THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2020
ABC News does deaths: As the American experiment slides toward the sea, the sheer stupidity of our discourse seems to know no limits.
In large part, the onus falls on the commander in chief, who has introduced stupidity into the discourse at a level not previously known. Below you see parts of one exchange from Tuesday night's town hall forum, hosted by ABC News:
TRUMP (9/15/20): But what we’re doing is, we’re going to be doing a healthcare plan...We’re going to be doing a healthcare plan very strongly and protect people with preexisting conditions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you’ve been promising a new healthcare plan– We interviewed, I interviewed you in June of last year, you said the healthcare plan would come in two weeks.
You told Chris Wallace that, this summer, it’d come in three weeks.
TRUMP: I have it all ready. I have it all ready. I have it all ready, and it’s a much better plan for [the person who posed the question], and it’s a much better plan.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What is it?
TRUMP: Obamacare was a disaster. Obamacare is too expensive, the premiums are too high. It’s a total disaster.
You’re going to have new healthcare, and the preexisting condition aspect of it will always be in my plan. And I’ve said that loud and clear.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you haven’t come up with it.
Sad! The alleged health care plan has been two weeks away for the past two years! Moments later, as Stephanopoulos tried to fight his way through the commander's endless distractions, this further exchange occurred:
TRUMP: We have other alternatives to Obamacare that are 50 percent less expensive, and they’re actually better.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s been three and a half years.
And sure enough, so it has! By now, the commander has been making this fraudulent promise for well over three years! Somehow, though, this claim survives within the American discourse.
There's no boundary to the commander's willingness to generate transparent nonsense. On the other hand, here are the obvious questions Stephanopoulos never asked:
THE QUESTIONS NOT ASKED: You've been saying this for more than three years. Why haven't you ever presented this alleged health plan? Why should anyone believe that this plan exists?
Please answer my questions directly.
Those are blindingly obvious questions, but they were never asked.
There is no limit to the nonsense the fast-talking commander will sell. At yesterday afternoon's press event, he discussed deaths from Covid-19 with the help of the world-class howler shown below.
As he spoke, he pointed to a graphic whose contents he thoroughly jumbled:
TRUMP (9/16/20): We’re down in this territory [pointing to the graphic], and that’s despite the fact that the blue states had tremendous death rates. If you take the blue states out, were at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level, but some of the states, they were blue states and blue state management.
Have the blue states "had tremendous death rates?" In fact, the so-called red states have recorded as many deaths from Covid-19 as the so-called blue states.
As everyone but the commander knows, the pandemic hit several blue states first, but it has long since moved on to the red. As for current weekly death rates, these are the ten states with the highest death rates at present, after adjusting for population:
States with the highest current death rates:
Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, Tennessee, North Dakota, Nevada, Texas, Georgia
Back in 2016, the commander won nine of those states. Our nation's current (extremely high) death rate is being driven in states which are red, not blue.
(At present, the two states with the lowest death rates are New York and Vermont.)
In short, there's no end to the stupidity of our discourse as our nation slides toward the sea. This numbing stupidity tends to start with our disordered commander in chief.
Truly, we're all "with Stupid" at this point in time! Then too, the historian must acknowledge the remarkable role being played by the various "potted plants" found in the upper-end press corps.
For today, consider something Stephanopoulos did as he struggled to question Trump about our nation's death rate.
In fairness, questioning Donald J. Trump isn't as easy assignment! The commander spoke so fast and insistently on Tuesday night that he passed from the realm of the (stereotypical) used-car salesman to the realm of the star auctioneer.
Stephanopoulos battled to keep him on track. On balance, the ABC host did a reasonably decent job.
That said, consider the way Stephanopoulos challenged Trump on the question of the nation's death rate from the coronavirus. He did a remarkably poor job in an area where two major stars at the New York Times catastrophically bombed just last week.
