Because Oregon is under a shelter in place order from Governor Brown and my usual routine has been disrupted, I've been entertaining myself (broadly speaking) by watching Trump's coronavirus briefings most afternoons -- including today.
Not surprisingly, they're horrifying.
Early on in Trump's presidency I thought that his egotism, incompetence, habitual lying, and incoherent babbling was as amusing as it was disturbing. But that was when Trump's personal defects didn't directly threaten American lives, just indirectly, such as by his repeated attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.
Now, though, there's nothing funny about the failure of Trump and his cronies to deal properly with the coronavirus crisis. Everything I and other progressives worried about since Trump was elected has come to pass.
Most presidents do their best to rise to the occasion when our country is in a serious crisis. Trump, on the other hand, has relished sinking to the depths. In the coronavirus briefings he blatantly lies, feels sorry for himself, attacks journalists, insults health care professionals, and undercuts the medical experts who have to stand next to him while he spouts nonsense.
Many thousands of people in the United States are going to die unnecessarily because Trump bungled the crucial early months when it was known that the coronavirus was coming to this country, but Trump downplayed its seriousness and failed to get a testing program underway immediately.
A lot of things bother me about how Trump behaves in the coronavirus briefings. My overarching irritation is how he acts like a cult leader rather than the president of a constitutional democracy.
Almost invariably, whenever someone other than Trump speaks from the podium they are forced to begin their remarks with fawning praise. "I want to start off by thanking President Trump for the bold leadership he has been showing throughout this crisis." Meanwhile, Trump stands there, doing his best imperious Mussolini impersonation.
Like a cult leader, Trump can't stand to be criticized or questioned.
When a reporter starts to ask a probing question about some dubious Trump claim or obvious screw-up, he interrupts them, then often spews insults at them. The one thing he doesn't do is give an honest answer or admit to a mistake.
Though Trump's imperfections are obvious to anyone with an eye to see or an ear to hear, those who surround him know that if they speak up about a false statement or unwise policy, they won't be around for long. So they stand there, a fake smile painted on their faces, forced to act as if each and every utterance of Dear Leader makes perfect sense, even when gibberish is bubbling out of Trump's mouth.
Yesterday, for example, Trump was ranting about how the previous administration had left the cupboard bare of medical supplies in the federal strategic stockpile. Supposedly this explained why there is so little left to deliver to states and cities fighting the coronavirus.
A reporter started to ask an obvious question. "But you've had three years to refill the stockpile. Why wasn't this done?" Trump interrupted him and launched into a diatribe about something or other. Which left the reporter with no choice but to sit there and listen to the crap Trump was spewing.
For if he had yelled out the truth, likely the Trump administration would have banned the reporter from future briefings.
And you know, that's what I wish would happen. Which also is what I wish would happen at every religious cult gathering where some man (women rarely are cult leaders) is looked upon with fawning devotion by his followers as he spouts lies, falsehoods, and untruths that bear no resemblance to reality.
If a few of those followers, just one even, would stand up and say, "This is bullshit; I'm not going to listen to it anymore; I've got better things to do," that would be so refreshing, so brave, so courageous.
I keep waiting for someone to do that at Trump's coronavirus briefings. So far, no one has. They keep on listening to the garbage that comes out of Trump's mouth, unwilling or unable to stand up for the truth against a man who has no respect for it. Such is the danger of cults.
They suck good people in, then make it very difficult for those people to escape from the grip of the cult leader. The only good news is that usually cults merely destroy the psychological well-being of their members, not their physical being. With Trump, though, his malevolence is going to lead to a great many unnecessary deaths.