The past 24 hours has been stark and shocking watching what just unfolded in the United States. For the all the things we’ve heard and seen from Donald Trump in his time as President of the United States, yesterday managed to be a bombshell. The words, spoken from his own lips, say it all:
There is a lot to take in from what happened there, and you can go online and find the video to hear it all for yourself. This feels like a make or break moment, mostly because this truly feels like the biggest test of a feeling. That feeling is something that we’ve said many times over the past four years; if this doesn’t sink him, nothing will. Think how many times we’ve thought that, only to see him continue to survive and even thrive politically. Think of all the abhorrent and aberrant behaviour and words that he has uttered or done in this time that we rightfully thought would be politically suicidal, only to watch him continue on. But willfully concealing the truth about a pandemic, knowing the truth about COVID-19 in early February but hiding it to save his own political hide, costing nearly 200,000 American lives in the process? Surely this must be the truest test of this “if not now” theory, right? Well we’ll see how the next few days go, but already Trump’s biggest defenders are going after the “real” cause of the problem here:
Yep, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson has found the smoking gun, and it’s coming from South Carolina. Yes, it’s all the fault of Senator Lindsay Graham, the man who opposed Trump in 2016 before then pulling a full 180 and becoming Trump’s compromised and uncompromising support. Yes, it’s all been a ruse and he really is out to get the Donald, so Tucker tells us. It couldn’t possibly be that anyone with any passing knowledge of who Bob Woodward is and his history of great work would know better than to put a big talking blowhard with a problem with telling the truth in front of him to be questioned at all, let alone for 18 hours on tape. No, no, no, that couldn’t be it. It’s all Lindsay’s fault. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this turn of events, not just because it’s so predictable but also because it’s worked before. Will it work again? Again we’ll see soon enough.
In the meantime, let’s not forget there is still a global pandemic ragging in the United States, not that you’d know it from how some elected leaders in that country are behaving. Many Republican governors have been following Trump’s denialist lead, propping him up and being blatant apologists for the kinds of crap we heard in those Woodward Tapes. We are seeing governments spending record amounts of money to fight COVID-19, or at least most are. This morning we have gotten the following story out of South Dakota, one that just speaks to the mindset of so many Republican leaders in the US right now:
I don’t have enough face palms to respond to this stupid story. It turns out that South Dakota’s Republican Governor Kristi Noem’s administration is using federal coronavirus relief funds to pay for a $5 million tourism ad campaign aimed at drawing people to the state. But as CBS News points out in their reporting, “the state currently ranks second in the country for new cases per capita over the last two weeks, with 439 new cases per 100,000 people.” Part of the states current COVID problems come from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which went ahead anyway despite the dangers. That event is now being seen as a super spreader event, including a concert by the band Smash Mouth where singer Steve Harwell said during the performance “F*ck that COVID sh*t”. Feel free to insert your own “not the sharpest tool in the shed” jokes here.
But beside that sideshow, this story is the whole American COVID-19 experience in a nutshell. You’ve got a governor who had downplayed the entire pandemic, has followed the Trump line completely and supported his inactions from start. When it came to Trump wanting to do a Fourth of July event at Mount Rushmore, Noem ignored the public health concerns and made it happen. When public health experts raised concerns about having 250,000 motorcycle enthusiasts coming into a city of less than 10,000 from all over the country for a week, Noem ignored them and embraced them with open arms.
All of that has led to the high case counts in the state, which in a sense makes it all the more fitting to see this story above about these COVID funds. Because when you’re facing a global pandemic that’s ravaging your state, it makes sense to spend millions of dollars on ads inviting people to vacation in your pandemic ravaged stated, right? Christ man, it’s not like you couldn’t use that money to actually fight the disease. No, no, no, they decide to use the money to help people spread the disease wider and further than it already has, as if people are clamoring to travel and explore during this pandemic.
Everyone, I’m not sure how else to take this other than us watching the embarrassing failure of this supposed leader of the Free World. Seriously, pity would be a natural thing to feel for these people in this moment but at what point do you move from pity to incredulity? It’s hard to continue to pity people who are so willful in their ignorance of the facts for purely political reasons. You hear the Woodward Tapes and can’t help but wonder how such ugly political instincts are given the cover needed for them to thrive. They you see the actions of the likes of supporters of Trump like Carlson and Noem and you see their enabling power. You can clearly see how things have gotten to this point, with the ugly result of nearly 200,000 Americans dead to date.
So pity is no longer the proper sentiment here because we give pity to those who can’t help their circumstances. Incredulity is the right sentiment, because we give that to those who could easily help their circumstances but refuse to do so. They actively choose to find themselves in this situation. Trump and his enablers have made conscious choices, time and again, that have brought them to this situation, from deciding to ignore and put out misinformation about the disease, right down to this newest example of using the resources to fight it to buy tourism ads instead. It’s through willfully blind acts like that which you end up with what the Americans are facing right now. The only way to stop that is for the electorate to step up, speak up, and punish them thoroughly at the ballot box. And yet amazing, even that is still in doubt. So pity is something that we can no longer feel for our American neighbours because they have lost the plot and in doing so, forces us to watch them with a wary eye, hoping that they somehow get their act together.