The event in Nevada — his second rally in the state in as many days — did not only risk the health of those present, thousands of whom were packed together inside a manufacturing facility in defiance of the state’s ban on local gatherings of 50 people or more. It also has the potential to turn into a super spreader event that could seed Covid-19 outbreaks in the wider community. Trump hadn’t held an indoor rally in nearly three months, since his last one, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after which the city saw a surge in cases and multiple campaign staffers along with Secret Service agents tested positive for the virus.
The jarring scenes of the indoor event clashed with footage from the first weekend of NFL games that went ahead in cavernous empty stadiums, reflecting how almost alone the President, who might be expected to set an example, is responsible for the most dangerous breaches of his own government’s coronavirus recommendations.
CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that major television networks, including CNN, decided not to send their crews and correspondents into the rally for their own safety. It’s not unusual for media companies to take steps to shield their employees in war zones abroad, but such precautions are exceedingly rare on home soil.
Accelerating efforts to reshape reality
In a new example of the President picking conspiratorial or fantastical positions that match his political goals, rather than those rooted in fact and science, he complained over the weekend that California’s raging wildfires were the result of poor forest management. This is in line with his previously expressed belief that state governments need to “rake” and “clean” forest floors to remove the kindling for wildfires. Many scientists have said that drought and longer fire seasons are a direct consequence of climate change and have produced peer-reviewed studies to back up their conclusions. But such a conclusion is inconvenient to the President’s desire to promote fossil fuels and would require him to challenge conservative orthodoxy.
“For many, many years, particularly because of budget cutbacks, there was no inclination to manage our forests. That’s actually a real issue,” Navarro said.
An all-powerful President
The triumph of Trump’s political ideology over fact and truth underscores the way he has systematically removed restraining personalities and forces from his administration. In many cases, the government now runs much like a massive version of the Trump organization, all working to fulfill the desires of the all-powerful boss. While Trump had now-disgraced legal fixer Michael Cohen in his business life to impose his will, he now has loyalists who are working to subvert what they see as the “Deep State” opposition in the bureaucracy to a President who demands total loyalty.
Trump’s efforts to stifle good governance draw big headlines in Washington but don’t resonate as much elsewhere in a country staggering amid a pandemic and consequent economic disaster that have destroyed the rhythms of normal life. Political maneuverings at the top of a government agency can often seen arcane. One lesson from countries in places like Eastern Europe, where democracy has been challenged, is that damage to good governance only becomes clear in retrospect, following months and years of erosion.
Yet Trump, a President who was impeached for trying to use government power to coerce a foreign nation, Ukraine, to interfere in a US election, appears to be sending a warning of how he would behave in a second term freed from any future accountability from voters. Government agencies and departments often reflect the priorities and interests of a President. But the recent attempts by Trump aides to reshape facts, truth and data is highly unusual.
Trump aides part with reality in Woodward defense
Troubling revelations by Woodward about Trump’s negligence amid a pandemic that has killed more than 194,000 Americans were compounded by new suggestions of fact-twisting by top Trump officials.
Former Trump campaign aide turned chief HHS spokesman Michael Caputo and his team demanded to see reports out of the CDC before they are released, a senior administration official said. The story was first reported by Politico.
The source said some federal health officials at the CDC believe the interference to be an effort to change communications by the CDC’s scientists so as not to contradict the President, who argues that the pandemic is all but over and it’s time to fully reopen the country.
Caputo defended the behavior and praised Dr. Paul Alexander, who has reportedly been adding political content to CDC reports tracking the emergency.
“Dr. Alexander advises me on pandemic policy and he has been encouraged to share his opinions with other scientists,” Caputo said in a statement. “Like all scientists, his advice is heard and taken or rejected by his peers.”
The news is likely to stir more alarm at the way the administration has often prioritized the President’s political goals — on issues like masks and economic and school openings — in ways that repeatedly ignored science and facts.
The administration’s credibility on such issues and the need to separate politics and epidemiology will be incredibly important in convincing Americans to take a vaccine to end the pandemic when one is eventually widely available.
Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel pushed back Sunday on the idea that Trump had managed the pandemic according to his political requirements rather than as the massive public health emergency that it is.
But when she was asked by “Meet the Press” anchor Chuck Todd on NBC why the US had 25% of the world’s Covid-19 deaths, she repeated a misleading claim that has come to typify the misinformation and illogical responses often used by Trump aides throughout the pandemic. “Well, we do have more testing,” McDaniel said.