Monday, September 21, 2020

A date to denote pandemic denial

            America is good at commemorating things.

            Not Red Square-good, but we hold our own.

            In my house, as a virus raged beyond our walls, we've batted about a date to remember, to designate, to have ceremonies and plaques and markers and names on walls, and all that.

            It's the date when a president deceived so many into thinking a killer virus was not that deadly.

            The only problem: We can't settle on an anniversary.

            Should we commemorate Jan. 28, 2020, when National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien told Donald Trump that the new coronavirus was the "biggest threat to his presidency"?

           (By July, O'Brien was among the 4.5 million Americans who had the virus at the time.)

            What about Feb. 7, 2020, when Trump told Bob Woodward that the virus was far deadlier than the flu?

            (For the benefit of the public, Trump said it was on a par with the flu, "totally under control," and would be down to zero cases by the end of the month.)

            How about March 19, 2020, when Trump told Woodward he consciously played down the seriousness of the virus and acknowledged "it's not just old people" who were in danger?

            (A few days later he told "Fox and Friends" that children are "virtually immune." Good to know, say parents of the 141 Americans under 21 dead from the disease. So far.)

            So, which day should we commemorate all this?

            On Sept. 11 we solemnly observe horrors that claimed the lives of more than 3,000.

            On what day should we observe all this? The day the U.S. death toll reached 200,000? Or should we reserve a date for 400,000?

            It seems we should have a day in perpetuity when we remember the demagoguery, science denial and rank deception that led to all this.

            Let me suggest March 19 -- 19 as in the forever suffix for this COVID.

            However, instead of something limiting and sterile-sounding like COVID Day, let us broaden what we should observe. Make it about the worth of science, or what happens when we ignore it.

            Nominally, let us attach to our day the social condition PODS -- Perils of Dismissing Science. PODS is a disease unto itself.

            March 19: PODS Day.

            In addition to remarking and educating on pandemics taken lightly, with 9/11-style oaths of "Never again," PODS Day each year could focus broadly on medical science, climate science and all those things that experts tend to link to reality.

            March 19, let it be. Each year.

            I remember where I was on Sept. 11, 2001. Where were you in March 2020 when Donald Trump played down the pandemic?

            "My God," said my wife. "We were in restaurants without social distancing or anything covering our faces."

            Yes we were. We were sharing indoor air streams and salad bar implements without a thought.

            Maybe we need a special day to commemorate salad bars.

            In those dangerous days of this pandemic, though he knew better, Trump was signaling that it was OK to grab those tongs. It was OK to jam into movie theaters and sporting arenas.

            ("This is deadly stuff," he confided to that audience of one. "You breathe the air, and that's how it's passed.")

            Much derision was directed at Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert when, on March 11, his positive test shut down the NBA. It now seems we should be honoring him for snapping us to attention.

            Our president was not going to do it.

            As we approach a chance to remove him and his co-conspirators from office, let us remember the words of Ann Richards:

            "We're not going to have the America we want until we elect leaders who are going to tell the truth – not most days but every day."

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

More damning than Nixon's tapes

            Just 'cause he said it doesn't mean he said it.

            You mean saying he knowingly downplayed the dangers and dimensions of the virus?

            Yeah. Just 'cause he said what he said doesn't mean he said what he said.

            Yeah. Just ask Vice President Pence, who said Donald Trump didn't play down the virus.

            Um, Mike. That's what he told Bob Woodward: "I always wanted to play it down." Is this a language problem, Mike? Habla ingles?

            You and your supporters are shrugging off what our ears – and yours -- now tell us. Also, you appear to be affirming what most of us have assumed all along: When Trump's lips move for public consumption, he lies.

            But for some reason, to Bob Woodward in February he was candid. That is, if the voice we heard was Trump's. Surely Fox News talking heads have tossed around theories:

            "It could be Jimmy Fallon imitating him."

            "Could be Colbert or Trevor Noah. All do pretty good Trumps."

            The other defense, which is none: Trump didn't want to panic the public with accurate information.

              Such an even keel, this president. Never a hysterical word. Always keeps his cool.

            Well . . . OK. On to Defense No. 3: Trump decides the American people need to understand this pandemic thing. He channels his inner Churchill. Realizing the urgency of this matter, he summons Woodward, who's writing a book to be released in a few months. Then via those few people who read books, word of mouth will emanate. Disaster averted.

            The astuteness of this is debated by many a Republican this week, but not because Trump lied to you and me. Seventeen interviews? And tell truth? To the media?

            As Seth Meyers said, it's like Richard Nixon met Woodward in the parking garage and said, "Hello, Bob. Did you know I did Watergate?"

