Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The predictability of Trump when facing a crisis

with one comment

Graeme Wood in The Atlantic: “The move is simple. When Trump is ensnared in controversy, when he is being asked straightforward, damning questions and his inquisitors do not stop asking them, he says or does something outrageous to change the subject. It works every time. It is working now.”

I mentioned in the previous post the word “despicable.” It does seem to apply. President Trump is the head of state for the US government.

President Donald Trump announced yesterday evening that he will withdraw funding for the World Health Organization, on the grounds that it helped China cover up the origin and extent of its coronavirus outbreak. The United States pays for the largest fraction (in recent years, about 17 percent) of the WHO’s budget. The WHO, in turn, funds the COVID-19 responses of dozens of countries around the planet, some of which are extremely vulnerable to the disease.

At about this point in the analysis, the expected move might be to explain why hobbling the WHO is unwise—how doing so will make us all less healthy and less safe; how it will be remembered as a moment when the U.S. chose to hasten its decline as a superpower; how funding the WHO gives the U.S. power over the group, and China will step in to seize the control the U.S. has ceded.

All these points are true—but only a sucker would focus on them. Defunding the WHO (or at least threatening to do so) is yet another instance of Trump’s signature move, one that I described just weeks ago, when he insisted on calling SARS-CoV-2 “the Chinese virus,” and for a few days journalists and social-media scolds obediently modified their criticisms to fit his latest outrage. The move is simple. When Trump is ensnared in controversy, when he is being asked straightforward, damning questions and his inquisitors do not stop asking them, he says or does something outrageous to change the subject. It works every time. It is working now.

At some point, it is hard not to admire his ability to deploy this move, transparently, over and over, and have it serve its purpose. It is like watching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook, or Lionel Messi’s nimble dribbling; everyone has seen him do it hundreds and hundreds of times and has had ample time to practice a defense against it. But the execution is perfect, and as his opponents helplessly watch the points rack up, they should acknowledge that they are in the presence of rare talent.

The trick, as with the “Chinese virus,” is to choose a plausible enemy, one whose misdeeds are not only undeniable but vital to acknowledge. It is, of course, true that COVID-19 originated in China, and anyone who suggests otherwise should not be trusted. As for the WHO, its errors were serious and unforced. Its delegation to Wuhan helped China underplay the severity of the outbreak, costing the rest of the world precious weeks. It denied that COVID-19 was contagious among humans as late as January 14, in an infamous tweet. At that point, when the disease may have already been spreading silently in the United States, people who trusted the WHO for medical advice would reasonably have believed that they were safe as long as they skipped the bat carpaccio. Then Bruce Aylward, a senior WHO official, appeared to suffer a neurological glitch on television when the presenter uttered the word Taiwan, a term forbidden by mainland China. Aylward had led the WHO delegation to Wuhan in February, and his aphasic reply to the presenter’s question suggested not only that the WHO had understated the outbreak and overpraised China’s response, but that the delegation had been brainwashed during its stay. These are all good reasons to criticize the WHO.

But to weigh these reasons, good and bad—the WHO’s sins against its virtues—is to go back to playing the sucker’s game, and to have an excellent view of Abdul-Jabbar’s armpit as the basketball hurtles overhead toward the hoop. Cutting off money to the WHO is not about policy. It is misdirection: Look here, not there, because you are calling attention to something you are not welcome to see. . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

15 April 2020 at 12:31 pm

One Response

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  1. It’s really disgusting, all of it.

    Like

    Elise Bauer

    15 April 2020 at 2:31 pm


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