I didn’t know that Trump was going to give an Oval Office address last night. I learned a few painful minutes in advance from Chris Hayes, to whom Rachel Maddow expressed a feeling of distinct anticipatory dread as they sat there together on set, waiting glumly for the inevitable clown show to commence. Viewers on Fox were better off, watching Sarah Palin sing a spirited rendition of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s immortal Baby Got Back on The Masked Singer, wearing some kind of purple furry suit that might have originally been topped with a bear’s head, or something – I’m not sure, in the clips I’ve seen she was already unmasked.
She was nearly the Vice President once. Anyway, folks who were watching her extol the delights of the female tuckas, rather than joining in with the vibe of Chris and Rachel sweating bullets, had less than two minutes to clue in to what was coming and transition to the Donald, and were no doubt the better for it. Why prolong the agony?
Still, even for them, it had to begin. So it did. I watched. There he sat, with his stupid, trout-like face all slathered in orange goop, and began speaking without intonation or punctuation as he droned through another teleprompter fiasco, stumbling over words and trying to mask errors in his usual way (“…by counting…and continuing…”), and he couldn’t even get the vague details of his own meagre policy announcements accurate. Within minutes, White House officials were back-pedalling: no, all trade with Europe will not be suspended, only people are restricted, not cargo too; no, that doesn’t mean everybody, Americans may return home; no, actually, insurance companies haven’t waived all co-pays on treatment, only testing; but they couldn’t make anybody un-see the shaky performance of the stunned Commander in Chief.
Oh, he tried, he threw in a few of the usual zingers as he wheezed and sniffed, looking ill, or medicated, or both. A few of the old crowd-pleasers. There was the standard xenophobia with talk about the “foreign” virus, and he took the time to pat himself on the back for the greatest economy in history, an economy so great, apparently, that average people struggling in the hand-to-mouth gig economy can’t possibly afford to self-quarantine, or look after their kids should they be sent home from school, or take any tests (even if they were available) because co-pays aside, 30 million of them still aren’t covered by even the shittiest variety of shitty American health insurance. He promised to ask Congress to cut payroll taxes, a move the Senate had already rejected, and which wouldn’t help anyway, not even as economic stimulus, let alone as pandemic countermeasure, but he probably figured lower taxes, gets ’em every time, am I right? However, he didn’t really say anything about how the domestic spread of a virus that was already well and truly ashore, multiplying behind any barriers he might now erect to bar some foreign visitors, was going to be contained or even monitored (and what was with the puzzling exception for the UK, which has about as many cases proportionately as everywhere else – didn’t that undo the whole policy?).
It was a thus a fireside chat with the nervous Trump sitting too close to the fire, sweating, bewildered, and plainly at a loss, his pant legs aflame where they weren’t soaked in urine. It was, perhaps, given the gravity of the moment, the worst address ever given by a President, and perhaps by any leader at any level in the whole history of crisis management, despite being penned by the ordinarily reliable brain trust of geniuses Stephen Miller and Jared Kushner, Trump’s Lennon-McCartney of public policy. The best you could say about it was that now, at least, Donald was no longer claiming that nothing serious was going on and it would all soon disappear “like magic”, but announcing that the country is indeed officially in the middle of an unholy shitstorm is only half the President’s assigned role. After that comes the reassurance bit, the “but don’t you worry, my fellow Americans, we’ve got this under control and here’s how” part. But that never came, so the financial markets, no more capable of just calming themselves the fuck down than they’ve ever been, continued their cannonball plummet toward oblivion, as I noted today when I made the mistake of logging in (I couldn’t help myself) to see my retirement fund had shrunk in the past week by ballpark $300,000.00 – I’d say “easy come, easy go”, except it didn’t come easy. Oh well. Superficially well-off but decidedly pensionless, I long ago did the only thing there was to do and took my money to the track, and, well, sometimes Lucky Boy in the fifth breaks a leg, right? At least, as a (perhaps premature) retiree, I can easily manage the social distancing bit. Nobody’s looking for me to show up anywhere.
I took momentary comfort from learning that only the “aged” were in the high risk group, until I realized that by pushing 60 I now counted as more or less “aged”. Not the highest risk, nobody’s saying I shouldn’t buy any green bananas or anything, but you know, best to avoid complacency. Complacency, and all forays out of the house. Just for a while.
Since the beginning of the Trump Presidency, people like me have been moaning, sourly, that sooner or later Donald would be faced with a real crisis, one not of his own making that he couldn’t fix simply by stopping whatever he was doing to bring it about in the first place, and then the rank stupidity and incompetence of him and everyone around him would be a real problem. Most of us figured it would be something to do with foreign policy, with Iran, or China, or North Korea, and weren’t thinking of the pandemic scenario. I never even noticed that the whole national security apparatus established by Obama to deal with the bio-threat had been dismantled, the department shuttered, the personnel dismissed and never replaced. Trump may not have noticed either, it being largely John Bolton’s doing, or maybe he heard about it and thought good, another Obama thing bites the dust, heh-heh. I suppose there are other dire threats I’ve lost sight of too. Has anybody checked on the upkeep of America’s vast stores of thermonuclear weapons lately? Are any leaking? Any missing? How are things going on disaster prep? Is anybody stockpiling and pre-positioning supplies for the next hurricane season? The next bout of massive wildfires? The inevitable California seismic event? Did Donald’s proposed funding cuts at the CDC actually happen? How’s it going at FEMA – who’s running the show over there these days? Somebody in an “acting” capacity?
Who can keep up? Why bother anyway? As long as Donald’s at the helm and Mitch runs the Senate, no matter what it is, you can bet nobody’s looking after it, and nothing is going to change unless the whole sorry lot of them is removed from office.
So let’s all just sit here, I guess, maintaining our social distance, and waiting for November, so we can see how that goes. Maybe the unchecked rampage of Covid-19 will finally put everybody off The Donald, supposing anything can. Maybe we have a shot if Hannity catches it.
VITAL UPDATE: It was a bear’s head.