Updated: May 13, 2020
In an effort to distract from his inept coronavirus response, Donald Trump launched into a racist attack on a female reporter and presented a new conspiracy theory he called “Obamagate”, claiming the former president was guilty of a crime that he could not identify.
(Listen to the podcast) He did this during a Rose Garden press conference May 11 that he abruptly ended after Weijia Jiang, a White House correspondent for CBS News, asked why he sees coronavirus testing as a global competition when more than 80,000 Americans have died.
Trump told Jiang, who is of Chinese descent, to “go ask China,” apparently another attempt to blame China for American coronavirus deaths.
The attacks continued with a series of tweets early today that included the earlier mentioned issues along with his accusing MSNBC commentator Joe Scarborough of murder, prompting Scarborough to tell Trump to stop watching TV and go to work.
In addition to distracting from his coronavirus response, Trump apparently also was attempting to divert attention from today’s Senate testimony by Dr. Anthony Fauci and a Supreme Court case involving release of his tax returns. That decision could come down in the heat of the presidential election campaign, and while he has stacked the court with conservatives, a ruling in his favor is not at all assured.
Walls Closing In
No doubt, Trump is feeling pressured on many sides. Coronavirus, the plummeting economy and, of course, his re-election bid. The cracks have been showing for some time. Sadly, Republicans are mostly unwilling to challenge him, with #MoscowMitch McConnell even saying former President Barack Obama should “have kept his mouth shut” following Obama’s sharp criticism of Trump’s coronavirus response.
Really? For years, Trump has done nothing but criticize his predecessor. His criticism predates his time in office, as he spread the birtherism conspiracy theory to delegitimize Obama’s presidency. Obama has every right to comment, especially during an election year. In fact, his restraint has been nothing short of amazing given the viciousness with which he, and his achievements as president, have been attacked by Trump.
With his unsubstantiated “Obamagate” accusation, Trump was making a direct appeal to his base, and will obviously attempt to attach any perceived issues to his likely Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. And yet, when pressed for specifics, Trump was unable to provide a single shred of evidence.
Testifying today during the Senate hearing along with other administration healthcare officials, Dr. Fauci warned of avoidable death and suffering, as well as further economic damage, should the country reopen too soon.
When asked by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) if the virus was “under control”, Fauci responded “No”, in direct contradiction to the administration’s claims. He predicted Americans would experience “suffering and death that could be avoided” and of more economic damage if states prematurely open businesses and ignore federal guidelines, which he said were scientifically based and “extremely well thought out.”
Fauci also said it would be “a bridge too far” to suggest that schools, colleges and universities could reopen this fall as usual without adequate testing and social distancing in place. And, in answer to a question, he said the death toll is likely higher than what is being reported.
It will be interesting to see Trump’s reaction to Fauci’s testimony, which was hardly in sync with Trump's claim that everything is fine and that the coronavirus will simply go away.
True to form, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), attacked Fauci’s credibility, stating he (Fauci) wasn’t the “end-all” in America’s coronavirus response, that other experts held differing views that were less restrictive. Paul contended that rural states, like Kentucky, should not be under the same restrictions as other more populous states.
Fauci responded that he is a physician and a scientist and that his recommendations are based on reality and facts, not political expediency.
He also pushed back on Paul’s comment about schools reopening in the fall, calling it a “huge mistake” despite Paul’s insistence that children were less susceptible to the virus. Fauci pointed to an increase in Kawasaki disease in children with coronavirus symptoms. Fauci later clarified his remarks by saying it was up to the individual school districts in determining the efficacy of reopening in the fall.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) expressed surprise that Trump is attempting to blame President Obama for the lack of a coronavirus vaccine. He could have pointed out that it was Trump who disbanded the pandemic response team that Obama created, but didn’t. Nevertheless his remarks were pointed and sharply critical of the current administration’s policies and coronavirus response.
Questioned by Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), Fauci stated the government has a “moral responsibility” to protect essential workers like those in the meat processing plants that Trump ordered to remain open.
One Thing is Certain
There is one fact that is certain among all of the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus.
Trump’s attacks and his irrelevant talking points to right wing media will continue as he seeks to satisfy his supporters and avoid talking about the tens of thousands who have died – and those who likely will die -- because of his rapid push to reopen businesses.
Don’t fall for the distractions. Don’t let this become another Pizzagate or Wikileaks. That’s exactly what Donald Trump wants to achieve. And given the current state of affairs, it could be his only hope.