A quick review! At present, there are two basic ways to describe a nation's death rate from Covid-19. We've covered this bone-simply material before:
Total deaths to date: On the one hand, we can talk about "total deaths to date"—the number of people who have died from Covid-19 dating back to the start of the pandemic.
This is a perfectly valid measure. Then again, so is this:
Ongoing daily or weekly deaths: By now, western nation have had more than six months to adjust to the sudden onset of the pandemic.
How many people are still dying from the virus after six months of possible adjustments? This is a second major way to tabulate a nation's "death rate." It's the better way to assess the success of a nation's leadership structure in responding to the pandemic.
Those are two obvious ways to report a nation's "death rate." What happened on Tuesday night as the commander praised himself for the brilliant job he's done in beating back the pandemic?
Gack! As Stephanopoulos tried to challenge the commander's claims, he only referred to Total Deaths To Date.
He never referred to the more relevant measure of presidential leadership. He never referred to Ongoing Daily or Weekly Deaths:
TRUMP (self-praise joined in progress): So I feel that we’ve done a tremendous job actually, and it’s something that, I don’t think it’s been recognized like it should, but when you look at our testing, when you look at our swabs, when you look at our ventilators, when you look at what we’ve done with hospitals—and we’ve made a lot of governors look very good, and now some are in a shutdown and some aren’t. We’d like to see it open up and open up as soon as possible.
But we’re very proud of the job we’ve done, and we’ve saved a lot of lives, a tremendous number of lives.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, you mentioned a number of things here. Let’s talk about the mortality first. You said we’re doing better in mortality than other countries.
But here’s this chart right here. It says the United States is right here. This is number of deaths per million residents. Here’s Western Europe, here, Canada way down there. We’re not at the top of the list.
The commander said he's very proud of the job his team has done. To cite one example, they've done a great job with swabs!
There's nothing so dumb that this fellow won't say it! He also said that his brilliant work "has saved a tremendous number of lives."
When Stephanopoulos challenged this claim, he noted that the United States isn't "at the top of the list" among comparable nations when it comes to Total Deaths To Date.
That is certainly true. But Stephanopoulos never mentioned the more relevant "death rate" statistic—Ongoing Daily or Weekly Deaths at the Present Time.
How do we look with respect to that measure of deaths? These are the embarrassing numbers ABC News didn't present:
Deaths from Covid-19, September 10-16:
United States: 6,258
United Kingdom: 78
South Korea: 23
European Union: 1,325
Those numbers haven't been adjusted for population. Stating the obvious, there's no real reason to do so. (The U.K. is no longer part of the E.U., so we include it here.)
For the record, the population of the European Union is about one-third larger than that of the United States. After adjusting for population, our nation's ongoing death rate is almost seven times that of the E.U.
Even given a recent rise in deaths in France and Spain, that vast disparity remains. How brilliant does our blue-eyed boy's work with swabs look now?
(For the record, Germany recorded thirty (30) Covid-19 deaths in the week under review. Its population is about one-fourth as large as ours.)
Trump was praising the brilliant way he has vanquished the virus. The data say something vastly different, but George Stephanopoulos and ABC News went with the less relevant statistic.
(The commander might say that they "choked!")
In a rational world, it would be hard to believe that a major news org could possibly be that incompetent. In our world, we have a genuine nut in the Oval Office, plus a collection of low-skill potted plants cluttering up our news orgs.
On balance, Stephanopoulos did a decent job. That said, he fanned extremely badly when it came to this basic statistical question.
In the past two weeks, two major figures at the New York Times tried to make a similar assessment about our nation's death rate. Their haplessness was astounding.
With this sort of work at the top of the pile, our endlessly failing national discourse continues to run on mistaken belief as we slip-slide toward the sea.
Two major Timesmen tried to assess our nation's death rate. One is a graduate of Yale; the other emerged from Harvard.
Their haplessness was simply jaw-dropping, but according to major credentialed experts, this is the state of our world.
Tomorrow: Douthat and Leonhardt do deaths