WITTGENSTEIN, WEEK ONE: Messages to today's 9-year-old kids!


Links to first three letters:
In the future, it will fall to today's 9-year-old kids to rebuild American intellectual and journalistic culture.

Decades of clowning have dragged us all down. It will fall to these kids to restore us.

We're leaving them messages in a bottle, suggesting one place they might start. Last week, we posted the first three epistles.

Links to those letters are here:
March 30, 2020: Epistles to today's 9-year-old kids. Don't read until the future!

March 31, 2020: Epistle touching on Wittgenstein's preface! "Not a good book," he said.

April 2, 2020: Third letter to today's 9-year-old kids. An early glimpse of a method.
Tomorrow, we'll look at the preface to Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations in a bit more detail. Also, we'll scan its first few pages.

Do not try reading this book at home! Decent people that we are, we've already said that.

Full disclosure: These letters are issued for purposes of erudition / interest only.

SOCIOPATH-IN-CHIEF?: The Mayo Clinic's list of symptoms!


Senior gets it right:
On Saturday, President Trump's televised daily "briefing" got off to an early start.

It started at 4:15 PM Eastern. There followed an hour and 44 minutes of behavior which might be imagined to serve as a type of self-diagnosis.

According to the White House transcript, the televised session ended at 5:59 PM. There were different takeaways from the astonishing hour and 44 minutes which had been televised.

For us, the main individual takeaway involved the president's latest reversal. Remarkably, he reverted to his focus from the previous week, in which we need to get the economy open again as soon as possible—in which "the cure can't be worse than the problem."

Simply put, the president can't seem to maintain a point of view for more than four or five days at a time.

Others saw different takeaways. In Sunday's New York Times, the main takeaway involved the president's aggressive peddling of a particular "unproven drug," a push which became even more extreme during yesterday's televised briefing.

That said, our overwhelming reaction to Saturday's session involved a type of self-diagnosis the president seemed to be offering. Did more than two or three minutes ever elapse in which the president didn't display one of the basic symptoms of the disorder we have in mind?

We'll name that disorder tomorrow. For now, consider just one of the many things this badly disordered man said and did in the course of that hour and 44 minutes.

Midway through the endless session, the president was asked about Captain Brett Crozier, who was recently relieved of his command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

According to the official White House transcript, the reporter's question went like this:
REPORTER (4/4/20): Mr. President, can we talk about the—Captain Crozier of the USS Roosevelt?

TRUMP: Which one? What?

REPORTER: Captain Crozier, who was removed—the captain who was removed as the commander of the USS Roosevelt.

I don’t know if you saw the videos of sailors cheering for him as he left. Our reporting shows that some sailors have said that they are worried to re-enlist because they are not convinced that commanders are taking care of their health and taking care of them.

TRUMP: Yeah.

REPORTER: What do you say to them? And how does removing this captain take care of their health?
Personally, we hate the familiar, cloying "what do you say to them" type of question. But the reporter included another question:

There are more than four thousand sailors on the USS Roosevelt. How does removing Captain Crozier take care of those sailors' health?

Below, you see the president's answer in full. Warning! The public was apparently being misled as the president mocked Captain Crozier, who has reportedly now been diagnosed with COVID-19 himself:
TRUMP (continuing directly): Here we have one of the greatest—here we have one of the greatest ships in the world. Nuclear aircraft carrier, incredible ship, with thousands and thousands of people. And you had about 120 that were infected.

Now, I guess the captain stopped in Vietnam and people got off in Vietnam. Perhaps you don’t do that in the middle of a pandemic or, or something that looked like it was going to be—

You know, history would say you don’t necessarily stop and let your sailors get off, number one.

But more importantly, he wrote a letter. The letter was a five-page letter from a captain, and the letter was all over the place. That’s not appropriate. I don’t think that’s appropriate. And these are tough people. These are tough, strong people.

I thought it looked terrible, to be honest with you. Now, they made their decision. I didn’t make the decision. Secretary of Defense was involved, and a lot of people were involved.

I thought it was terrible what he did, to write a letter. I mean, this isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear powered. And he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter. He could call and ask and suggest.

But he stopped in Vietnam. A lot of people got off the boat. They came back and they had infection. And I thought it was inappropriate for the captain of a ship to do [that].
In typical fashion, Trump mocked Crozier for having conducted "a class on literature." He even complained that Crozier's letter "was all over the place!"

