Keep calm and carry on dying: Trump’s lies about COVID-19 did immeasurable damage

That statement from Trump should have made it obvious that he wasn’t really attempting to do anything about the crisis that was sweeping across the nation. Apparently it was obvious. As Kerry Eleveld pointed out in June, until that day Trump had held a net positive rating with college-educated white women. He went negative after that appearance, and his numbers have only gotten worse since. But that day didn’t exactly escape the notice of men. Even though white men continue to have a net positive view of Trump, his numbers declined more sharply following that statement than any time in the following months.

Of course, it might not have been Alexander’s statement. To dredge up a chart from what seems to be the now-distant past …

That chart just happens to have been made the same day that Trump confessed to Woodward that he had been consistently lying. It actually captures only a few of the statements Trump had made. There was Trump saying “We have it totally under control,” back on Jan. 22. And both “It’s going to be fine” and “Looks like by April, you know in theory when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away” on Feb. 10. On Feb. 24, Trump tweeted “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” On Feb. 25, not only did Trump say that the virus was heading to “close to zero,” he also stated that “We’re very close to a vaccine.”

Even that is just a fraction of the times that Trump lied about the messages he was receiving. On Jan. 28, National Security Advisor Patrick O’Brien warned Trump: “This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency … This is going to be the roughest thing you face.” Two days later, adviser Peter Navarro—since seen in a thousand TV appearances, lying his ass off—sent a memo to Trump saying: “The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on US soil … This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.” 

It wasn’t just Trump who knew what was coming. They all knew. That includes Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who had dumped stocks after getting a briefing on what was ahead.

That decline in Trump’s support in the third week of March came as cases were exploding, and as it was becoming obvious to anyone willing to look that the situation was not “under control.” The virus was not about to “go away.” Instead it was going to kill a lot of people: 200,000 and counting.

That March 19 phone call also came a week after Trump had trotted out a series of big box CEOs with claims that there was going to be a national testing strategy capable of a “million tests a week” that same week. Instead, the total number of tests done in the week Trump promised a million was somewhere around 4,000. Trump would then decide that it would be better politics just to let people die than to take responsibility for a test plan. So he did that

The March 19 phone call in which Trump confessed to Woodward came right at the point when many Americans realized they had been had. Trump didn’t have their backs. Trump wasn’t going to do a damn thing to protect them or their families. The United States was sailing into an iceberg that everyone saw coming, but Trump could not be bothered to dodge.

In a big way, Woodward’s book isn’t telling anyone anything new. It’s obvious that Trump lied about the pandemic. Or, to be more accurate, Trump lied, is lying, and will lie about the pandemic. Because the only thing he has done about the pandemic is to lie. All that the latest revelations have done is to prove that Trump wasn’t simply ignorant of the proper course. He wasn’t simply negligent. He was deliberate in the harm he caused.

The reason that Trump got so angry at Peter Alexander was because the reporter was asking Trump to do the only thing he’s simply incapable of doing: actually calm the fears of others. When it comes to fear, Donald Trump is only good at stoking it.

Of course, there are still a few people who believe Trump.