2020-08-04 20:45:58 UTC
In every great American crisis, there is a moment where the whole world can see
the true character of a President.
For George W. Bush it came when he was photographed staring down from the
luxurious comfort of Air Force One on the wreckage wrought by Hurricane Katrina,
after his government's woefully inadequate federal response. The picture made
him look detached and uncaring, and worst of all, a weak and ineffectual leader.
He never recovered from it.
For Bill Clinton, it came with his infamous 'I did not have sexual relations
with that woman, Ms Lewinsky' declaration. When it turned out he had indeed had
multiple sexual relations with that woman, his reputation was badly damaged.
Conversely, for John F. Kennedy, you could point to his rousing 1962 speech
challenging America to go to the moon, instilling in Americans a spirit of
unlimited optimism, as the moment when he sparked a deep abiding popularity that
lasts to this day.
Similarly, for Ronald Reagan, his audacious 'Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!'
command at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to the leader of the Soviet Union, cemented
his place in history.
For President Donald J. Trump, there have been many grim moments during his
catastrophic handling of the coronavirus pandemic that may end up defining his
But last night, during an extraordinary, toe-curling HBO interview with AXIOS's
Jonathan Swan, he exposed just why the US has become a horrifyingly bad template
for how NOT to combat Covid-19.
In an attempt to defend his indefensible record, and specifically why the US has
one of the worst death rates in the world, Trump suddenly produced a collection
'Look at some of these charts,' he said. 'This one, right here, the United
States is lowest in numerous categories lower than the world.'
'In what?' said an incredulous Swan.
'Take a look,' said Trump, handing the chart over.
Swan, a very good and well-prepared journalist, studied the chart quickly and
'Oh, you're doing death as a proportion of cases,' he replied. 'I'm talking
about death as a proportion of population.'
'Well well ' Trump stammered.
'That's where the US is really bad,' persisted Swan, 'much worse than South
Korea, Germany etc.'
'You can't do that!' exclaimed Trump.
'Why can't I do that?' asked Swan, looking understandably confused.
'You have to go by the cases,' said Trump. 'We're last, meaning we're first!'
It was a stunning exchange.
Here was the President of the United States telling a journalist that he
couldn't mention America's shocking coronavirus death toll because all that
matters is not how many people have died, but how many people have been tested.
'You know there are those that say you can test too much,' Trump blathered. 'You
do know that?'
Swan didn't know that, because nobody other than Trump has said that.
'Who says that?' Swan asked.
'Oh, just read the manuals,' Trump retorted. 'Read the books.'
'Manuals?' Swan pressed. 'What manuals?'
'Read the books, read the books,' Trump repeated.
Of course, there are no manuals, or books, that say you can do too much
Obviously, as any scientist will attest, you can never do enough testing. It's
the only way to get on top of this virus until there's a vaccine.
What Trump actually means is that he wishes America did less testing so they
didn't have so many cases because it makes HIM look bad.
That's why he doesn't want to talk about America's appalling death toll because,
again, it makes HIM look bad.
'A thousand people are dying a day,' Swan told him.
'They are dying,' replied Trump. 'It's true. It is what it is.'
'It is what it is' - that was the President's staggering response to the ongoing
horrific slaughter of Americans by a deadly virus.
No empathy, no apology, no expression of sorrow.
Just a heartless, dismissive shrug.
The problem for Trump in this crisis is that the stats don't lie like he does.
When Swan pointed out that South Korea has a population of 51 million people but
has only suffered 300 coronavirus deaths, Trump inferred, with zero evidence,
that the statistics were fake news.
It's his default response to any facts he doesn't like, but now he is being
exposed by the cold, hard reality of data-backed truth.
The World Health Organisation reports today there have been 18,100,204 confirmed
cases of coronavirus in the world, and 690,257 deaths.
Of these, America has had 4,629,459 cases, which is 25% of the global total, and
154,226 deaths which is 22% of the global total.
Yet it has just 4.2% of the world's population.
So whichever way you look at the numbers, the United States is doing
Trump knows it, everyone knows it.
But he also knows if he admits it, it may cost him the election in November.
So, he's now reduced to lying, obfuscating, deflecting, and anything else he can
think of to avoid being held accountable for what has happened on his watch.
Last night, Americans saw their President deny the incontrovertible.
They saw him pretend he's got coronavirus under control when he's completely
And they saw him challenged relentlessly on all this bullsh*t by a top-class
journalist determined not to let him off the hook.
It made for electrifying but very unedifying viewing, combining the detached
uncaring conduct of George W. Bush during the Katrina crisis with Bill Clinton's
cynical lying about Monica Lewinsky.
There were many other awful moments during the interview, including Trump once
again offering weirdly uncritical support to accused child sex trafficker
Ghislaine Maxwell, refusing to call the late civil rights campaigning legend,
Congressman John Lewis, 'impressive' because Lewis hadn't gone to his
inauguration, and stoking self-serving fears of election night mail voting
But it was his meandering disingenuous nonsense about coronavirus that swiftly
went viral around the world.
Some people on social media even assumed it must be a comedy sketch given how
preposterous it appeared and the fact it was appearing on a network famed for
shows like Veep and Succession.
This, sadly, was very real.
I didn't laugh.
Instead, I cringed, I despaired, and then I felt angry.
America is being overrun by coronavirus because its narcissistic President has
put his personal ego before doing his job from spewing his dangerous 'cure'
theories to trashing his top medical experts if they dare to speak the truth and
boasting inanely about his covid news conference TV ratings.
Trump's made the crisis all about him, not the American people.
As a result, the American people are dying in massive numbers all over the
Jonathan Swan's constantly bemused face last night perfectly summed up what we
were all thinking as the President brandished his meaningless self-serving
charts and spouted his nonsensical self-justifying drivel: what the f*ck is he