That was a remarkable criticism coming from President Trump!

That said, Trump began and ended by savaging Crozier for having stopped in Vietnam. "You know, history would say you don’t necessarily stop and let your sailors gets off, number one," the sarcastic commander sarcastically said, conducting a history class.

Because we know how this game is played, a few questions came to mind. Why and when did the USS Roosevelt stop in Vietnam? Knowing the way our discourse works, we decided to check the facts out.

We still can't tell you the full story concerning that event. We can't tell you how many sailors disembarked in Da Nang. We can't tell you who decided to let them leave the ship.

We can at least tell you this:

The USS Roosevelt stopped in Da Nang is early March. On March 24, Admiral Michael Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations, discussed the event as part of a formal press conference.

Gilday explained why the decision to stop in Da Nang was made. He also revealed who made the decision.

It wasn't Captain Crozier's decision! According to the official Defense Department transcript, the Q-and-A went like this:
QUESTION (3/24/20): Admiral Gilday, back to the situation with the Theodore Roosevelt.

So 15 days ago, it was in port in Vietnam. How many sailors left and went on a port call visit, and was that really safe given what has been happening in Asia?

I've been asking for several briefings why port calls were continuing given the COVID virus. And then if you can explain how you figured out that these three sailors were sick.

Was it because you did broad testing, was it simply a fever? And once they have a fever, isn't it too late, you've already encountered a number of people?

ADM. GILDAY: So with respect to the port visit in Vietnam, so at that particular time when the decision was made in late February, early March, to pull the ship into Da Nang, which is on the central coast, at that time there were only 16 positive cases in Vietnam, and those were well to the north, all isolated in Hanoi.

And so, this was a very risk-informed decision by actually the INDOPACOM Commander, Admiral Davidson
, on whether or not we proceed with that port visit.
Gilday's answer continued from there. The reporter had asked a multi-part question. Several of his questions didn't get answered.

That said, let's return to Saturday's sarcastic attacks by Trump.

On Saturday, the commander-in-chief attacked Captain Crozier for stopping in Vietnam. He attacked him for this at the start, and then again at the end, of his latest non-answer answer.

That's what the commander did during Saturday's televised session. But eleven days earlier, Admiral Gilday, in a formal press briefing, had reported that the decision to stop wasn't made by Captain Crozier. The decision had been made higher up in the chain of command.

Yesterday morning, it didn't take long for us to locate this information. When we did, we thought of the famous statement by Joseph Welch during the Army-McCarthy hearings:

"At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

In the case of President Trump, the answer routinely seems to be no. That said, we'll quickly say, as we've said before, that it probably isn't his "fault."

We have no idea if the commander-in-chief knows that the decision to stop was apparently made by the INDOPACOM Commander, not by Captain Crozier. That said, anyone who has watched the commander over the years will understand a basic fact:

Almost surely, the commander would have said what he said, and done what he did, without regard to any such knowledge or facts. This is the way the commander behaves—and relentless behavior of this type fits nicely with the Mayo Clinic's list of symptoms.

Starting tomorrow, we'll compare the Mayo Clinics's list to the president's behavior last Saturday. Did he ever go as much as two minutes without seeming to trigger a diagnosis of a serious disorder?

His behavior was wildly disordered during that hour and 44 minutes. It's long past time when rational players would be discussing, in careful ways, what his behavior may mean.

We'll discuss the Mayo Clinic's list of symptoms tomorrow. For today, we tip our hat to the New York Times for publishing this morning's column by Jennifer Senior, whose work we've recommended in the past.

At long last, the Times is publishing someone saying what needs to be said. Senior's column starts like this:
SENIOR (4/6/20): Since the early days of the Trump administration, an impassioned group of mental health professionals have warned the public about the president’s cramped and disordered mind, a darkened attic of fluttering bats. Their assessments have been controversial. The American Psychiatric Association’s code of ethics expressly forbids its members from diagnosing a public figure from afar.

Enough is enough....[T]hese are exceptional, urgent times.
Enough is enough, Senior says. APA guidelines to the side, it's time to start discussing the president's psychiatric state—his possible psychiatric disorder, the state of his mental health.

Senior continues as shown:
SENIOR (continuing directly): Back in October, George T. Conway III, the conservative lawyer and husband of Kellyanne, wrote a long, devastating essay for The Atlantic, noting that Trump has all the hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder. That disorder was dangerous enough during times of prosperity, jeopardizing the moral and institutional foundations of our country.

