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
Sorry Murfster but actually Warp Speed had nothing to do with the first vaccine – that was developed by a couple of Muslims in Germany with ZERO US funding or backing (doesn’t stop the idiot claiming it though)
Pissses me off that Murdoch isn’t even American but has such an investment in destroying American democracy. I was hoping at least one of the sons was going to make some changes but with billionaires, there’s never enough money for them, no matter what the cost to others.
He has two sons. One is quite Liberal and wants nothing to do with his father’s empire. The other is even more ruthless and cruel than Rupert. He will be the one who takes over from dear old dad.
Murf, that first “example” doesn’t really let Trump off the hook. A REAL President might have said, “I personally won’t wear one because fill-in-the-reason” but would have still gone ahead and followed up with “I still strongly urge EVERYONE to wear a mask unless they have an underlying medical issue that makes wearing a mask problematic.” Trump did NOT do this. He basically said “Wear one or don’t; it makes no difference to me.” And his legion of cultists were going to do EXACTLY like Dear Leader (ie, not wear one) because “If Dear Leader doesn’t want to wear one, I don’t see why I should have to either.”
As for your second example, again, it’s not exactly cause to applaud Trump. He didn’t/wouldn’t be shown getting the vaccination even after he’d contracted COVID. And, let’s not forget how HE posited that HIS experience with the virus wasn’t all that bad, then it really was NOT as horrific as Fauci (or the Democrats) had painted. Of course, Trump had medical care that simply was NOT available to the hundreds of millions of people at risk for the virus or the hundreds of thousands who did contract the virus. He was the fucking president of the United States. He got free medical care for EVERYTHING (just as has been available to every previous president for the past century at least) and had access to the best specialists in the country–again because of his position. And, as Daithi notes, the vaccine was largely developed in Germany several months before Trump or his Administration got on the “Warp Speed” matter (Trump wanted an American company to come up with its own vaccine without needing any “assistance” from “outsiders”–much less outright “foreigners”–but when that proved less than effective, he changed the goal posts somewhat so that American companies could “use” the foreign information as a starting point but his “Warp Speed” was purely a political talking point).
The title question is a version of the old whether the chicken or the egg came first. Without FUX, there would never have been the awful disaster of Trump even being in politics (except as a donor, bribing politicians like countless others do), much less in the WH. Or Bush 43 for that matter. So FUX is the rotten, diseased egg that hatched Trump.
Like others who have commented I think for once you’ve let Trump off too easy. As already noted the goobers in MAGA land were going to do what HE did and he pointedly refused to use a mask. Made derisive comments about those who did too. And remember his return to the WH (after leaving the hospital sooner than the doctors advised because it turns out even with all that not-available-to 99.99% of people kitchen sink treatment he was much sicker than reported) what did he do? He defiantly took off (not quite ripped but damn near so) and stood there for a pose. Of course, doing so allowed us to see him grimacing, and LITERALLY “sucking wind” which kind of blew the image he was trying to present. But despite being still able to spread the disease he walked into the WH and went about his routine in what was already a hot spot. How many people did HE infect in those days before HE stopped shedding virus?
The whole issue with masks was a debacle because he put Jared on the case of trying to “manage” the buying and distribution of them – and you will NEVER convince me that cluster-fuck of a bottleneck wasn’t figuring out how much grift could be gotten from controlling access. Controlling as in to the point of seizing shipments from overseas! How many lives were lost, and livelihoods destroyed all so Trump (and Jared who most assuredly was working his own little internal scam for the Kushner family coffers) due to the shortage of masks even for HEALTH CARE WORKERS IN HOSPITALS for so long?
As for Operation Warp Speed (what a stupid fucking name – Trump trying to be all Star Trek again!) as noted none of the vaccines it funded and in early testing seemed to have promise wound up being any good. The ones that got out there and started turning the tide were developed completely independently of “Warp Speed.” Again, I wonder about the ones that didn’t pan out, and whether someday we’ll learn there were conditions worked into the contracts to steer some cash to Trump. The one thing I’ll give him credit for is at least promoting the idea we needed a major push to develop a vaccine(s) for Covid and as soon as possible, even if it was actually only about saving his own ass politically instead of saving something he didn’t care one fucking bit about – human LIVES. But at least for a time even his followers/worshipers were open to the notion that we needed a vaccine and that everyone should get it. But being Trump, he fucked that too!
He got all pissy because the stuff wasn’t approved in time even though it was apparent at least one or two would be on an emergency basis as early as mid November. Think back to then. With everything else going on nuances (which still escape far too many people) like the fact those vaccines weren’t part of Warp Speed were lost in the noise and being Trump he COULD have played up the fact that by Thanksgiving we’d have at least one vaccine ready AND that he had a major effort underway to distribute it. There was even a 60 Minutes segment (which you know Trump had to ok – hell, he probably pushed the incompetent idiots in the WH Communications Office to get the guy on) where the General from USAMRID (someone with some actual credibility) gave the broad strokes of the effort, and even claimed (as we saw in ads before the show) that if the rollout was botched it was all on him. Turns out that even if he developed a good plan it never had a chance because he never got the control of the process he needed. Jared working with daddy-in-law to skim some money again? Of course, as we know more than one General turned out to be or was turned into a Trump toady so the “plan” might have been shit all along.
It was the Biden administration that had to create an effective purchase (for the vaccines that actually turned out to, you know WORK) and distribution system on the fly. And because Biden actually put people in charge of that process who actually knew shit low and behold it was not just meeting but beating goals for months.
Alas, getting back to the title question I think it was an equal mix of Trump’s refusal (out of sheer petulance mixed with retribution oriented anger at Biden for beating him) pointedly refusing to speak out and advocate getting vaccinated, AND FUX talking heads that stopped the process before it could get to a point that would have prevented Delta from taking hold the way it did.
Everything I ever needed to know about Trump’s handling of the pandemic, I learned by watching the movie Jaws. Not even kidding.
Many valid points have been raised in this discussion. Conclusion: Fox “News”, along with other RW media, have far more influence than the politicians. Spineless GOP politicians have to hew to the RW narrative, or else they don’t get booked for interviews and they fear getting “primaried” by GOP voters.