TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2020
But who do we liberals believe?: What did Donald Trump think or believe, and when did he think or believe it?
More specifically, what did he believe about the risks associated with the virus?
A standard answer came into being after release of the first excerpts from Bob Woodward's new book. Near the start of his new column, Paul Krugman presents that account:
KRUGMAN (9/15/20): [C]onsider the large (and illegal) indoor rally Trump held Sunday in Nevada.
Before the release of Bob Woodward’s new book, you might have argued that Trump doesn’t believe the science and didn’t realize that his event might well sicken and kill many people. But we now know that he’s well aware of the risks, and has been all along. He just doesn’t care.
Do we "now know" that Trump "is well aware of the risks" to the people who attend his rallies? Do we now know that he "just doesn’t care?"
We'd say that we do know those things—but also that we've known those things for a long time. We aren't sure that we could deduce those facts from Trump's remarks to Woodward back on February 7.
On that day, Trump told Woodward that the virus was five times as deadly as even the most strenuous flu. The heroic commander told the scribe that the virus "is deadly stuff."
(In fairness, he also said this—he said he thought that President Xi was "going to have it in good shape.")
Did Trump believe the things he said to Woodward when he said them? If he did, what might this crazy, disordered person have come to believe the next day?
Does a disordered person like Donald J. Trump ever really "believe" or "know" anything at all, in any conventional sense? And since he revels in misstatement, how can the rest of us actually know what the commander believes?
How can we actually know what he thinks? This morning, we give you an answer.
At his Nevada rally this past Sunday night, did Trump believe that people in the crowd could contract the virus and die? It seems fairly clear that he did believe that! As everyone with a TV machine has seen, he made these remarks to a local reporter in the aftermath of the event:
SAUNDERS (9/14/20): Trump said in his interview with the [Las Vegas] Review-Journal that he is not afraid of getting the coronavirus from speaking at the indoor rally.
“I’m on a stage and it’s very far away,” Trump said. “And so I’m not at all concerned.”
“I’m more concerned about how close you are, to be honest,” Trump told a Review-Journal reporter who thought she was socially distanced.
Later, when she told Trump she had tested negative earlier in the day, Trump mugged that he felt “100 percent better.”
Assuming he wasn't joking, Trump revealed what he thinks and believes in that real-time exchange.
He said he thinks he was safe that night because he was at a substantial remove from the madding crowd. Plainly, this means that his supporters could contract the virus, and die, if they were part of that crowd.
Elsewhere in this morning's Times, Annie Karni lays out the obvious logic of Trump's unguarded remarks. That said, it's long been obvious that Donald J. Trump believes that the virus is deadly.
We didn't need any excerpts from Woodward's book to say we "now knew" this fact. We've known that fact for a long time, based on the commander's astonishing conduct.
As has been widely reported, the commander has only interacted with other people after they've been tested for the virus. The obvious meaning of that procedure has always been perfectly clear.
For that reason, something else has long been clear. It's long been clear, if poorly explained, that the commander is willing to let his supporters get sick and die in service to his pursuit of re-election.
That even holds for the top supporters who crowded onto the White House lawn to hear the commander's masterful speech during the GOP convention. Granted, that was an outdoor event, but those believers sat together, crammed cheek to jowl, for something like three hours.
What else have we long known from behavior like this? Presumably, we've known know that the commander is some version of a sociopath—or at least, we've known he behaves in precisely the ways a sociopath typically would.
That said, we liberals rarely hear such matters discussed by the people we trust. Our journalists have agreed that such ruminations aren't fit for human ears.
Alas! We're all at the mercy of the sources we trust in all such public discussion. This is also true when it comes to the promulgation of false and mistaken belief.
Why in the world would Republican poobahs have sat on the White House lawn that night to hear the commander's speech? On Sunday, why did thousands of people crowd into that Nevada hall at risk of illness and death?
Tomorrow, we'll return to the man who told CNN's Jim Acosta that Covid-19 is a hoax designed to bring down the U.S. For background, see yesterday's report.
That particular Trump supporter seems to trust and believe the QAnon crowd. His false and mistaken belief may yet lead to his death.
False and mistaken belief is amazingly widespread these days; it's been so for many years. At present, some of our nation's mistaken belief may even be coming to these shores straight outta Vladimir Putin!
That said, our own tribe is drenched in mistaken belief too. It's all a matter of who we tend to trust and believe.
Our tribe has been running on mistaken fuel too? We'll start to detail that state of affairs by the end of the week.
Tomorrow: Powers assesses Acosta's third respondent:
"None of it makes sense."