Last week, Donald Trump gave a couple of press conferences that were the apotheosis of Trumpian incoherence and inanity — he rambled on in his usual stream-of-consciousness style, exposing the fact that he didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, and announced that the person who was in charge of the COVID-19 response was Mike Pence, who is the opposite of a responsible, informed choice (put him in charge of the Prayer Team, OK?), and later took direct action by announcing a crackdown on Mexican border crossings (our cases of COVID-19 are not coming from Mexico). Yet at the same time, our media blandly treats this as routine.
Wednesday’s briefing was arguably the most abnormal moment yet in a profoundly abnormal presidency.
But top news organizations, rather than accurately representing Trump’s alarming behavior, made it sound like nothing untoward happened at all.
They made it sound like some real news was made: That Trump put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the government’s response to the coronavirus; that the president urged calm.
But even the Pence “news” appears to be a sham, and a clusterfuck: In addition to being basically a fuck-you to the medical community — given Pence’s proud defiance of scientific truths — it was apparently a last-minute decision based on political optics that blindsided Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who at the same time insisted that he was still in charge.
This one really wasn’t hard. It was obvious to anyone listening to Trump’s rambling, often incoherent, self-centered, stream-of-consciousness ad-libbing – much of it straight out of his political rallies — that:
Trump had no real understanding of what he was talking about. He had no sense of what was required of him as president. He sees this as being all about him. There are only so many things that can come out of his head.
No, the New York Times is not pointing out the idiocy of this president.
But at the New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Noah Weiland and Katie Rogers engaged in something even worse than stenography: The cherrypicking of quotes that weren’t incoherent, that in no way whatsoever indicated the true nature of the briefing. They led off:
President Trump named Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday to coordinate the government’s response to the coronavirus, even as he repeatedly played down the danger to the United States of a widespread domestic outbreak.
Nothing in that story told readers what they most needed to know.
Even in a sidebar on Trump’s credibility, Annie Karni, Michael Crowley and Maggie Haberman simply called Trump’s briefing “casual”. Then they punted:
Mr. Trump could face a moment of reckoning. Maintaining a calm and orderly response during an epidemic, in which countless lives could be at stake, requires that the president be a reliable public messenger.
There was also a cutesy sidebar by Katie Rogers about Trump’s self-declared germophobia.
It’s maddening. The more serious the media outlet, the more likely they are to pretend the drooling clown at the top of the country as a serious thinker, because the Newspaper of Record would find it beneath their dignity to expose a madman.
Although I will say that I watched a little bit of CNN on Friday night, and they were discussing the reasons we should be concerned about a COVID-19 pandemic, and they did come right out and say that one of the exacerbating factors for this disease is “incompetent leadership”. That ought to be the lead story in every newspaper every day. “THE PRESIDENT IS INCOMPETENT”, 72 point bold font, all the time until he’s run out of town on a rail.
P.S. The president also put Katie Miller, Stephen Miller’s new wife, in charge of all coronavirus communications. He’s not only incompetent, he’s corrupt and handing out jobs to cronies. No one will care.