As do normalization, indifference: Even after the apparent suspension of the commander's nightly "briefings," the crazily inaccurate statements continue.
Yesterday, the commander did a press avail with New Jersey's governor, Phil Murphy. Luckily, it wasn't nationally televised during prime time, with millions of people listening to wildly inaccurate statements.
That said, the Q-and-A was still highly disordered. Once the brief Q-and-A began, the commander launched his trademark Ventilator Monologue.
Here's how the nonsense began:
TRUMP (4/30/20): I think our whole group has been spectacular. We had ventilators; we didn’t have any. We built them. We have thousands—tens of thousands are right now under construction. And we’ve given—as Phil said, you got, I think, more ventilators than anybody in the United States.According to President Trump, now that we don't actually need them, we have tens of thousands of additional ventilators under construction. Also, we now have so many masks, we don't know what to do with them!
MURPHY: I believe that’s correct.
TRUMP: New Jersey needed them very badly.
TRUMP: And there was never a person that needed a ventilator that didn’t get one in any state. Not one person that needed a ventilator. So we didn’t say, “He didn’t get a ventilator and somebody passed away. Somebody didn’t make it.”
Now, we had a mask problem. Now we have so many masks we don’t know what to do with them. We had a big problem. And you have to understand: When we took over, the cupboards were bare.
Is that second statement accurate? We ask for the following reason:
Roughly one month ago, the upper-end press corps spilled with reports about shortages of personal protection equipment for our heath care workers. That included shortages of various kinds of masks, including N-95 masks.
According to the commander, we now have so many masks that we don't know what to do with them. But is that claim accurate?
For ourselves, we have no idea. In our experience, our big news orgs dropped this topic weeks ago, never to go there again.
Last night, we saw several medical workers on cable news shows referring to ongoing shortages of PPE. Do widespread shortages still exist? The topic was hot a month ago, but it has largely disappeared from cable news and from our major newspapers.
We're left with the things we hear from Trump—and yesterday, as he continued, he was soon saying this:
TRUMP (continuing from above): And you have to understand: When we took over, the cupboards were bare. And the thing that—frankly, it’s not as tough as the ventilator situation. We’re the king of ventilators. But what we have done is—on testing, we’re doing numbers the likes of which nobody has ever seen before.Again, the president repeated the bogus claim about our doing more tests than the rest of the world combined. This drew an instant "Pants on Fire" from PolitiFact, but it was rated as "Officially Normalized" by our major news orgs, who no longer treat repeated obvious groaning misstatements as significant news events.
And I told you, the president of South Korea, President Moon, called me to congratulate me on testing. And we did more tests than any other country anywhere in the world. And I think they told me yesterday a number—if you add up the rest of the world, we’ve done more testing. And it’s a higher quality test.
The president wasn't done. Before another question could be asked, he returned to this:
TRUMP: Let me just tell you, we have—we started off with empty cupboards. The last administration left us nothing. We started off with bad, broken tests and obsolete tests.A bit of towel-snapping repartee ensued. But Trump's claim about the empty cupboard and the broken tests triggered the day's second question.
What we’ve come up with, between the Abbott Laboratories, where you have the five-minute test. Did they test you today?
MURPHY: They did test me.
TRUMP: Good. Now I feel better. (Laughter.)
A reporter asked a very familiar question. See if you can find an actual answer to the highlighted part of his query:
REPORTER: But the Obama administration—people from the Obama administration would disagree on your assessment that the cupboards were bare. They said that there was equipment in the national stockpile—Did Trump really mean that Obama had left him a "broken test" for the coronavirus? His endless statements about "broken tests" have never quite seemed to make sense.
TRUMP: Well—well— I know, Jim. Let me just tell you—I—that’s fine.
REPORTER: —and as for, you say, "broken tests," it’s a new virus. So how could the test be broken when you needed a new test?
TRUMP: We had a broken—Jim, we had broken tests. We had tests that were obsolete. We had tests that didn’t take care of people.
Yesterday, a reporter actually asked! What you see was Trump's complete answer to the rather obvious question about the "broken tests" for the virus which didn't yet exist. He simply repeated what he had said. "Jim, we had broken tests!"
Things continued on from there during the relatively short Q-and-A session. In some ways, things got worse.
Luckily, this wasn't televised for two solid hours during prime time, exposing millions of people to all sorts of bogus assertions as the nation's major news orgs normalized this manifestly crazy behavior.
And make no mistake, this behavior has been normalized by our high-end orgs. Cable channels scrambled to broadcast this manifest lunacy every night for more than a month. Major orgs like the Post and the Times have long since come to ignore the president's endless array of misstatements.
In fairness, it would take a substantial amount of effort to record and report his many misstatements on a daily basis. That said, no president in American history has ever behaved this strangely.
Our big news orgs, and our major journalists, have never cared a whole lot about facts. But should they care if our sitting president seems to be out of his mind?
Our question, and it's important:
Is it true? Do we now have so many protective masks for our health care workers that we don't know what to do with them? Have our various PPE problems actually been resolved?
That's what the commander-in-chief seemed to tell a bunch of reporters. Was his statement true?
For ourselves, we don't have the slightest idea whether the statement was true or false. The topic in question has run its course. Does anyone actually care?