One of the key takeaways from the revelations in Bob Woodward’s new book is that Trump is not as stupid as he makes himself out to be on television. After weeks of consulting with some of the best infectious disease experts in the world, he actually understood at a childish level how viruses are contracted and transmitted. While this revelation may raise one’s assessment of Trump’s intelligence slightly, it further demolishes any notion that he is anything other than a pathological liar. Trump sees this crisis, as he sees everything, in completely self-promoting terms.
The problem is that the virus is not interested in his politics. The only quest of the virus is finding uncovered human orifices. And Trump has done the virus the great favor of making certain that as many Americans as possible avail their orifices to as intense an exposure to it as possible. That is why the US will have the worst rate of Covid deaths in the developed world.
Notice the qualifiers in the previous sentence: the US will have the worst death rates in the near future, and those death rates should be measured relative to the developed world. It is almost certain that countries with extreme poverty and mediocre health care infrastructures will soon surpass the US in Covid deaths. The developing world, however, has never been the standard by which the US has measured its success.
The global measures employed commonly in mainstream media are frustrating and open to manipulation by such an effective liar as Trump. For months, newscasters have properly asserted that the US represents only 4% of the world’s population yet accounts for about 25% of Covid cases and deaths. The liar-in-chief can easily counter such claims, though, with the assertion that the reason we have so many cases is that we test so effectively. This is not true, but it is a complex enough matter to seem true, and that is sufficient for the Trump cult. Of course, he rarely mentions death and then only in the context of co-morbidity. In other words, those who died from Covid were probably not long for this earth in any case.
All of this raises the issue of what should be the simple and clear measure by which we might assess Trump’s response to the pandemic. In this age of information, it is easy to get confused in the fog of numbers available. Confusion can occur both with regard to the reliability of numbers and their meaning. For example, the US will continue to represent 4% of the world’s population. Its share of Covid deaths, however, will certainly decline from the 25% it currently sustains. This decline in the US portion of Covid deaths, though, should NOT be asserted as an improvement in the US situation. It only means that the number of deaths in poorer countries will have risen. Right-wing media will nevertheless trumpet the relative decline in the US portion of the world total as conclusive evidence that Trump is a stable and effective genius.
The table below attempts to provide data that is both meaningful and reliable. It conveys data only relative to the G7 countries, which are commonly regarded as among the most advanced societies on earth. These countries should provide the standard by which the US measures itself. Column 1 identifies each of the G7 countries. Column 2 provides the most meaningful statistic over the long term: Covid deaths per 100,000 population. The third and fourth columns indicate deaths on April 16, 2020 and on September 11, 2020. These comparative numbers will show the general trend in Covid deaths as well as provide a sense for the effectiveness of the various G7 countries and the failure of the US in addressing the challenge of the pandemic. Mid-April represents the height of the global pandemic in most of the G7 countries. September 11 was chosen because it is recent and carries some symbolic value.
Covid-19 Death Rates in G7 Countries
|Country||Deaths/100,000 pop||Deaths on 4/16/2020||Deaths on 9/11/2020||Total Deaths||Total Population|
These statistics show that only one country of the G7 has failed to contain the spread of the virus and limit its deadliness. The other members of the G7 had a combined Covid death count of 128,166 on 9/11/2020 out of a total population of 441 million. The US had 66,000 more deaths with a population that is 110 million less than the other six members of the G7. This fact alone should put to rest any notion that Trump has been successful in addressing the pandemic. But there is more.
The US will soon surpass by far the deaths per 100,000 population of Italy and the UK because a much higher portion of our population continues to die on a daily basis. It should be noted that all of the G7 countries except the US and UK had brought their daily death rates below 100 by July 1. For those who argue that the reason the US maintains such high death rates is that we became exposed to the virus later than Europe and Asia, they need to explain the particular success of Canada in minimizing fatalities.
While the numbers selected here might seem arbitrary, the patterns they represent are not. The greatest distortion in this chart is the 80 deaths in France on 9/11. The daily death average in France since August has been much lower, less than 20. Canada’s 0 deaths on 9/11 is not as much of an anomaly as it might seem. Canada has only on a few occasions had more than ten covid daily deaths since mid-August. The combined daily deaths of the other 6 nations of the G7 is currently below 100. It is the exceptional day when our death count dips into triple digits. It is an exceptional day when the death counts of the other G7 nations rises to triple digits. This death disparity is the ultimate measure of Trump’s failure, and no one should listen to a word he says until he explains it.
