cons.)

Also, remember that Trump dismantled Obama’s Pandemic Preparedness System, so he had no government apparatus for handling the pandemic.

Even after the death count was rising, Trump refused to use the Defense Production Act to mobilize industry to produce masks and ventilators because he didn’t think that it was the role of the federal government. Specifically, he didn’t want to “put down the heavy hand of government.”

He wanted private companies to fill the need. In other words, he wanted to make sure he and his buddies got rich. Because that’s what fascists do.

Moreover, Trump didn’t even hide the fact that he was being a “cheerleader” because he didn’t want to “create havoc.” On April 7, Trump made the “I’m a cheerleader” remark in official White House remarks:

Shortly after the “Woodward has tapes” story broke, John Harwood reported that: 

If Trump so casually told Woodward his strategy and reasons, he would have told anyone—confident that minimizing the virus was the wisest strategy (and the only thing he was capable of doing).

You see, the “White House staffers” don’t care how many people die. Trump doesn’t care. He also doesn’t think it’s his job to manage a virus.

On July 21, Trump told Woodward: “The virus has nothing to do with me. It’s not my fault.”

Fascists aren’t capable of managing real crises (they prefer invented ones, which is why Eastasia is always at war with Eurasia). All they can do is blame: It’s China’s fault! It’s the fault of the Democratic governors!

Look how the Fox-Trump-GOP reacted when the news of the tapes broke:

It’s the “liberals hate Trump and blame him no matter what he does so it doesn’t matter if he does nothing” argument.

Fox then blamed Woodward for not revealing the tapes earlier–as if they didn’t know all along (like everyone else on the planet) that the virus was deadly.

When any story breaks, the Fox-Trump-GOP protect Trump, find someone to blame, and alter the facts.

The Trump-FOX-GOP is immune to facts, and their followers don’t care if they lie. As Hannah Arendt explained in the Origins of Totalitarianism, when followers of a “mass totalitarian leader” learn they’ve been lied to, they insist they knew all along and they admire the leader for such tactical cleverness.

Fascism isn’t interested in truth. It’s interested in power. 

So no, I don’t think the Trump-Fox-GOP would have behaved differently.

Yes, definitely. With almost 200K people dead, the story has an entirely different impact. On the heels of the “soldiers are suckers” story, this is not good for Trump.

Trump’s support will not crater, and the GOP will not flee– but these revelations can still make a difference.

Rachel Bitcofer, an elections and polling expert, believes that Trump has a floor of about 43%. Currently, polling aggregates have Trump at about 46%.

A few days ago, we wondered if “soldiers are loser and suckers” story would make a different. A YouGov Poll found:

So these things can eat at his support in small bites.

We have an election just around the corner (voting in at least 5 states starts in September) and Trump is down in the polls. He doesn’t have much time to turn this around.

The Economist polling aggregate currently projects Biden winning by 7.2 percentage points.

The 538 aggregate currently has Biden up by 6.7 percentage points. (On Twitter, they give the number as 8 percentage points, I assume because the aggregate, which runs averages, lags behind.)

Recall that the Democrats won the midterms by 8 percentage points.

If a story like this moves the needle just one or two percentage points, that could make an enormous difference: A point or two can make a difference in the Senate, and down-ballot races. State and local offices are hugely important.

So yes, this can make a difference. Just keep your expectations realistic.

This post was originally posted on Musings about Law, Books, and Politics.

Please click here for a very personal look at the real-life impact of Trump’s lies about the coronavirus: https://demcastusa.com/2020/09/10/trump-lied-i-still-could-die/

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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