But now we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. The president’s pathology is endangering not just institutions, but lives.
Senior is advancing one possible diagnosis. Starting tomorrow, we'll be advancing another.

It should be noted that George Conway isn't a mental health professional. Neither is Senior, nor are we at this site.

Other people are such specialists, and they've long been disappeared within the upper-end press corps. But at long last, the New York Times is publishing work which says we need to discuss the possibility that our disordered, sarcastic commander in chief is psychiatrically impaired.

More than two years ago, the editorial board of the Times shut down this nascent discussion through this ill-advised editorial. Today, Senior says that this discussion must proceed.

People are dying, Senior notes. "These are exceptional, urgent times."

Jennifer Senior has gotten it right. At long last, does the press corps have the decency, not to mention the smarts, to listen to what she has said?

Tomorrow: The Mayo Clinic's list. Also, notes on prevalence

BREAKING: An astonishing guest is terrified!


Elsewhere, the daily fail:
Along the way, we've come to admire Nicholas Kristof's devotion to human values.

Along the way, we sometimes thought he had a tendency toward a few types of mistakes. To cite one example, we thought he tended to accept, no questions asked, the standard presentations of "educational experts" in ways which didn't help.

We've come to admire his devotion. That said, we were balled by this passage from this Thursday's column:
KRISTOF (4/2/20): It’s baffling that the richest country in the history of the world fails so abysmally at protecting its health workers, especially when it had two months’ lead time. And for hospitals now to retaliate against health workers who try to protect themselves—ousting them just when they are most needed—is both unconscionable and idiotic.
We're not sure why that's baffling.

Why are we failing to protect our health workers? For starters, we'd offer the most obvious reason:

We have a deeply disordered person in the Oval Office. There's every chance that, at the end of the psychiatric day, he doesn't actually care.

We also have a widely disordered intellectual and journalistic culture. Anthropologically speaking, this may simply be part of "the human condition." But the way our journalistic culture is working hasn't helped.

As part of our journalistic culture, our major news orgs have agreed--we mustn't discuss the possibility that President Trump is severely disordered.

By the fall of 2017, Yale's Bandy X. Lee was trying to launch that discussion. With this editorial, the New York Times shut her effort down.

It's true that any attempt to conduct that discussion would have been beyond the upper-end press corps' extremely modest skill level. But this is part of our journalistic and intellectual culture. It helps explain the remarkable segment we saw Don Lemon conduct last night.

Lemon introduced two guests. Here's how he described them:
LEMON (4/3/20): New York City has become ground zero for the outbreak in this country. Residents reporting almost constant sirens. In just the last day, more than 6,500 new cases were reported, along with over 300 deaths. Just the past day.

So, joining me now, two New York heroes, Dr. Laura Ucik, and also Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez. She is an E.R. nurse and the president of the New York State Nurses association.

I'm so grateful to have both of you on this evening. Let me just thank you right off for what you're doing. And don't tell me that you're not heroes, because you indeed are.
We'll admit it. Our failure to protect such people is so extreme that we find it cloying to see them introduced as heroes. In our view, their devotion to duty takes them beyond the realm for which the rest of us have developed words.

We don't mean that as a criticism of Lemon, who skillfully conducted a remarkable segment about an ongoing state of disgrace.

We'll start with the exchange shown below. Sheridan-Gonzalez had just finished reporting that some nurses at her hospital have already died as a result of their work with coronavirus patients:
LEMON: You've been experiencing coronavirus symptoms yourself. How are you feeling?

SHERIDAN-GONZALEZ: I'm OK now. I just want to see if I have antibodies. My test was negative. There is a lot of false negatives. But we're hoping to get the antibodies test to see if we have some kind of resistance. I think that would be helpful.

It doesn't necessarily protect us completely, but it seems to perhaps give us a little bit of immunity, because our colleagues are exhausted. You know, we started off being concerned. The concern turned to worry. The worry turned to fear and then to abject terror. And now we're just almost numb. Many of us are ill. We're still trying to work. But the need for protective equipment is essential.
Moments later, Lemon asked an excellent question:
LEMON: Why do you continue to go put your own life in danger? I know you're speaking on behalf of nurses throughout the New York area.

