America Loses Trust in Trump, Finally

You can't trust a fascist to do the work of democracy.

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The president of the United States went on television last night to reassure a worried nation that the government’s response to the outbreak of new disease is well in hand. “This is not a financial crisis,” Donald Trump said from the Oval Office. “This is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world.”

Yeah, no.

As I was waiting for my Dunkin this morning, ABC News broke into its regular programming with a special report. Wall Street fell 7 percent (that’s billions going poof) within minutes of the opening bell. That triggered the circuit breakers, which halted trading for 15 minutes. That’s a precaution, the correspondent said, to prevent “a free fall.” The long bull market has ended. A recession appears to be in the offing.

I don’t know what to say except more of what I’ve been saying.

You can trust a fascist to make things much worse by focusing on all the wrong things.

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You can’t trust a fascist to do the work of a democratic republic. You can’t trust a leader who betrayed his country, then got his party to cover up his betrayal. You can’t trust an executive who’s willing to throw people away when they displease him by telling the truth, obeying the law and practicing patriotism. You can’t trust someone who has, if memory serves, lied or spoken falsely over 14,000 times since taking office. You can’t trust a president who takes no responsibility for his oath to defend and protect the US Constitution. You can’t trust a president who serves Republicans only.

Morally speaking, if you were OK with treason, you should be OK with a pandemic.

You can trust a fascist to bumble into disaster before making things much worse by focusing on all the wrong things. Last night, Trump claimed his administration saved lives by taking “early action on China.” He blamed Europe for not doing more sooner to contain “the foreign virus.” He said Europeans “seeded” hotspots in the US. He announced a ban on travel from Europe for 30 days. (Earlier in the day, he said the coronavirus outbreak meant we needed a border wall more than ever.) It was a xenophobic know-nothing campaign speech dressed to look like serious leadership.

But Trump couldn’t even do nativism right.

Turns out “suspending all travel” from Europe does not include the United Kingdom or Ireland, which got officials on the continent thinking Trump’s true aim was punishing the trading bloc, not protecting public health. Turns out the ban does not apply to goods and trade. Turns out the ban applies only to foreigners who’ve been to Europe in the past 14 days. Trump said insurance firms “have agreed to waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments.” Turns out that’s for testing, not treatments. (He said today that “the testing has been going very smooth.” That’s what you call a lie.)

The president is trying hard to project calm publicly, but privately he’s panicking. The more he panics, the more his aides worry he’ll do something destructive. According to the Post, Trump is threatening to fire Jay Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

While Trump has long publicly clashed with Powell, Monday’s outburst was an “eruption” unlike many others due to the political and economic stress that has gripped the White House as the coronavirus spreads. … It caused some White House aides to worry that the president’s fury with Powell could lead to upheaval and economic woes if he continues to lash out at the Federal Reserve (italics all mine).

Given the president is untrustworthy, people are seeking out public officials who are. One person appears to be Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the president’s point man for disease response. He reminded a House panel during testimony Wednesday that COVID-19 is “10 times more deadly than the seasonal flu,” and “things will get worse than they right now.”

We would recommend that there not be large crowds. If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has large crowds is something that would [cause] a risk to spread.

Within hours, the NBA suspended its season. That came after the NCAA said college basketball fans would not be allowed to attend March Madness games. The South by Southwest Festival was cancelled. So was Coachella. Princess and Viking cruise lines are suspending operations. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and other universities and colleges are telling students not to return from spring break. States are banning access to nursing homes. (New Haven Public Schools just cancelled an entire week of school!)

Yet the president’s campaign continues to plan MAGA rallies.

To be a fascist is to be a nihilist. Maybe Trump figures what the hell, why not? It’s now confirmed that he was in contact with a Brazilian infected with COVID-19. Reuters’ Gabriel Stargardter posted a photo of Fabio Wajngarten, who had “tested positive … according to Brazilian media.” The picture was “taken at Mar-a-Lago, five days ago.”

Many of us knew we couldn’t trust Trump. Wall Street, however, could tolerate fascism as long as profits were good. When profits aren’t good, Wall Street gets suspicious. Doubt creeps in. Once doubt creeps in, it doesn’t go away. It grows. It accelerates. And the more Trump says the markets will be fine, the more the markets will doubt him.

Alas, it takes Wall Street for America to see what we been knew.

—John Stoehr