BALTIMORE – Billions around the planet may tremble over the coronavirus, but President Donald Trump says he’ll get us through the current troubles, body and soul.
Our bodies will be fine, he believes, because the virus will just drift away. How will this happen? Here, the president’s keen scientific analysis is a little vague. Warm weather, perhaps. Or maybe a wayward miracle. Something, anything, to appease the gods of the stock market.
That’s where this president believes he finds our souls – in our wallets. He thinks the economy registers more profoundly than any body counts – and believes it’s the key to his re-election chances.
All those Republicans who have been basing their defense of Trump on a simple, reflexive quip – “How’s your 401K doing?” – will have to change their tune if the market keeps tanking the way it has since the media started getting serious about virus coverage.
Well, not all media.
Just as Trump can’t get through a life-and-death press conference without gratuitous swipes at Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and claims the virus is a “Democratic hoax” juiced up by “fake media,” he’s always got his media groupies puckering up.
Rush Limbaugh says, “It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump. Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus…The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”
Some cold! We’ve got 80,000 infections worldwide. They’ve got 1,700 medical workers in China who have contracted the disease.
On “Fox & Friends” talk show, the co-host Ainsley Earhardt says, “Let’s talk about the Democrats and the media with this coronavirus, and they’re making it political.”
“Watch the Democrats, watch the media,” adds Pete Hegseth, “Fox & Friends Weekend” co-host. “They’re rooting for coronavirus to spread. They’re rooting for it to grow. They’re rooting for the problem to get worse.”
Yeah, right. Everybody roots for a plague.
The truth is, we’re all waiting for actual news – from people who know what they’re talking about. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the numbers will continue to grow. Donald Trump says the virus will drift away.
The comic Bill Maher says, “Who are you gonna believe – the infectious disease experts, or a guy who (bleeps) Stormy Daniels without a condom?”
Trump says he’s got the “best people” working on this – whichever “best people” are still employed, that is. As Paul Krugman points out in his New York Times column:
“Almost as soon as he took office, Trump began cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leading in turn to an 80 percent cut in the resources the agency devotes to global disease outbreaks. Trump also shut down the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council. Experts warned that these moves were exposing America to severe risks.”
But, never fear. Trump’s made Mike Pence the key figure in the government’s response to the outbreak.
Pence, the well-known denier of science.
Pence, who believes the Environmental Protection Agency is “over-reaching” on climate control.
Pence, who has written, “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.”
Pence, who responded to an HIV outbreak when he was governor of Indiana by declaring, “I’m going to go home and pray on it” rather than give the OK for a needle exchange program.
Pence, who thinks gays can be “converted” into heterosexuals.
Pence, who thinks evolution is just a “theory.”
Yeah, this is the right guy to orchestrate a 21st-century scientific look at a virus that threatens to darken the planet.
The fact is, we don’t know yet how bad this is going to get – and we do run the risk of scaring ourselves silly in the meantime.
What we also know is that the spread of a dangerous sickness is more important than any stock market numbers, no matter how much Trump downplays one to prop up the other.
And we’d all like some straight, scientific facts delivered by people who actually know what they’re talking about – not people looking to cash in on fear around the planet for sheer political gain.
Michael Olesker, columnist for the News American, Baltimore Sun, and Baltimore Examiner has spent a quarter of a century writing about the city he loves.He is the author of several books, including Michael Olesker’s Baltimore: If You Live Here, You’re Home, Journeys to the Heart of Baltimore, and The Colts’ Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s, all published by Johns Hopkins Press.