TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2020
Misstatements in Our Town and Theirs: Bret Stephens is a conservative, as is his perfect right. To his credit, he's also been a stone-cold never-Trumper.
Does that mean that Stephens lives in Our Town? Or does he live in Theirs? It might be instructive to examine a couple of errors from his latest New York Times column.
The first error isn't exactly an "error." It might be seen as, perhaps, a slightly selective presentation:
STEPHENS (12/15/20): Yes, there were serious missteps in the handling of the Covid crisis. But those who would blame Trump for tens or hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths ought at least to acknowledge that a pandemic of this magnitude would have gravely challenged any president. Deaths in the United States from Covid-19 (91 per 100,000 people) are slightly worse than in France (87) but better than in Britain (97), Spain (102) and Italy (107), all of which imposed harsher lockdowns and had more engaged leaders.
All of this has convinced many of my fellow conservatives, including those who were initially hostile to Trump, that there’s more than a touch of derangement to those of us who oppose him—a mixture of justified distaste for the man and his manners and unjustified fears about the consequences of his governance.
There are no perfect comparisons between different countries when we consider "total deaths to date" from the coronavirus.
In that passage, Stephens is looking at major nations in western Europe. The virus may have arrived a bit earlier there than in the U.S., giving them more of a chance to pile up total deaths.
Beyond that, Stephens omits Germany and our near-neighbor Canada, whose "total deaths to date" (adjusted for population) are both much lower than ours. There are no perfect comparisons when it comes to total deaths, but in that presentation, Stephens—or at least, his his "fellow conservatives"—may have their thumbs on the scale a tad.
Let's repeat—Stephens has been a consistent never-Trumper. That said, we can learn a few things about Ourselves from the genuine mega-howler he uncorks later in his column:
STEPHENS: [Trump] has detonated a bomb under the epistemological foundations of a civilization that is increasingly unable to distinguish between facts and falsehoods, evidence and fantasy. He has instructed tens of millions of people to accept the commandment, That which you can get away with, is true.
Apologists for this president might rejoin that there are also examples of this form of politics on the other side of the aisle, notably in the person of Bill Clinton. That’s true. But it only causes one to wonder why so many of the same conservatives who vehemently objected to Clinton on moral grounds vehemently support Trump on the absence of moral grounds.
Truly, that's insane. Comparing Clinton to Trump on this score comes to us, live and direct, from stone-cold Crazy Land.
Truly, that's insane! But here in Our Town, we lazily let this crazy image of Bill Clinton gain traction during the many long years which eventually led to the commander's amazingly narrow win over Hillary Clinton (while losing the popular vote).
Our Town's sachems largely slept as that image of Bill Clinton was crafted and gained purchase. Starting in early 1999, our sachems then played the leading role in transferring this crazy image to Candidate Gore.
Over the course of several years, some of our sachems lazily slept as Candidate Gore was novelized as The World's Biggest Liar. The rest of our sachems were actually playing the leading role in this death-dealing demonization.
"Why Our Town Slept" might be the name of the book which explores this crushing political history. In truth, that book will never be written, and that history will never be explored, due to prevailing codes of silence which strongly prevail in Our Town.
In his apparent madness, Donald J. Trump has indeed helped create "a civilization that is increasingly unable to distinguish between facts and falsehoods." Comparing his conduct to that of President Clinton in that arena is itself a form of howling madness.
That said, we in Our Town helped create this madness. For that reason, this madness still exists in the world, and its genesis can't be discussed.
Total deaths to date: Using the data at this site, here are the comparisons Stephens skipped, with bonus data thrown in:
Total Covid deaths to date, per million population
United States: 931
South Korea: 12
We included the three Pacific nations just to stress the (astonishing) numbers which basically never get discussed Around Here. Not even on cable TV!
Ken and Barbie said it best. Whether in Our Town or Theirs, statistics are boring and hard!