SHERIDAN-GONZALEZ: Correct. Yes. We go in. Nurses do what they do because that's what we have to do. This—we're like the Normandy of this viral invasion. We are on the front lines. We have had casualties. We hope we'll win.
In our view, this kind of devotion lies somewhere beyond the reach of our language and our common conceptions. When Lemon turned to Dr, Ucik, this point became even more clear:
LEMON (continuing directly): Dr. Ucik, you are 28 years old. You're writing your last will and testament. How concerned are you about your health?

UCIK: I'm absolutely terrified. We had people in their 20s die in our hospital this past week. And I realized when that happened that I also might not survive this pandemic. And it's really been a reckoning for me.

I wrote out my wishes. I spoke with my family. I've cried a lot this week.
But, you know, this pandemic is something that is affecting everyone, and nobody is really safe from coronavirus.

I think about what it would be like to be in a prison right now or in a nursing home...
To our eye and ear, Dr. Ucik seemed like a superb young person—almost unimaginably so. In our assessment, the quality of such devotion is almost baffling in itself, given the moral and intellectual squalor which obtains and largely goes unchallenged in so many other precincts.

She's 28, and she's made out her will. To our eye and ear, it seemed plain that she wasn't exaggerating the state of her personal fear. But she keeps going in.

For us, her personal affect as she spoke was striking and instructive. We think her second exchange with Lemon is also worth recording:
LEMON: You know, Doctor, a lot of people are getting restless under these social distancing guidelines and these stay-at-home orders. What is your message to people who say that I don't know anyone with this virus? My community will never be anything like a New York. I don't think we need this stay at home guidelines. What do you say to them?

UCIK: You know, I felt that way too, a few weeks ago, when I had friends over, and I realize now how serious this is, both on a personal level—

I had patients who I saw in the office, you know, a week and a half ago, and they were fine, and now they're dead. And the major financial impact for many of my patients and my community at large.

One of my coworkers who is a doctor recently had to PayPal a patient rent money so that the patient could stay home and not risk her life by going to work. So my patients, they're losing their lives. They're losing their jobs. They're losing their homes, and they need basic supports right now like eviction, rent support, income protections.

Those things are just as important as the kinds of protections that Judy and I are asking for, like masks and gowns, because this is something that we're all in together.
Ucik and Sheridan-Gonzalez are asking for masks and gowns. Dr. Ucik makes this request at age 28, even as she writes her will and makes her wishes known to her family.

And as she keeps going in.

Dr. Ucik is asking for masks and gowns. Is it baffling that a situation like this could be taking place here?

We'd say it isn't baffling. What's striking to us is the contrast—the contrast between this kind of devotion and the sorts of behavior we see in other precincts.

Commander Trump's daily briefings marvels of misdirection and aggressive blame-shifting. Quite routinely, if it weren't for the non-answer answers, there would be no answers at all.

The habitual refusal to answer straightforward questions extends beyond the reach of the president's long-winded campaign monologues. Consider an exchange from Thursday's prime-time event, which started with a reference to the commander's latest (negative) test for coronavirus.

The question was quite straightforward. The non-answer answer was not:
REPORTER 1 (4/2/20): Dr. Birx, with regard to the test, the president’s sample collection took one minute, results reported back in 15 minutes. I realize [he's] the president of the United States, but when will everyone get to take a test that works that quickly and you get results that quickly?

BIRX: So, these are new tests and we have prioritized the groups that we think have the least access to testing now. And who do we mean by that?

We mean the Indian Health Service—they’re often in remote areas; rural areas; the governors of the northwestern states that may not have the advantage of these high-throughput machines that are often across the East Coast and in high metro areas—Colorado—and then across the West Coast.

So we’ve prioritized the presidential 15-minute test to the Indian Health Services and public health labs so that they can support nursing home testing and other areas where we think surveillance is absolutely key. So at this moment they’re prioritized in that way.

TRUMP: It’s thirteen to twelve hundred.

BIRX: Yes, twelve hundred of them are going out that way.
The question was quite straightforward. Can you find an answer in the non-response response?

To her credit, the reporter attempted to follow up. The official White House transcript helps us see the futility in such attempts:
REPORTER 1 (continuing directly): So do more of those tests need to be made in order for more people—

TRUMP: They are being made.

BIRX: Yeah.

REPORTER 1: Okay. So in a matter of—

TRUMP: They’re moving very quickly—it’s happening—in this case.

