Having paddled in the cesspool of Donald Trump’s head, I will admit a certain fascination. The man is a tangled mess of contradictions. It’s like using a telephone switchboard put together by a 4 year old. You dial your aunt in Chicago, and end up talking to a Chinese hand laundry in Honolulu.
When in doubt, seek professional help. I am now on my 3rd Trump book, written by people smarter than, and with even more inside access than I. I read Mary Trump’s psychological analysis of her uncle and screwed up family. I read Bob Woodward’s book on Trump’s last year in office, and now I’m steaming through Leonnig and Rucker’s I Alone Can Fix It. And my special source of interest was Trump’s pathetic response to the coronavirus, because nowhere was Trump’s failure, and with more tragic consequences. But was it really all Trump?
In piecing together the timeline, I have come to find that Trump was strangely ambivalent, almost carelessly lazy about the virus. Trump certainly knew how dangerous and deadly the virus was, as he showed in his taped phone conversations with Bob Woodward. But because Trump himself is a dead, empty vessel inside, he could never make the conceptual leap to envision what it would actually look like for first tens, and then hundreds of thousands of Americans to sicken and die. Covid was bad for Wall Street. And the stock market was his meal ticket to reelection. Therefore, Covid was a purely political problem. And he treated it that way.
Trump actually did do a couple of good things, though not necessarily for good reasons. He assigned a coronavirus task force, stuffed with doctors and researchers, and let Mike Pence handle it. But while he left it alone for the most part, he let everybody else in the administration stick their fingers in, which made a mockery of the entire thing. And Trump started Operation Warp Speed to accelerate vaccine research and production. That actually worked, but not in time to save Trump. But those were largely symbolic gestures, to show he was still engaged.
But here is Where Trump displayed his biggest failure, a failure in leadership, and allowed the far right media like FUX to jump in and fill the void. Trump spoke of Covid exclusively as an economic damage to Wall Street. But he made it clear from day one that the federal government was not going to take a leading role in handling the crisis. Trump came right out and told the nation’s Governors so in his first conference call with them. This left the terrible void of no unified, coherent national government message on the pandemic!
But boy oh boy, did FUX News have a unified message to send out! In fact, they had a ton of them. All of their prime time hosts, Fucker Carlson, Flat Top Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Jeanine Shapiro all have daytime radio shows. Where they filled their listeners heads with the kind of insane shit that turns them on. Which they brought right on over to their prime time broadcasts, which by default became the official GOP narrative for the day.
FUX hosts like Kilmeade, Carlson, and Hannity, all well aware of trump’s infamous inattention to the thread of a conversation, were not shy about twisting words to their message and putting them in Trump’s mouth, to which he meekly agreed. They then used this as confirmation of Trump’s agreement with them. And the GOP caucus, which lived in dread fear of Trump’s FUX driven base was unlikely to protest. In fact, it became their mantra as well.
Two graphic examples. One. Trump is widely blamed for politicizing mask wearing, leading to failure to help stop the spread of the disease. But from all I’ve read, and my own memory of what I saw, heard, and wrote at the time, this simply isn’t true. Trump was in the press briefing room the day that Fauci announced that the CDC was recommending mandating that masks be worn in all indoor public places, as well as outdoors when social distancing wasn’t possible. Trump stepped to the podium and said something like, Thank you doctor, that’s great advice. And if you think it will help, and if people want to wear them, then they should wear them. I personally won’t wear one, because I don’t like the way it looks, but people should wear them if they want to. That was it.
But it was FUX and the rest of the far right media needed. Trump’s refusal to urge a mask mandate, along with his refusal to wear one, allowed them to paint the CDC’s suggestion as a war on personal freedom! And GOP politicians were happy to pile on, knowing the shit they’d get from constituents for advocating mask wearing.
Two. Trump is often blamed for leading the anti vaccination charge that is slowing the country from putting Covid in the rear view mirror. This is blatantly ridiculous. Those are Trump’s own fucking vaccines! His Operation Warp Speed created them, and both the CDC and Biden administration give him credit for his leadership. If Trump bashes the vaccines, he portrays himself as a pathetic loser. Trump’s failure in leadership was in not allowing himself be be filmed getting the vaccine, and advising his supporters to vax up too. Which allowed FUX to create the culture war anthem.
FUX is continuing this culture war crusade for two reasons. Both are cynical, but one is pure evil. First, FUX is still driving the national GOP messaging, and they like cruising around in that limo. Even in the minority, the GOP is still obsessed with Trump, and has no coherent messaging, allowing FUX to continue to set the agenda. And as long as Trump is still a fairly frequent call in guest, nobody in the GOP is likely to butt heads with FUX.
But here’s the evil part. From Rupert Murdock on down, the management and on air personalities at FUX are a bunch of sick, sadistic, soulless ghouls. This pandemic taught them one thing. Death and misery sell, Lordy do they pay the bills. And FUX has empirical evidence to prove it.
In the late spring and early summer, when vaccinations were through the roof, and new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths were at lows since the start of the pandemic, FUX ratings tanked. Part of that was cyclical. After 16 months of being locked down and buttoned up, people were enjoying the warm weather and their sudden newfound freedom from Covid, and spending their time outdoors. But also, with a lack of death and misery on the Covid front, there was nothing to keep FUX’s Roman circus base jazzed and entertained.
Sadly, it couldn’t be maintained. Vaccinations fell off, and with miserably low vaccinations in GOP controlled southern and southwestern states, cases started to spike again. But it is a very uneven spike. On Democratic states, cases are up, but hospitalizations and deaths remain low. It is in the GOP states, with a large unvaccinated population, where hospitalizations and deaths are spiking.
Which is fine with FUX. Death and misery are death and misery, it doesn’t matter where it is. It all sells. And now you’re hearing a constant war drumbeat from FUX hammering away at vaccine misinformation, and personal choice in mask wearing. The longer people stay unvaccinated, the higher their ratings stay. And that’s all that really matters to them. Their audience is expendable.
Follow me on Twitter at @RealMurfster35