Tuesday, April 7, 2020


By Dominique Paul Noth

For the last weeks, every day, America has suffered through the most maddening yet strangely essential White House briefings where some important facts and warnings about COVID-19 are dispensed directly from eminent health scientist but also prattled endlessly about in somnolence inducement by Vice President Mike Pence and anchored in constant misdirection by the portly ringmaster of this flea circus, who contradicts or calls into question the advice from his own gathered experts.

Trunp tries to stifle reporters at White House briefing.
Donald Trump, perhaps jealous about how personal, emotional and fascinating have been New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo briefings, determined not to let voters forget for a moment that whatever they think of Cuomo or the other governors he is the one in charge of the vital levers of government,  and confident in his ability to spin his own version of events,  has wandered this  White House meeting stage like a prowling gorilla ready to pounce, saving some important summaries for his own lips and using a parade of military men, CEO stooges and once capable bureaucrats, plus Jared Kushner, to fill in the gaps or in reality  take the blame for the mounting sense of failure and loss he doesn’t want to be associated with.

He also plays doctor, urging Americans to take an unproven chemical he has “good feelings about,” and contradicting the ventilator concerns of the nation’s governors, inadvertently revealing that, while most Americans know ventilators are the almost inevitable tool to keep them from death, Trump envisions going on ventilators as a sign you are beyond saving – so why encourage their use?

The next few days, he insists, will bring the peak of the infection wave and America can start getting back to normal while scientists see rolling peaks going on for months.  Sunday he actually called such a White House conference, though there was no news to speak of, simply to keep his rally-less presence going on TV, and jumping in to prevent Dr. Fauci from telling us what he really thinks about Trump’s drug of choice – hydroxychloroquine, which works for malaria and lupus but is unproven for COVID-19 and has as much chance to harm as to help.

By Monday and election Tuesday in Wisconsin, Trump’s hostility and arrogance at those briefings went beyond all reason, attacking any member of the press who questioned his statistics or past statements, defending his miracle cure even though it is unclear if it helps or hurts, sideswiping  any questioning of his experts on medical supply chains or desperate physicians. He then tried to turn the blame to Congress for not giving him more money without supervising strings.

This has dumfounded the so-called Trump supporters, who live in the regions or occupy the age levels most endangered by Trump’s behavior.

Even a sober research fellow at Marquette University couldn't help noticing that Trump's slight bump in poll ratings came nowhere  near the rise in popularity of other “wartime” presidents, though Trump uses that bump to further justify his behavior.

But what it all does demonstrate is his slow change in re-election strategy.  His “trump card,” of a stable economy will be long gone by November, so he is shifting to the “irreplaceable dictator” philosophy, that only he has enough control and authority of the system so the US has to keep him in office for another four years.  Every noise he makes these days is trying to bully the public into that viewpoint, including – have you noticed? – his attacks on voting by mail.

Of all the states, it is our Wisconsin that may be quietly showing him the way forward as long as conservative courts are in charge. Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was too slow to pull the obvious trigger – delay the spring election -- perhaps because Trump was still holding out hope of an all clear by Easter. But when he did try to pull the election until June, the GOP legislature took him to conservative state high court, which insisted the election proceed.

Almost simultaneously, the US Supreme Court shot down an effort by a federal judge to allow ballots to count until April 13. SCOTUS ignored rampant evidence that the absentee ballot system was overloaded. As Justice Ginsburg said in a stern dissent: “Tens of thousands of absentee voters, unlikely to receive their ballots in time to cast them, will be left quite literally without a vote. This Court’s intervention is thus ill advised, especially so at this late hour.”

It seems to me the change in political reality runs far deeper this time than previous outrages from Trump’s lips.  This time everybody has family and friends in the danger zone for COVID while every day brings fresh stories of people outside the danger zone (except medical personnel regardless of age who are constantly in danger on the front lines) who are also dying – by the hundreds and thousands.  In Wisconsin, each day brings a story of a progressive voter who risked death to cast a ballot.

It is no accident that the country that prides itself on democracy is leading the death parade.

For him to view any of this as a personal victory, or to suggest that despite the evidence before our eyes none of this is his doing – well, everyone knows neither will fly. We can’t blame Trump for COVID-19 – any leader would have been challenged -- but we know clearly at this point that his prevarication, his destruction of previous pandemic response mechanisms, his inability to provide meaningful statistics despite the experts around him, his general incompetence all  suggest there are plenty of thing to blame him for at the polls. So his chances of winning an open election have disappeared despite the twitter harping of his diminishing fan base. They may still find him amusing but not to vote for.

His only hopes of survival are now not in the hands of voters – it depends on whether he can stop voting by mail or somehow get rid of the November election.  Wisconsin has just proved he can lean on the courts to do the undemocratic.  That’s the only way he can win.

About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his DomsDomain dual culture and politics outlets.  A member of the American Theatre Critics Association at its inception, he also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee. 

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