“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF”
So says Donald Trump. And, strictly speaking, it is a reasonable assertion. Shutting down the US economy to deal with the virus means imposing a lot of hardship—psychological as well as economic–on a lot of people. It’s conceivable that at some point the cure might be worse than the disease. The problem is, we just don’t know. We really don’t know just how bad the problem is, and how effective the cure might be. We can make projections of losses in both dollars and lives using different assumptions, but ultimately, we just don’t know. Under such conditions of uncertainty, and with potentially millions of human lives at stake, it is reasonable to err on the side of caution. But Trump now indicates he is inclined to err in the opposite direction. He’d like to see the churches, and streets and stores, packed by Easter. Why?
Trump is actually a very simple man and therefore not so hard to understand. As Frank Bruni observes, Trump has convinced himself that he is responsible for the roaring economy he inherited from Obama. That economy, his hoped for ticket to re-election, is gone. But Trump, never one to let reality intrude on his wishful thinking, just can’t let go. He must cling to the fantasy of a new burst of economic vitality that will keep him in the White House. And can you blame him? The poor man has been suffering so during this pandemic. Michel Tomasky explains:
[Trump] is a weak and tragic bundle of childish impulses. He’s jealous of Anthony Fauci. He’s mad at medical experts, and he has made them afraid to offer in his presence information that is factually true and that Americans need to know (think about that). He feels cooped up, poor thing; can’t golf, which really means he is denied one of his regular opportunities to lie and cheat and get away with it (“great round, sir!”). His own golf resorts are closed, which no doubt is of greater import to him than the public health stats. No Mar-a-Lago means no bootlickers fawning over his very stable genius while he ketchups his well-done steak. And he misses his racist and demagogic rallies, misses the adulation. He’s bored.”
I have enough confidence in Trump’s residual sanity to expect that he won’t go through with it. When Easter comes, he will grudgingly continue to mostly go along with the precautions that all the experts say are necessary to prevent a large-scale humanitarian disaster. After all, a couple of million deaths would hardly be conducive to Trump’s re-election. He’s just smart enough to get that. But let’s understand that his decision to continue to accept the necessary restrictions on normal life will not reflect any kind of calculus of costs and benefits to the American people of alternative courses of action. It will reflect his assessment of the costs and benefits to Donald Trump. That’s the way the mind of a sociopath works.