Funny thing about viruses is that they don’t care about time. You can tell a virus that the party ends in April and their response will be, “Making a beer run. Who’s in?” Put on Mrs. Miller, turn off the lights and the virus will party in the dark. Wake up, the virus will be on the couch, Xbox in its hands, Cheerios scatted all over the place. You glower at the virus and it looks up and says, “Welcome to the party, bro.” Call the cops, who cares? Invite your meanest friends over, so what? Tell the virus it is a fake, pffft. The virus doesn’t give a fuck.
Now, there are ways to move the virus along, but to do that, it is best to get a head of it. You have an idea what party the virus is going to crash next and you can warn the party host and their friends. They will put out a tray of soy cheese and kale crackers, slap on some Sarah McLachlan, and engage in a group cry – whatever it takes to get the virus to go away.
Thing is, if you want to get ahead of the virus, you have to move quickly, deliberately, and economically. The last thing you do is waste time. The virus has all the time in the world, you do not. So, doing things like yelling at people asking you questions about the virus and bragging about yourself burn minutes you could use to prepare and fight.
Even worse: Telling your pals not to worry about the virus, sit down and party with it, or, hey, maybe tie one off with a little Lysol, Ajax, whatever it takes to get high, man. Not only have you wasted time with your words, you compound the problem by making us waste time telling people that mainlining Clorox and swallowing light bulbs is a bad idea.
Trump is a master time-waster, and why not? The man was born wealthy, so the idea that time is money has no concrete meaning for him. A deadline approaches, he tells his lawyers to negotiate it forward. He hits a solid stop, he blows through it and pays the fine, or tells his lawyers to fight it. A payment is late in coming, no big deal, plenty of money in the bank or on credit. He doesn’t have to show up for anything, anywhere on time. Everything can be rescheduled on someone else’s time.
So, if Trump wastes the time America needs to fight the coronavirus, it’ not his problem. Trump is on Trump time, a curious construct that stops the minute Trump starts speaking, at least in Trump’s mind, assuming he has pondered this stuff, my bet is that he hasn’t.
Sunday’s Washington Post has a breakdown of what went down in the last three weeks of Trump’s campaign rally/corona pressers. It is a perfect illustration of how Trump wastes time. Here’s some numbers:
Over the last three weeks of briefings, Trump has dominated the podium, speaking a total of 13 hours. By comparison, Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the Coronavirus Task Force spoke 5.5 hours. Deborah Brix, Trump’s primary scientific enabler, has eaten up about the same amount of time as Pence has. The most knowledgeable and honest person at these pressers, Anthony Fauci, has spoken for only 2 hours.
In Trump’s 13 hours, he has spent 2 hours attacking others, 45 minutes on self-praise, 9 minutes promoting Chloroquine, and only 4.5 minutes showing empathy towards virus victims and their families. The rest of the time has been eaten up by repeating lies about testing, when he knew what, if he know anything at all, PPEs, “Opening Our Country,” and whatever the states are doing. Those “false and misleading statements” account for 25% of what comes out of his mouth. A third of Trump’s babble are direct attacks on reporters asking very reasonable questions such as, “When will New York City get the number of tests it needs?” or “Why didn’t the administration move on the virus back in January when it was first warned?” Instead of answering the questions, Trump yells, “You’re disgraceful” and “You don’t have the brains you were born with” at reporters that won’t treat him like Dear Leader.
As noted, all of this is a waste of time. Trump takes the mic and we are forced to respond. Some say, “Just turn him off. Ignore him.” How? He is the president of the United States. He is the most powerful person in the world with the biggest stage and the loudest megaphone. The Washington press corps and the networks mute him and everything he says will get out. And, what are we to do when he advises people to horde drugs that have no proven effectiveness against the virus or, worse, could kill people? Or, when he suggests that shooting up disinfectant might be a “cure”? Certainly, we roll our eye and laugh from our graves, but stay silent?
Yeah, if Trump was Donald Trump citizen, New York City bozo, failed casino operator and reality TV freak, we could laugh at him as we did when Obama skewered him, but not now. We do not have to obsess, but we must clap back…and that takes time.
It also takes time for governors to scramble for money and medical gear. It takes time to figure out where the orders went, if they are slow in coming or if Jared Kushner had FEMA steal the gear. It takes time for hospital personnel to hunt down PPEs. It takes time for states and counties to figure out how many test kits the feds sent them and if they have the tests for the kits.
It takes time for small businesses to hit numerous dead ends, trying to save their businesses and their workers’ jobs. It takes time for workers to file for unemployment and scramble for cash. It takes time for overwhelmed, unprepared state unemployment systems to keep up with demand. It takes time for states to monitor money coming from an administration which is secretive and playing patronage.
And it takes time for us to figure out what the hell we are supposed to do, the person at the top refuses to give any solid direction or sane advice. Even if shining a light on the inside of the body was something other than pure madness, such a suggestion is not helpful.
And, it is not even answers that we need, just something solid and true, including the word, “I don’t know.” Do you know how much time we’d save trying to dig for something solid if Trump hit the podium and said something like
We are working on this 24/7. It is a new virus. We are still figuring out what it is, how it works, and how to get rid of it. We know a little. We don’t know a lot, but we are working hard. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a timeline, because the virus doesn’t mark time. Hang in there. I will tell you what we know when we know it.
That’s it. That there is 20 seconds worth of word that would have saved hours, days, even weeks of scrambling correction, and worry. But, no, Trump wastes our time and the virus parties on.