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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/10/20

Trump, His Magical Thinking, and Bob Woodward

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President Trump Graphic on COVID-19.  EXCEPT THAT HE DIDN'T. Because, actually, it would just (magically) go away.
President Trump Graphic on COVID-19. EXCEPT THAT HE DIDN'T. Because, actually, it would just (magically) go away.
(Image by U.S. Department of State)
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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)

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In previous columns, I have described Trump's "Box of Magic Tricks" and how they got this thoroughly unqualified, super-reactionary, man all the way to the Presidency of the United States. There are six of them:

1. He has always had one or more protectors and enablers, either personal, or financial or both.

2. For decades he has had a standard operating procedure when he faces an adversary of any kind. He learned it from Roy Cohn (who learned it from Joseph McCarthy): "Always attack; Never defend." (Just watch him deal with "Die Luegen Presse" [Hitler-speak] in his daily campaign speeches.)

3. Also learned from Roy Cohn is the mantra: "when you run into a problem, just sue."[On April 29, 2020, Trump actually threatened to sue his own campaign manager, Brad Parscale, because he, Trump, didn't like the negative poll results that Parscale was reporting to him.] You may not win, and it may cost you some money. But a) you might win and b) with the endlessness with which civil litigation can be drawn out in the U.S. legal system, the other side may just get worn out.

4. In the whole of his business life, Trump has never been responsible to anyone else, either above him (except for Dad, of course) or even alongside.

5. Trump has lived his life surrounded by enemies(real or imagined --- if he doesn't have them in reality, he makes them up), whether in business, in his personal life, in his banking and financial life (except for a select few, like Deutsche Bank), certainly in politics, and not just at this time. In dealing with them his "Art of the Deal" has not been deal-making, but attempted opponent-crushing. Negotiation is just not his thing.

6. Finally, Trump is history's greatest con man (a subject to which I have devoted a whole column).

As is well known Trump has dealt with one controversary after another --- from the "Access Hollywood tapes" through the Mueller-Report-Impeachment-hearings to his racist response to the George-Floyd-Murder-and-its Aftermath/Black-Lives-Matter with none of them causing his take-down. And now comes "Bob Woodward's Book," appropriately entitled "Rage." It's an appropriate title, for Woodward has Trump on tape saying "I bring rage out. I always bring the rage out." (It happens that all of the major revelations in the book are backed up by tape-recordings of Trump's numerous conversations with Woodward for the book. I wonder how long it's going to be before QAnon or a look-alike will claim that's the voice is an impersonation.)

Many things can be said about the revelations in the book, and not only about the fact that Trump knew very well what the nature of the COVID-19 threat was, early on, and just happened to tell the nation, over and over again for months that it "would eventually just go away." Among the other points of note are that Gen. Mattis and Secretary Coates had him nailed fairly early on (although unfortunately they didn't happen to share their views with the rest of us in real time). That he thought the "the Generals" were in it for war-profiteering, which he totally condemned (except that one of his boasts has been to say, over-and-over again, how Obama let the military crash and how he, Trump, has built it back up). That there is no such thing as "White Privilege," and that its existence and outcomes causes such pain and anger among Blacks (as well as other person of color). And so on and so forth.

Of course the counter-offensive immediately began on "Hannity," on the evening (Sept. 9, 2020) of the day that the account of the principal findings of the book appeared in the Washington Post. It is fascinating to see how Hannity and Trump (and on that evening Karl Rove [remember him?] played a significant role) just came out swinging. Embarrassment? Regret? Concern? Not at all. After all, the book is just a "journalistic hit job" (even if it is based, as far as one could tell in advance of its publication, on tapes of lengthy recordings of conversations between Trump and Woodward). But why should one be surprised by their ability to do (and according to Brain Stetler's new book, Hoax, they are tied at the hip). Although they needed to do is haul out Trump's Box of Magic Tricks and start twirling them around.

