But also, his self-assessment: For American president Donald J. Trump, it was "just another manic Wednesday."
In his prepared remarks at yesterday's foreshortened briefing, the commander declared that "what's coming out of" the Voice of America is, in fact, "disgusting."
He threatened to use his (imagined) constitutional authority "to adjourn both chambers of Congress," saying that what the Congress is doing "is a scam, and everyone knows it."
Renewing an announcement from the day before, he said that he's suspending funding to the World Health Organization, "pending a review of the organization’s cover-up in mismanagement of the coronavirus outbreak."
Regarding the Paycheck Protection Program, he said the program "has saved millions of American jobs. It’s been an incredible success and they want to replenish it now, but again, the Democrats don’t want to do that."
The president was pushing back against scams and cover-ups and disgusting behavior. Later, in a brief Q-and-A period, he performed a heroic adaptation of his claim that "the cupboard was bare" when he came into office.
He declared that, like the WHO, the World Trade Organization has been "treating the United States for decades so badly, and they’ve been so in favor of China." He closed with a rambling rant about the WHO, during which he said such things as these:
TRUMP (4/15/20): I feel very badly about the World Health Organization, but it's been a tool of China. It's been, as I say, totally China-centric. You take a look at everything that's happened.We're a developing nation too! Meanwhile, what's happened at the WHO is a disgrace.
China took off when it joined the World Trade Organization because of what's happened. Think of it! They're considered a developing nation? And because they're a developing—and we're not! But we're a developing nation too in my book. Okay, we're developing too.
But the fact is, we have been treated so badly by these organizations, and believe me, I'm looking at that one too. We're winning a lot of lawsuits right now that we never won before in the past. We're winning a lot of money that we never won in the past. That's with the World Trade. But with the World Health Organization, what's happened there is a disgrace.
You know what we do in Africa, with AIDS, people have no idea what we do and the money we spend...Nobody talks about it. Nobody gives us credit. We do that, and we do it very directly. But we're spending billions of dollars to help people live, all over the world. But we're spending $500 million to the World Health Organization, and there's something very bad going on. And you know what? I've gotten very much involved. It's been going on for a long period of time, and we don't want to be the suckers anymore.
We don't want to be the suckers any more. Nobody gives us credit!
So far, we're just scraping the surface of the remarks made on this manic Wednesday. That said, we've long recommended pity for this apparently disordered man, and we do so again today.
That said, his weirdest comments yesterday weren't the ones we've already cited. For our money, yesterday's weirdest presentation was the familiar monologue shown below.
This familiar monologue concerned our tariffs on goods from China. It followed a presentation by agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue:
TRUMP: Before the vice president comes up, I just wanted to say, speaking of Sonny, China has paid us billions of dollars. Many, many billions of dollars in tariffs, which we’ve distributed some to the farmers, because they were targeted. We have many billions of dollars being held by Sonny, and I’ve told him to distribute much of that money to the farmers. Our farmers were targeted, and now they’re benefiting by the amount that they were targeted, and we are very honored to do that.Once again, for the ten millionth time, the commander baldly misstated the basic nature of tariffs. As everyone knows, no money is "taken from China" in connection with our tariffs.
Sonny, you’re going to start that process very soon. You’ll let the farmers know. Nobody can take advantage of our farmers, so we have a lot of money that we’ve taken in from China. We’re going to be distributing that money from Sonny to the farmers, and there’s tremendous money over at above that.
That money was paid directly into the treasury of the United States. This has never happened to China before. They never gave us 25 cents. Now they’re paying us billions of dollars, and we appreciate it.
This obvious point has been fact-checked again and again, dating at least to April 2019. But Trump won't stop repeating this claim, which he presents as another aspect of his unparalleled greatness.
The president won't stop with this ridiculous claim. Our journalists stare as he makes it. The sheer absurdity of this "forever misstatement" stands as a marker of our second massive national problem in this, the first year of the plague.
In fairness, the American press corps is confronted with a massive problem in the person of President Trump. His misstatements are endless and vast, as is his free-floating sense of personal grievance.
In the face of this massive problem, high-end reporters sit supine and somnolent, every day, at his ludicrous daily briefings. CNN's Kaitlan Collins continues to press for actual answers to actual questions. The other journalists sit and stare, then offer a scattershot array of frequently pointless questions.
Their news orgs also display a striking inability to focus, a stunning willingness to work as enablers by refusing to discuss matters which are blindingly obvious.
Donald J. Trump staged a manic Wednesday, much like the Monday and Tuesday before it. By way of contrast, Nicholas Kristof presents a beautiful column in today's New York Times.
Kristof writes about the WHO, the president's latest villain. As with Ron Klain, so too here—Kristof notes the shortcomings of the organization, while giving a detailed account of its work around the world.
What's beautiful about Kristof's column? There's beauty in the ability to care about matters like these:
KRISTOF (4/16/20): Many Americans know nothing about the W.H.O., but its worldwide budget (of which the United States pays about one-fifth) is less than that of some American hospital centers. Yet it is charged with fighting Ebola and polio, saving children’s lives and keeping the world safe from pandemics like this one.There's beauty in the ability to care about matters like those. There's also beauty in Kristof's knowledge, especially in his personal knowledge—in the fact that he has been present, on the ground, to see people losing their lives, but also to see lives saved.
I’ve known the W.H.O.’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for almost 20 years and have had disagreements with him, largely over his accommodation of dictators. But I have deeply admired his passion for battling malaria, malnutrition and maternal mortality, and I’ve seen his work save lives. Growing up in Ethiopia, he lost a younger brother, Yemaine, apparently to measles, and that left him with a deep commitment to improve health care access.
The W.H.O. is bureaucratic, frustrating, timid—and indispensable. No other organization can fill its international role overseeing the fight against disease. It has battled an outbreak of Ebola since last year in Congo, and that’s one reason we haven’t had Ebola cases in the United States.
Every day, the W.H.O. saves lives. It has promoted safe childbirth, and the number of women dying in childbirth has been cut almost in half over 25 years. It fights female genital mutilation and helps women with obstetric fistula. It is struggling to eliminate cervical cancer. It is part of the campaign against polio.
If I seem angry, it’s because I’ve seen too many women dying in childbirth in poor countries, too many children dying of diarrhea, too much leprosy. Gutting the W.H.O. would mean more kids dying of malnutrition, more moms dying of cervical cancer, and the coronavirus infecting more people in more countries—impairing the pandemic response, which may well cost even more American lives.
Consider Director Tedros. Very few living Americans have lost a younger sibling to measles. Polio faded from American nightmares during the 1950s. There isn't a whole lot of leprosy here at this point in time.
That said, do those other lives matter? Kristof is saying they do. Along the way, he says the WHO actually has "been too cozy with China." He also says that the WHO, as part of its daily activity, is actually saving lives.
We were struck by the beauty of the values in Kristof's column. We were surprised by the self-assessment which came very late in his piece.
"If I seem angry," Kristof wrote—and her hadn't seemed angry to us at all. To us, that surprising self-assessment seemed highly instructive.
Tomorrow, we'll return to the slumbering, supine figures who populate the president's daily non-briefing briefings. We'll attempt to list some things the upper-end press corps could and should do in response to the pandemic of mental disorder which emanates, on a daily basis, from our commander in chief.
We admire Kristof's values. Regarding the wider press corps, are our upper-end reporters and our upper-end news orgs even capable of anger? Are they capable of being angry about the right things?
We recommend pity for Donald J. Trump. We recommend a termination of somnolence concerning his blatant disorders.
Tomorrow: Endless upper-end enabling versus respect for the truth