The other countries of the G7 respect science. They trust the ability of their governments to provide good guidelines for managing both the health and economic challenges of the pandemic. Because those countries have undertaken effective nationwide testing and tracing regimens, they have earned the right to send their children back to school. They have earned the right to reopen their plants and factories. They have earned the right to attend public events that inspire mind, body, soul, and spirit. They have earned the right to enjoy the benefits of a properly functioning society. They have earned the right to pity us.
We in the United States have not earned the right to send our children back to school and reopen our economy. The metrics for doing so entail establishing a NATIONAL regimen for testing, tracing, and isolating. Our current leadership ignores the success of our G7 associates and refuses to implement their programs. Instead, we are bombarded with lies and exaggerations about the efficacy of UV rays, bleach, hydroxychloroquine, convalescent plasma, and herd immunity. We are dangled the promise of an effective vaccine by election day, but it will be authorized by an FDA and CDC that has been politicized and discredited. Trump is already using the unproven vaccine as a political weapon by claiming that those skeptical of it want Americans to die.
The data above indicate that at least 90% of the Covid deaths that have occurred in the United States over the last three months are unnecessary and the direct result of Trump’s failed leadership. We should not forget those moments three months ago when Trump criticized governors for following CDC guidelines by closing schools, businesses, and indoor assemblies. We should also not forget those Republican governors who mocked the closures, prematurely reopened, and continue to pay deadly consequences for their ignorance and arrogance to this day. Finally, we should not forget the entire body of Republican elected officials who have had nothing meaningful to say about the pandemic whatsoever. They have all fallen in silent lockstep behind Trump. It is a political party of lemmings that has turned us all into suckers and losers.
But it is not just Republican politicians, it is the media cheerleaders at Fox and in the Sinclair web of local television stations that have played a role in undermining respect for scientific authority. They have systematically and persistently misinformed the public about Covid and other key challenges the country faces. They have falsely claimed that children do not transmit the disease and that Covid is not threatening to anyone under the age of 50 who does not have co-morbidities. They have touted herd immunity and the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine. The list of covid misinformation could continue for pages.
But it is not just covid. They claim that the wildfires in the western states are not the product of the dryness that has occurred as a result of increased evapotranspiration due to rising temperatures. Instead they blame the increase in wildfires on poor forest management, echoing another line of Trumpian nonsense. They assert that the 2008 financial crisis was not the product of a deregulated derivatives market that fed corporate greed in the finance, insurance, and real estate industries. No, Fox Business claims that the true cause of the 2008 collapse was that evil government regulations forced banks to provide mortgages to people who could not afford them. This, of course, is just another racist way of blaming the poor and minorities for problems created by the wealthy and powerful. It is important for Republicans that they look anywhere for the origins of problems except the mirror.
The source for the idea of American exceptionalism is contained in the Founders’ phrase novus ordo saeclorum, the New Order for the Ages. The US Constitution encodes the key ideals of that exceptionalism. The writers of the constitution embraced Enlightenment notions of science, equality, and the importance of education in making not just our country but the world a better place. The original motto for the nation was another Latin phrase, e pluribus unum. Inherent in that expression is the belief that our diversity of people, philosophies, and values was a strength that would play out in our political discourse and inspire the rest of the world toward similar understandings.
The only thing exceptional about Trump’s America is its dreadfulness. We cannot make America great again when we have lost a basic understanding for the source of that greatness. Under Trump, our global leadership role in upholding democratic norms and human rights has been completely abandoned. In the void, the world’s dictators have advanced. Putin, in particular, has achieved every major objective of Russian policy. He has done so while paying bounties for killing American soldiers in Afghanistan, with hardly a word from any elected Republican.
The rise of Putin with Republican acquiescence has disturbing parallels to the rise of Hitler. Among the chief parallels is the absolute silence and active collusion of the Republicans in both. Why do Republicans not seem the least bit interested in finding out how much money Trump owes to Russian oligarchs? Why was the Mueller investigation prohibited from examining the key financial ties between Trump and the Kremlin? Why do Republicans not seem the least bit interested in examining the credible allegations of Russian involvement in our elections? It is exceedingly difficult to see Trump as anything other than the culmination of a decades long Russian intelligence operation. It is hard not to imagine some former KGB agents at the end of the Cold War asserting that the US system was so corrupt and the American public so gullible that they could maneuver a Trump presidency. Yesterday, Alexander Vindman referred to Trump as “Putin’s useful idiot.” It is hard to see it otherwise.
We stand before the abyss. It will take all of our efforts to work out of this crisis in a way that preserves the ideals of this country for our children and grandchildren. Covid will either be used by a corrupted Republican party to end once and for all our experiment with government of, by and for the people; or 2020 will be an inflexion point toward a new political order not manipulated by the world’s dictatorships but inspired by the founding ideals and a vision for a novus novus ordo saeclorum.