            Politico refers to Trump now as Shallow Throat.

            Enough Watergate comparisons.

            Watergate ended a presidency, but it didn't kill anyone, much less tens of thousands.

            Watergate didn't leave people with long-term lung damage and untold other problems.

            Watergate didn't put millions out of work.

            Watergate didn't strain health-care workers to the breaking point.

            Watergate didn't endanger essential workers each day they showed up for their minimum-wage jobs.

            Donald Trump didn't cause all this. (Neither did China.) He just lied about it.

            For public consumption, Trump compared the virus to the flu. Rush Limbaugh took the cue. Trump said it would go away with the heat. Sean Hannity took notes.

            Trump said it wasn't much of a threat to children.

            All lies and self-serving misdirection. Now we know, courtesy of Woodward's tapes, what Trump knew and when he knew it.

            Rats – another Watergate comparison.

            Mike Pence says that Trump's concern from the very start was the health and safety of the American people. If that were true, more American people would be alive today.

            But, of course, Trump's sole concern was his own survival.

            Nearly 200,000 Americans are dead. Millions are sick. Millions are jobless. And Trump's re-election is all his supporters care about as well.

            If they cared about public health and safety they would demand his resignation.

            If they listened to Woodward's tapes, they would be enraged to hear him refute everything about the virus that they were led to believe. That the virus was no worse than the flu. That masks are a joke. That it's all a Democrat hoax.

            But the Red Caps aren't mad at him. They're crowding at his feet, no masks, applauding his lies.

            By review: Just 'cause he said it doesn't mean he said it.

            Fake news.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Why would troops hate Trump?

            Back in September when a report emerged about a shakedown of Ukraine that got him impeached in December, I asked supporters of Donald Trump:

            "Did the man you helped elect sound like someone who asked the president of a foreign country to investigate the son of a political opponent?

            "Ah, hah, you nodded your head. Ever so slightly, you did."

            Now:

            Did the man you helped elect sound like someone who would have called World War I dead on France's fields "losers" and "suckers"?

            You nodded your head. Every so slightly, you did.

            Why? Because you've heard what else Trump has said. Even those (many) times when you clapped your hands over your ears so as not to hear what Trump said.

            You heard him call John McCain a "loser." You heard him say, "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."

            That's why when The Atlantic cites four sources to report Trump used "losers" to refer to other war heroes, deniability is less than plausible.

            The Atlantic also reported that when Trump ordered a military parade he said he wanted no wounded veterans in it, because "no one wants to see that."

            Trump supporters, I saw you nod. You know the horse to which you hitched your party. It's the show horse of the "Access Hollywood" tape, the finagler of "catch and kill" with the National Enquirer. That dude.

            You know exactly what you were getting. What The Atlantic reports is completely in keeping with what we already knew.

            Some have expressed buyer's remorse, including a lot of men and women in the military.

            A recent poll released by Military Times finds that only 38 percent of active-duty military have a positive view of Trump, and that Biden holds a 4 percent lead among them – a voting bloc that historically has supported Republicans, as it did in 2016.

            Who knows when things changed?

            Was it when, having been refused by Congress, Trump declared a faux emergency to build a border wall, taking $2.5 billion from the military and plunging it into that dirt?

            Was it when Trump sent 5,200 troops to the border after he and Fox News trumpeted the advance of a Central American caravan? (Oddly, the peril seemed to vanish right after the 2018 midterms.)

            Maybe it was when he decided that instead of serving their country, active-duty personnel and their hardware should serve his ego with that grand, amputee-free military parade costing $5.4 million?

            Maybe it was when Trump not only dismissed concerns about reported Russian bounties on troops but didn't bring up the matter in multiple phone calls with Vladimir Putin.

            Maybe active-duty military personnel were as offended as Mattis was when the White House used active-duty personnel to suppress peaceful protesters near a church to enable a Bible-held photo-op.

            Maybe was when, after seeing our military used against our own citizens, four-star Gen. Jim Mattis called Trump "a threat to the Constitution."

            Whatever the case, more military personnel agree now with retired Rear Admiral William McRaven, the commander of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, who said Trump has "humiliated us on the world stage."

            More agree with Colin Powell, who has called Trump a pawn of despots.

            All are solid character references from highly regarded military leaders to understand why so many enlisted people hate Donald Trump.

            Oh, we heard Sarah Sanders defend him. We heard Mike Pompeo defend him. Their words would be credible if any of Trump's enablers had any more credibility than he.

            The point is, even if Trump didn't call war dead "losers," our military has been listening to what else he's said, and it sees what he's done.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.