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.”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.
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.
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.For basic background to this question, you can just click here. Sample:
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?
"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?Skillfully delegating, the commander threw to Pence. As seen above, the leader tends to save his own words for matters of major importance.
Okay. They took that up under the task force, and maybe, Mike, you want to say a few word about this—words about that?
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.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.
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.
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.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.
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.
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.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:
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—
ROBERTS (continuing directly): Could you expand that to cover middle-class people?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.
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.
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.Dear Leader wisely stopped the exchange. In his assessment, Vice President Pence had given "one of the greatest answers [the commander had] ever heard."
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.
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?Where are the 26 million missing tests?
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?
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.