BIRX: So I’m glad you asked that because, today, there’s 18,000 of these machines already out there. We’re trying to find out exactly where everyone is because you can see that gives you amazing flexibility. Because if people would allow it to be loaned to a state that’s in a hotspot or a state where you want to do additional surveillance, 18,000 tests, 18,000 machines, is a huge amount. And it really gets to your very question about how we can prioritize what we have at the same time we’re moving out what is new.

And so really figuring out who should those go to, how—who can we ask communities—because these will be in the community—to share those machines into the community who need the testing now. And I think that’s really an incredible question that really needs to be answered over the next 24 hours.
Reporter 1 was interrupted twice as she tried to restate her question. That said:

Even as Dr. Birx expressed her pleasure with the reporter's very question, can you find an answer to that question? When will everyone get such tests? Can you find an answer?

Reporter 1's simple question had been met with a string on non-answers. And sure enough! At this point, the press corps' greatest gods, Scattershot and Look Over Here, imposed their will on this reporter's effort:
REPORTER 2 (continuing directly): Dr. Birx, a point of clarity about the face-covering guidance. You said it’s still a point of debate. You said—you used the phrase, “the guidance, if it comes out.” Is the guidance coming out? And when?
Instead of insisting on an answer to Reporter 1's question, Reporter 2 returned to the topic of masks.

The press corps has loved the topic of masks because it's so simple-minded and easy to picture that even they can grasp it. So it has gone, down through the years, with so many other topics:

Who would you like to have a beer with? What's up with that clothing and hair?

Scattershot and Look Over Here control large swaths of our non-discourse discourse. We think of scattershot congressional hearings, in which each member has to get on TV. We think of press "briefings" like this.

Given our species' state of evolution, we live with this familiar behavior as if it makes sense. Meanwhile, walking among us are Don Lemon's guests.

Is it baffling that we aren't protecting Sheridan-Gonzalez and Ucik? Major anthropologists keep telling us that it's actually par for the course.

It's bred in the bone, these despondent future experts say. Our species contains quite a few Trumps, then ever so slowly works its way up to the level of Lemon's astonishing guests.

We saw Lemon's segment in rerun in the 3 AM hour. We're glad we happened to catch it.

BREAKING: Commander salutes a consummate pro!


Pence refuses to flinch:
Let's be fair! Commander Trump's daily marathon briefings do serve an important purpose.

Sure, they serve his political interests. But they serve a much more serious purpose—they keep us rubes well informed.

Cable suits keep airing these shows to serve this public interest. At yesterday's briefing, to cite one example, the public got to learn this:
TRUMP (4/2/20): One other thing, just a quick thing. So, what I've found is when governors called me, I think in every case they’ve always been so nice, so nice and I’ve seen them and heard them say, “Thank you, very much. You have done a great job"—a "fantastic" job in one case—"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Then I’ll see the governor, usually of the opposite party in almost all cases except maybe one, but in almost all cases they’re very generous. They’re very nice. They thank me, everything’s great. We’re doing a great job. And then I’ll see him on television and it’s like a different person.

And I realize there are some people, because of politics, that if they say, “We want a thousand ventilators” and I’ll say, “No, Jim. I want to give you five thousand ventilators," they’ll say, “Thank you. You are the greatest president that’s ever lived.”

And then I’ll see them quoted in a paper, or see them on a show, and they’ll say, “The president didn’t come through for me. I’m very disappointed in the president.”

And we have a lot of that. They’re very happy when they talk to me.
Then I see them. But there are some people, if they asked for give hundred of something and if I gave him five thousand, you’ll say, “How’s the president doing?” “Well, we don’t like the job.”

To my face they’re very nice. But, then sometimes, I guess they assume I don’t watch them or something, but I watch very closely.
In such ways, the people learn about their Dear Leader's daily experience. We're allowed to learn what the governors say—what they say to Dear Leader in private.

He gives them ten times what they want. Then they go out and trash him!

This is important information; the people need to know this. The cable suits keep these marathon shows on the air in prime time to serve this key public interest.

The airing of these daily shows also provides a type of anthropology lesson. We learn about the intellectual horizons of our species, Homo sapiens, in this first Year of the Plague, at least on the upper ends of prevailing American culture.

We learn what kinds of exchanges make sense to those in our upper-end press corps. We learn what kinds of behaviors they can swallow without any questions asked.

