The American people are courageously complying with the guidelines set by public health experts to maintain social distancing and other measures to mitigate the harm of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. It's a profound burden that requires families to be separated, businesses to be shut down, and financial sacrifices to be endured. But there is no alternative if this crisis is to be halted with a minimum of suffering and loss. And then there's Donald Trump.
From the earliest days of the pandemic's spread, Trump ignorantly neglected to take the necessary actions to avert certain human tragedies. He downplayed the threat as a trivial one that would go away by itself in few days with only a handful of victims. He refused to employ presidential powers to direct American industry to produce vital medical supplies and equipment. He repeatedly mislead the public about the impact that widespread illness would have on the nation and the economy. Who can forget his foolish opinion that the stock market is “starting to look very good to me!” it is currently down 6,000 points from it's high in February.
And all the while Trump has been – in his own words – acting as a “cheerleader” for the country, as opposed to a truth teller. He's admitting that he lies in order to disseminate a phony rosy scenario whose only purpose is to juice his approval ratings (which hasn't worked), and boost his reelection prospects (which are also looking bad). Even Trump's favorite pollster, the rabidly right-wing Rasmussen, just put him at 43& approval, his lowest standing in over five months.
Amidst Trump's desperate efforts to distort reality with regard to COVID-19, he is also sharply focused on his own public image. As a well known malignant narcissist, Trump has a voracious ego that consumes his every waking hour. His Twitter account is heavily plastered with tributes to himself and praise for imaginary achievements. Included among them are Trump's own tweets celebrating what he regards as TV ratings victories. In fact, Trump has tweeted about the ratings of the Coronavirus Task Force briefings three days in a row:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 9, 2020
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2020
What Trump fails to understand is that these ratings are not indicators of his popularity. Viewers who both support and (mostly) oppose Trump watch these briefings. They are interested in what experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci have to say. The Trump team is actually making that harder by briefly refusing to allow Dr. Fauci and others to appear on CNN unless the network submitted to his unethical editorial demands (quid pro quo?). What's more, the briefings air on multiple networks simultaneously and, therefore, are not comparable to any single network program rating such as The Bachelor.
Finally, Trump is using the ratings not only to glorify himself, but to justify his incompetent, so-called leadership. He is spewing paranoid fantasies of Democrats and other adversaries conspiring to put an end to the task force briefings. In reality, there is only criticism of Trump's self-serving participation in the briefings. He has no relevant experience or knowledge of the medical or public health issues at hand. He simply reads a bunch of data (that could be read by an intern), then spends the rest of the time lying, bragging, and yelling at journalists. And it isn't just Democrats who are put off by Trump's tantrums:
“White House allies and Republican lawmakers increasingly believe the briefings are hurting the president more than helping him.”
The problem is that Trump is hijacking these briefings and turning them into thinly veiled campaign speeches. This is his alternative to the ego-feasting cult rallies he can no longer hold. And under the circumstances, the media would be justified in delaying their reports for a few minutes so that Trump’s avalanche of lies can be fact-checked. The press is not obligated to air Trump's lies unchallenged, or to give him free airtime for his campaign.
After the endless propaganda Trump unloads in these affairs, he goes on Twitter to advertise the next episode with boasts of how high the ratings are. This sorry state of affairs proves that Trump is suffering from a unique form of mental derangement that should worry every American. He really can't distinguish between the presidency and The Apprentice.
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