Trick 1. "He has always had one or more protectors and enablers." Dad is long gone (and of course Putin is still there, but what he does is very much hidden from site, former DNI Coates was sure that "Putin has something on Trump"), but throughout his Presidency he has dad that in the person(s) of Fox"News" and most especially Sean Hannity. I do listen to him very once in a while, and to get the gist one has to listen only every once in a while, for Hannity has been saying the same thigs over-and-over for months now. Major parts of his show sound like an informercial for Trump. But the protector-ship on Fox goes well beyond just Hannity.

Trick 2. "Always attack; never defend." Yes, yes, yes. Trump has been revealed as knowing what the COVID-19 virus is really like and insisting upon covering-it-up/totally-playing-it-down for months, and what do he and Hannity spends a significant chunk of time on with? Going after Biden for the caution he did actually express in February. (They did not happen to note that on January 27, 2020 Biden had published an Op-Ed in USA Today warning of the coming pandemic.) Not that Biden had the access to any of the intelligence information that was already coming across Trump's desk in expressing caution, during February before he started ramping up his critique. Of course, Hannity showed no clips of himself spouting over-and-over again in February (and I did see some of them myself) that the increasing Democratic warnings of a coming pandemic were "nothing but a hoax designed to deny Trump victory in the election." Not one inch of "you know; I might have done better." Always attack; Never Defend.

Trick 3. "When you run into a problem, just sue." Trump hasn't figured out how to use this one in this case. But hey, you never know. (Of course in a variation of how Trump has used manipulation of the legal system for decades by suing, there is the fascinating story of how Trump's personal attorney Bill Barr [yes, he is the same person who holds the title of Attorney General of the United States] is trying to move the defamation suit by E. Jean Carroll against Trump to Federal Court. Manipulating the legal system indeed.)

Trick 4. "Never be responsible to anyone." Trump more-and-more is saying "I'm the boss, me, myself, and I" and "I don't care what anybody says." This is no better illustrated both by how is he is (mis-)handling the Trumpidemic2020┬ę and how he doesn't take advice from anyone (except perhaps from some neuroradiologist who apparently got through medical school without any exposure to the basic concepts of public health).

Trick 5. "Trump has lived his life surrounded by enemies." The virus is treated as a personal enemy (although I did make a mistake in thinking that Trump completely mis-understood its nature. He did/does not, and that makes everything he has done even worse.) Trump has lived his life surrounded by enemies. It's just that now, it's not so much the virus or the pandemic but of course Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, the Democrats in general, most knowledgeable scientists, and oh yes, Black Lives Matter and everything it represents. Couldn't think of working together to solve the pandemic, now could we? And then, on his excuse that at the beginning, when indeed he did know exactly what the nature of this particular virus is, he didn't want to "panic the nation," as numerous observers have pointed out his whole campaign is being run on generating panic, about "the attack on the suburbs," about "antifa" (a non-organization), about Black Lives Matter, about "they will take away your guns", about massive urban violence all over the country (when it is actually confined to a small number of cities.

Trick 6. "Trump is history's greatest con man." Of course Trump has made a remarkable number of statements that most people characterize as "lies." But by definition a lie is statement that the speaker/write knows to be false. There is no evidence that Trump knows, when he goes from one statement to another that most of the rest of us would characterize as a "lie," that he is in fact lying. At the time he says it, at least, he thinks that he telling the truth. BUT, a "con" is passed when its purveyor knows that what is being said or sold or what have you is false. I have previously described Trump as history's greatest con man. He has run no greater con than getting his base (? cult) to believe a) that "the virus will just go away," and be) what he is doing (and not doing) now, will soon bring the pandemic under control. He has run a lot of cons in his life. As revealed by the "Woodward tapes," none is bigger, and in this case more destructive, than this one.

But Trump could still be in the Presidency at 12:01PM on 1/20/21. I didn't say he could win the Presidency but he still could be in office. We'll save that exploration for another time.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a "Trusted Author," he is a Senior Editor, (more...)
 
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