What looks like a real exchange to members of this upper-end caste? What will be taken as an "answer" after they have offered a question?

Within the realm of these upper-end players, what kinds of behavior will seem to fall within the unremarkable range? What kinds of behaviors will come and go without any further comment?

What counts as a sensible Q-and-A? What counts as information? Consider what happened at Wednesday's briefing when John Roberts, he of Fox News, asked a very good question, then refused to accept the response.

Roberts is a Canadian-born, non-Hannity, semi-hunk anchor type. He worked for CBS News, then for CNN, before he landed at Fox.

He sits up front at the daily briefings. The commander calls on him a lot. On Wednesday, he asked a good question. His question went like this:
ROBERTS (4/1/20): There are a lot of people who are worried about getting sick, and do they end up in a hospital. People who are uninsured, and will they be crushed by medical bills.

You were considering
, last month—it was last month already, in March—reopening the Healthcare.gov exchanges. There has been a determination not to do that. Could you tell us what the rationale was behind that decision and what—what do you have as an alternative?
For basic background to this question, you can just click here. Sample:

"The option to reopen markets, in what is known as a special enrollment period, would have made it easier for people who have recently lost jobs or who had already been uninsured to obtain health insurance."

People who are losing their jobs could obtain health insurance! The commander had decided not to adopt that policy.

Now, John Roberts was asking why. This was Trump's response:
TRUMP (continuing directly): I’ll tell you—Mike?

Okay. They took that up under the task force, and maybe, Mike, you want to say a few word about this—words about that?
Skillfully delegating, the commander threw to Pence. As seen above, the leader tends to save his own words for matters of major importance.

Vice President Pence made his way to the mike. He set sail as shown:
PENCE (continuing directly): Well, thank you, Mr. President. And what I can tell you is that the president has made a priority, from the outset of our task force work, to make sure every American knows that they can have a coronavirus and they don’t have to worry about the cost.

We were very inspired as well, because of the president’s engagement with the leading health insurance companies
in the country that now—so far, two of the top health insurance companies in America have announced that they’re not only willing to waive co-pays on testing, and now testing is fully covered because of the bill the president signed for every American.
According to Pence, everyone is now covered for the cost of testing (if they're able to get it). There had been some other "very inspiring" stuff. So far, though, Pence hadn't said anything about the question Roberts asked.

This is thoroughly normal behavior at these highly informative briefings. But for some reason, Roberts had a bug up his ascot this day. For that reason, the big hunk said this:
"But what about people who don’t have insurance?"
Oh yeah! The question Roberts had asked concerned people who don't have insurance! Thus refreshed, Vice President Pence set sail again, this time at major length:
PENCE (continuing directly): But also, that these two insurance companies have waived co-pays on all coronavirus treatment. And I can assure you that as Congress and the president and the administration begin to discuss the next piece of legislation, we’re going to make sure that Americans have those costs compensated and covered.

Our priority right now is ensuring that every American takes the “30 Days to Slow the Spread” to heart. The best thing we can do for one another, for our family’s health, for the most vulnerable among us, is practice those mitigation strategies that the president outlined yesterday for the next 30 days.

We’re dealing with testing to make sure that every American can have a test that needs one. We’re dealing—we’re dealing with supplies, and we’re making great progress in building personal protective equipment and ensuring that ventilators are available, particularly for the communities most impacted.

But the American people can be confident that as we move into this, we’re going to make sure that our healthcare workers are properly compensated for their extraordinary and courageous work. And we’ll make sure that the financial burden on those who end up contracting the coronavirus and dealing with its most serious symptoms also can deal with those issues and deal with those costs.
Once again, it was inspiring stuff. But in this second bite at the apple, Pence dealt with mitigation and testing and ventilators and the courage of our health care workers.

He didn't seal with Roberts' question. Danged if the fellow from Fox didn't haul off and do it again!
ROBERTS (continuing directly): Understood, Mr. Vice President. But there will be people who don’t have insurance who get sick before any of these mitigation efforts are put into place. And without opening the healthcare exchanges, where can they find insurance? The people who aren’t insured by these companies that are covering the cost of the co-pay, where can people go now to get health insurance if they get sick—before they're sick?
Simply put, this sort of thing is never done. It simply isn't part of our floundering nation's scattershot, low-comprehension press culture.

