Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
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Paul Krugman: Trump Can’t Handle the Truth
And neither can the rest of America’s right.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
The 2008 financial crisis was brought on by the collapse of an immense housing bubble. But many on the right denied that there was anything amiss. Larry Kudlow, now Trump’s chief economist, ridiculed “bubbleheads” who suggested that housing prices were out of line.
And I can tell you from personal experience that when I began writing about the housing bubble I was relentlessly accused of playing politics: “You only say there’s a bubble because you hate President Bush.”
When the economy began to slide, mainstream Republicans remained deeply in denial. Phil Gramm, John McCain’s senior economic adviser during the 2008 presidential campaign, declared that America was only suffering a “mental recession” and had become a “nation of whiners.”
Even the failure of Lehman Brothers, which sent the economy into a full meltdown, initially didn’t put a dent in conservative denial. Kudlow hailed the failure as good news, because it signaled an end to bailouts, and predicted housing and financial recovery in “months, not years.”
Wait, there’s more. After the economic crisis helped Barack Obama win the 2008 election, right-wing pundits declared that it was all a left-wing conspiracy. Karl Rove and Bill O’Reilly accused the news media of hyping bad news to enable Obama’s socialist agenda, while Rush Limbaugh asserted that Senator Chuck Schumer personally caused the crisis (don’t ask).
The point is that Trump’s luridly delusional response to the coronavirus and his conspiracy theorizing about Democrats and the news media aren’t really that different from the way the right dealt with the financial crisis a dozen years ago. True, last time the crazy talk wasn’t coming directly from the president of the United States. But that’s not the important distinction between then and now.
No, what’s different now is that denial and the resulting delay are likely to have deadly consequences. [..]
In 2020 we’re relearning the lessons of 2008 — namely, that America’s right-wingers can’t handle the truth.
Jennifer Senior: President Trump Is Unfit for This Crisis. Period.
His narcissism is a grave danger to our health.
The coronavirus is no longer just a slow-moving public health crisis that may soon turn into a rapid-moving one. It’s a crisis of transparency. It’s a crisis of government legitimacy. So it is in this spirit that we all have to say: enough.
Whose side is the Trump administration on? Based on every public appearance we’ve seen so far — whether it’s from a cabinet member or the director of the Centers for Disease Control or the president himself — the answer is clear: not the public’s. President Trump, hellbent on re-election, is focused on massaging numbers and silencing bearers of bad news. That’s what autocrats do. And it’s endangering lives. [..]
Because we’re testing only the sickest of the sick, the American fatality rate from the coronavirus is roughly 4 percent. It’s a frightening and highly deceptive number, even higher than China’s. (Most experts predict it’s likely to wind up at 0.5 percent, which is five times more deadly than the typical flu, and it could be as high as 1 percent.) But Trump has made the dangerous calculation that he’d prefer to keep the number of cases low than convey the full magnitude of contagion.
A dangerous pathogen is spreading across the globe. Financial markets are having a nervous breakdown. Oil prices have collapsed. Americans are hoarding hand sanitizer and surgical masks. Air travel is down. Conferences are being canceled. Merely shaking a stranger’s hand suddenly seems like a risk.
And the president of the United States, in response, is spending hours a day glorifying himself on Twitter.
On Sunday, he retweeted a meme first posted by Dan Scavino, the White House director of social media, that showed a photoshopped Trump playing the violin, with the legend: “My next piece is called . . . nothing can stop what’s coming.” The words echoed a catchphrase associated with the looney-tunes QAnon conspiracy theory, not exactly a phenomenon to encourage at a moment when clear thinking and accurate information are vitally important. The image could not help but evoke the legend of the emperor Nero fiddling while Rome burned.
Trump’s solipsistic response to the coronavirus crisis offers overwhelming proof, if any more were needed, that it was a catastrophic mistake to give an egomaniacal reality-television star such power and responsibility. We are all paying the price.
President Trump has been widely and correctly excoriated for the way he is dealing with the novel coronavirus. By minimizing the danger, he heightens it. Even on Monday, Trump was comparing covid-19 to the ordinary flu, even though its mortality rate appears to be many times higher and its economic effect infinitely greater. New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait is right that Trump is acting like “the mayor in Jaws, blithely ignoring reports of a gigantic shark because he didn’t want to hurt the tourism season.”
But Trump could not spread disinformation all by himself. A herd of right-wing pseudo-journalists has jumped the shark along with him. They are promulgating narratives so at odds with reality that they are likely to get people killed.
Think I’m exaggerating? I only wish I were. All you have to do is go to the Media Matters for America homepage to see how the right-wing media continue to infect their followers with misinformation.