Trump’s ‘America first’ is working: the US leads the world in coronavirus cases
The US passed a grim milestone on the same day it reported a record number of unemployment claims – 3.3m in just a week
Fri 27 Mar 2020 10.29 EDTLast modified on Fri 27 Mar 2020 15.07 EDT
‘Trump represents the greatest, the biggest, and the most tremendous failure of leadership in living memory.’ Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Speaking before the largest inauguration crowd in human history, Donald Trump made a bold prediction.
“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First,” he declared.
“I will fight for you with every breath in my body – and I will never, ever let you down. America will start winning again, winning like never before.”
And so it came to pass that America is indeed winning like never before. First among nations, to be sure. With all the new vision that an ostrich has while examining the sand from below.
The news that Donald Trump’s America is first in the world for coronavirus cases should give nobody any pleasure. The fact that the nation passed this grim milestone on the same day it reported a record number of unemployment claims – 3.3 million in just one week – underscores the superlative nature of this presidency.
He represents the greatest, the biggest, and the most tremendous failure of leadership in living memory. He has made America great again in ways nobody could ever imagine or conceive.
How did Trump mark this date which will live in infamy? By praising himself, of course. If he had been president at the time of Pearl Harbor, he would have claimed that the bombing was just confirmation that he had built the world’s greatest navy.
“It’s a tribute to the amount of testing that we’re doing,” he said on Thursday. “We’re doing tremendous testing, and I’m sure you’re not able to tell what China is testing or not testing. I think that’s a little hard.”
To be honest, it’s a little hard to tell what’s happening here too. As of Thursday evening, there have been 519,000 tests performed in the United States, among a population of 327 million. That’s 0.15% of all Americans. In South Korea, with a population one-sixth of the size, they have performed more than 357,000 tests.
Overtaking South Korea in total tests was of course a reason to celebrate in Trump’s very small book. It was also a reason to lie.
“Just reported that the United States has done far more ‘testing’ than any other nation, by far!” he tweeted. “In fact, over an eight day span, the United States now does more testing than what South Korea (which has been a very successful tester) does over an eight week span. Great job!”
Yes, great job! Totally awesome. We’re only six times behind where we should be on the South Korean scale of what Trump considers to be “testing”.
It’s not entirely clear that anyone has “tested” Trump with a multiple-choice quiz about this pandemic and how to end it. Lobbed an obvious question about the tests on Wednesday, he spun his tale of failure into a Technicolor tapestry of dopey lies and lazy delusions.
“We have tested, by far, more than anybody. We’re testing more than anybody right now. There’s nobody even close. And our tests are the best tests. They’re the most accurate tests,” he riffed, as if his words had uncoupled themselves from the gravitational pull of meaning and begun floating into the upper reaches of his empty skull.
“But if you’re saying we’re going to test 350 million people,” he continued, “I disagree with it. We can go to certain states – I could name them now, but I’m not going to do that – but we can go to certain states right now. They have virtually no problem or a very small problem.”
There is only one place where that claim is true, and that would be the state of denial: Donald Trump’s home state when the going gets tough.
For those looking at far less important numbers, like Trump’s rising approval ratings or the yo-yo stock market, these are confusing times. How can anything be rising when we have such catastrophically incompetent leadership?
This is the crackerjack team that is dithering over a $1bn deal to produce 80,000 critically needed ventilators while waving through a $2tn stimulus bill that includes $50bn for airlines. Flying may be important to the economy, but breathing is surely worth one-fiftieth of the support.
Trump would dearly love to tell a story about Democratic states suffering while Republican ones are virus-free. But Florida complicates that picture, and the pesky numbers show the virus has reached every state in the union. Even with the fractional testing that we’re doing.
Like every con artist, Trump knows when the mark has moved on. You can fool some of the people all of the time, especially if they watch Fox News. You can even fool a plurality of the people at election time, with a billion dollars of Facebook disinformation. But you can’t fool all of the people, especially at a time of pandemic and recession.
So his numbers are sliding downwards just as surely as the virus numbers are climbing upwards. Only one of these numbers are important, and they don’t belong to Donald Trump.
There is real leadership out there in America, as there is across the world. There are courageous citizens who demonstrate every day and night what it means to take responsibility for the vulnerable, to be selfless at a time of anxiety and adversity.
Our hospital workers have more character than the commander-in-chief. So do our supermarket and delivery workers, our city employees, and our first responders. They didn’t need an inauguration speech to declare they would never, ever let us down. They don’t need a White House briefing to tell us they’re the best.
“We will bring back our jobs,” Trump promised on his great inaugural disappointment. “We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.”
Thanks for all that. The jobs and wealth are evaporating before our eyes. The virus didn’t respect the borders. And the dreams we lost seem like letters from a distant land.
- Richard Wolffe is a Guardian US columnist
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