Like a Westworld refugee, Roberts was breaking the rules. In the face of this malfunction, Pence displayed the professionalism the commander in chief would soon praise:
PENCE (continuing directly): Well, all across America, we have Medicaid for underprivileged Americans. And at the president’s direction, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services has given unprecedented waivers for states to expand coverage for coronavirus testing and treatment.

We’ve also extended waivers for Medicare administration to make sure that people have access to that coverage. But we’re going to continue to bring opportunities to the president. The traditional systems of Medicaid, in particular, for the uninsured in America—
At this point, the malfunctioning Fox machine broke in on the speaker again! Initially, he almost allowed himself to be misdirected. But then, he got himself back on track, and actual sparring ensued:
ROBERTS (continuing directly): Could you expand that to cover middle-class people?

PENCE: Well, the—I think what we’re seeing health insurance companies do today, John, is really inspiring. I mean, one of the things—

ROBERTS: But, again, Mr. Vice President—

PENCE: One of the things that’s characterized—

ROBERTS: I’m sorry to belabor a point, but that’s for people who

PENCE: —the president’s approach here—

ROBERTS: That’s for people who already have insurance.
He was sorry to belabor the point; doing so is an offense to the culture. But Trump's designee kept discussing people who already have insurance. Roberts' question concerned those people who don't.

From there, Pence delivered one more peroration. He again discussed the inspiring conduct of American business under the president's leadership.

(Sample: "As the president said many times, we’re, we’re inspired by the spirit of American businesses...And, frankly, because of that, that patriotic and compassionate spirit that’s being reflected, we’ve already seen two of the largest insurance companies in the country announce that they’re going to be providing full coverage, free of charge, for coronavirus treatment.")

Pence was back to the way (two) insurance companies were providing free coverage. Were providing free coverage for those who are already insured!

This had gone on, and on and on, for a very long time now. Roberts' behavior had been very odd, but Vice President Pence hadn't lost his temper, the way Roberts hoped he would.

Roberts had broken every rule in prevailing upper-end press corps culture! At this point, the Dearest Leader of all stepped in with his wise assessment.

Th wisest and dearest of all known leaders praised the vice president's work. He chuckled as he did so, with Pence's face growing tight:
TRUMP: John, I think this: I think it’s a very fair question though, and it’s something we’re really going to look at because it doesn’t seem fair. If you have it, you have a big advantage. And at certain income level you do.

I think it’s one of the greatest answers I’ve ever heard, because Mike was able to speak for five minutes and not even touch your question.

So I said—I said, that’s what you call a great professional.

But let me just tell you, you really are—it’s really a fair question and it’s something we’re looking at.
Dear Leader wisely stopped the exchange. In his assessment, Vice President Pence had given "one of the greatest answers [the commander had] ever heard."

Pence had been able to speak for five minutes without even touching the question! "That’s what you call a great professional," our cable-anointed dispenser of important information now said.

The cable nets air these briefings in prime time so we can be thus served. We get to learn about the way the nation's governors treat the commander. If one of the machines malfunctions, we get to see our great professionals keep such bad conduct in check.

The people who run the cable networks air these marathons in prime time. As a matter of anthropology, the sessions are highly instructive.

Something somewhat similar:
In our view, something somewhat similar happened at Tuesday's briefing. As we noted in this post, one of the supporting players had asked a sensible question:
QUESTION (3/31/20): Can I just ask a follow up testing question, real quick, before we move on?

So the testing numbers—I understand a million tests [have been] done; it’s a big increase. But we were told there would be 27 million tests available by the end of the month.

So can you outline where in the supply chain, where in the logistics chain, are those other 26?
Where are the 26 million missing tests?

In our view, it could have been the start of a wonderful discussion! While saying she wanted to be "real quick," the reporter had asked a fairly good question.

Once again, the commander threw to Pence. Once again Pence staged an oration. He started with these fateful words:

"Just for clarification..."

To our ear, the clarification which followed was deeply obscure. Beyond that, it wandered away from the obvious gist of the question, in which the reporter suggested that the administration has made an array of "promises, promises" which they haven't come close to keeping.

Pence's response was deeply obscure. It led us away from the gist of the question. But to our ear, the reporter didn't behave like Roberts.

To our ear, she bought into the obscurification Pence had delivered. The exchange was over "real quick."

Cable suits air this mess in prime time. When they do, we learn about the present state of the species.