Not on his mental condition, not on his craziest claims: What has kept President Trump from fully confronting the virus?
In this morning's Washington Post, Parker and Rucker attempt to consider that question. In paragraph 5, they offer this portrait of the way the commander's head works:
PARKER AND RUCKER (7/28/20): People close to Trump, many speaking on the condition of anonymity to share candid discussions and impressions, say the president’s inability to wholly address the crisis is due to his almost pathological unwillingness to admit error; a positive feedback loop of overly rosy assessments and data from advisers and Fox News; and a penchant for magical thinking that prevented him from fully engaging with the pandemic.Yikes! According to the Post's reporters, Trump has one important tendency which is "almost pathological." Another part of the mental mix is "a penchant for magical thinking."
Let's be fair! The two reporters may have been speaking metaphorically when they penned those assessments. It may not have occurred to them that they were discussing traits which might call for analysis from medical or psychological experts.
You'll admit that we're being fair! Elsewhere, though, the Post's Michael Kranish interviews Mary Trump and steers around her semi-diagnoses of her uncle's possible pathologies. It seems to us that Kranish is playing by the traditional rules, in which you can't discuss the psychiatric state of a major pol, even of a major pol who plainly seems to have one.
The press is never going to consult with medical specialists about Donald Trump's mental condition. Then too, we note the way Parker and Rucker fail to confront his latest crazy claims—the crazy claims about the way our mortality rate is declining and is also the best in the world.
Parker and Rucker still aren't ready to deal with these ludicrous claims. The problem begins with this passage:
PARKER AND RUCKER: White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews defended the president’s handling of the [coronavirus] crisis, saying he acted “early and decisively.”Sad! In fact, there is no decline, encouraging or otherwise, in the U.S. mortality rate. If we're using that term in the way any normal person would, the U.S. mortality rate has been rocketing upwards over the past four weeks.
“The president has also led an historic, whole-of-America coronavirus response — resulting in 100,000 ventilators procured, sourcing critical PPE for our front-line heroes, and a robust testing regime resulting in more than double the number of tests than any other country in the world,” Matthews said in an email statement. “His message has been consistent and his strong leadership will continue as we safely reopen the economy, expedite vaccine and therapeutics developments, and continue to see an encouraging decline in the U.S. mortality rate.”
For some, however, the additional effort is too little and far too late.
Presumably, Matthews is referring to the "case fatality rate," a somewhat abstruse statistic which has little utility in the current general discussion.
Parker and Rucker simply accept her grossly inaccurate statement. They don't ask her what she's talking about, or challenge what she has said. Post readers may well assume that our mortality rate is declining.
Later, the reporters tackle the commander's utterly crazy claim, his claim that our mortality rate in the lowest in the world. They do assert that this claim is wrong, but that's as far as they get:
PARKER AND RUCKER: White House staffers have long made upbeat assessments and projections in an effort to satisfy the president. This, in turn, makes Trump further distrustful of the presentations of scientists and reports in the mainstream news media, according to his advisers and other people familiar with the president’s approach.Truly, that's astonishing. We're left with nothing but anthropology when a pair of high-end journos from Yale and Penn, one of them a Pulitzer winner, can't do better than that.
This dynamic was on display during an in-depth interview with “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace that aired July 19. After the president claimed the United States had one of the lowest coronavirus mortality rates in the world, Wallace interjected to fact-check him: “It’s not true, sir.”
Agitated by Wallace’s persistence, Trump turned off-camera to call for White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “Can you please get me the mortality rates?” he asked. Turning to Wallace, he said, “Kayleigh’s right here. I heard we have one of the lowest, maybe the lowest mortality rate anywhere in the world.”
Trump, relying on cherry-picked White House data, insisted that the United States was “number one low mortality fatality rates.”
Fox then interrupted the taped interview to air a voice-over from Wallace explaining that the White House chart showed Italy and Spain doing worse than the United States but countries like Brazil and South Korea doing better—and other countries that are doing better, including Russia, were not included on the White House chart. By contrast, worldwide data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows the U.S. mortality rate is far from the lowest.
For starters, the reporters somehow managed to misquote Trump's most significant statement. When McEnany handed him the data in question, he actually said this, as you can see on this tape at the 2:30 mark:
TRUMP: Number— Number one low mortality rate.It's hard to misreport something so basic, but the Post was up to the task. For the full transcript, click here.
Beyond that, Parker and Rucker settled for the standard mumbo-jumbo about Trump's lunatic claim.
They said the White House data were "cherry-picked," failing to explain or document their claim. They said that data from Johns Hopkins show that our mortality rate "is far from the lowest" in the world.
That's true, but they left it at that. How far from the lowest is our rate? They didn't bother to say.
How far from the lowest is our mortality rate? So far from the lowest that Trump's claim is insane. Here are the hottest new data:
Total deaths from coronavirus in the past weekIn terms of population, Japan is more than one-third our size; Germany is almost exactly one-fourth. In fact, our mortality rate is so far from the lowest that you can't see the lowest from here!
As of July 28:
United States: 7,105
South Korea: 4
Trump's ridiculous statement wasn't just wrong—it was batsh*t crazy, "this man must be insane" wrong. But nine days after that interview, star reporters like Parker and Rucker still don't know how to let readers understand that fact.
In this, we continue to see the mental state of our nation's top reporters. Despondent anthropologists mordantly tell us this:
Facts play almost no role in their world. Simply put, our floundering species just wasn't wired that way.
Also note this: According to Wallace, Italy and Spain "are doing worse than the United States."
We know what he may have meant. But go ahead—take a look at the data we've posted!
Wallace is a Harvard man. According to the early Dylan, it's one of "the finest schools!"