The president of the United States went fully off the rails on live television yesterday like your shouty right-wing uncle at the Thanksgiving table … times a thousand zillion infinities. Even for Donald Trump, who has set the bar for presidential behavior so low that worms use it as a guardrail, this was a rare and terrifying performance.
Trump has been hijacking the daily coronavirus briefings to strut, preen, lie, attack and generally indulge himself in being the gibberish fountain he is at his infamous nonsense rallies. It is cathartic for him, I assume, to bellow falsehoods and receive gusts of cheering adulation in response, so — now that his in-person rallies are on hold — he’s made that behavior the centerpiece of daily briefings regarding a pandemic that has killed nearly 24,000 of his citizens.
On Monday, Trump took it up (or down) several dozen notches by playing a video made at taxpayer expense showing that he is always right and everyone else is always wrong, so there. Specifically, the video was a hatchet job on history, meant to show that Trump’s lethally incompetent response to the pandemic was in fact a brilliant series of chess moves that only terrible Democrats and the “fake news” disagree with.
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The audience was not as accepting or adoring as his Red Hat rally crowds, however, and Little Trumpy Poopy Pants didn’t like it very much. Paula Reid of CBS News got up in his grill at one point, and he spun out like a bald tire. “Your video has a complete gap,” she accused. “What did your administration do in February with the time that your travel ban bought you?” Trump replied, “A lot. A lot.” Reid pressed, “The video has a gap.” Trump snarled back, “You know, you’re a fake.”
So it was like that, until it got worse.
“When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total and that is the way it’s gonna be,” said Trump to the gobsmacked assemblage. “It’s total. It’s total. And the governors know that. When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total.”
This balderdash eruption was inspired by the ongoing fight Trump is having with various state governors, who are getting tired of watching as their medical supplies are mysteriously snatched by the federal government. Some of those governors are contemplating calling out their state’s National Guard to thwart this disturbing federal confiscation, and let that fact sink in good and deep for a moment.
The lion’s share of the growing tensions between these governors and the White House stems from the fact that Trump appears hell-bent on declaring the pandemic over at the end of the month so the economy can get going again and salvage his reelection chances. Such a move flies in the face of all medical and scientific advice, including that which has been coming from the daily coronavirus briefings in between Trump’s bouts of verbal diarrhea.
States on the country’s East and West coasts are forming their own regional pacts to work together on how to reopen from the stay-at-home orders each has issued to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The first such group to be announced came Monday on the East Coast. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts each plan to name a public health and economic official to a regional working group. The chief of staff of the governor of each state also will be a part of the group, which will begin work immediately to design a reopening plan.
Later on Monday, the West Coast states of California, Washington and Oregon also announced they are joining forces in a plan to begin incremental release of stay-at-home orders. Governors of the three states will collaborate on their approach to getting back to business “in a safe, strategic, responsible way,” as announced by California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
In other words, Donny, go pound sand: The states alone will decide when and how to lift the vital strictures that have been laid down to stifle the pandemic. In something of a reversal of political polarities, Democratic governors are leaning into states’ rights, while a right-wing Republican president crows about the all-encompassing powers of federalism. Somewhere in the ether of the afterlife, James Madison just threw up his hands and stuck his head in a running microwave.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose own COVID briefings have been a clinic on how to inform and prepare a population, put an exclamation point on it. “If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state,” Cuomo told CNN, “I wouldn’t do it.”
Not every governor is on board with this astonishing revolt, of course. Gov. Ron SeDantis of Florida has declared WWE professional wrestling to be an “essential business,” right up there with gas stations and grocery stores. In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem has been so adamant that this killer pandemic is an overblown hoax that her profoundly rural state is now one of the worst COVID-19 hotspots in the country.
The capitalists want the machine to begin grinding again, and give not a single damn about how that will affect the health of the workers who generate their wealth. I have written it before, I am about to write it now, and I am mortally sure I will have to write it again: Do not listen to the president.