Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Was Trump Incompetent? Or Was He Lying?

On February 7, 2020 President Trump was asked if he was concerned that China was covering up the coronavirus. In response, he repeated propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party. Why?
April 25, 2020
Was Trump Incompetent? Or Was He Lying?

1. February 7, 2020

If you do only one thing today, please let it be watching this video about how one 24-hour period on February 7 shaped Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is absolutely brutal.

https://twitter.com/BulwarkOnline/status/1253308820287299584

But here is the part I want to pull out and highlight:

A few hours after the Chinese doctor who blew the whistle on the coronavirus died—and remember, this is a man who was arrested and silenced by the Chinese government—Trump had this exchange:

Question: “Are you concerned that China is covering up the full extent of the coronavirus?”

Trump: “No.”

There is no way to whitewash this moment, no interpretation that can be twisted around to alibi him. There are only two possibilities:

(1) Trump did not know the facts of the Chinese government’s actions, despite many of them—such as the silencing of the now-dead doctor—being publicly available. And so he repeated the lies of the Chinese government out of ignorance.

(2) Trump knew that China was covering up their handling of the outbreak. But he chose to lie to the American people about it.

That’s it. Those are the only two possibilities. Either he was too incompetent to execute his duties, or he willfully chose to deceive the voters so as to cover up for the Chinese Communist Party.

In the very near future, more Americans will have been killed by COVID-19 than were killed in the Vietnam war.

America fought in Vietnam for 20 years. This slaughter on American soil will have taken roughly 12 weeks.

Elections have consequences.

2. Ohio

In looking at state-level data yesterday I mentioned Ohio and the inflection the Buckeye has seen in new cases starting around April 12.

A number of Ohioans emailed to point out that these numbers coincide with the testing in state prisons, which turn out to be hotbeds of infections. (With the Marion County facility in especially bad shape.)

On the one hand this is good news—okay, that’s too macabre, I don’t mean “good.” What I want to say is that if you have a whole bunch of new infections, it is better if those infections are largely confined than if they are free to roam because because the spread should be lower. It is still very bad for the people who are infected.

On the other hand, there’s no such thing as a perfect quarantine and even at the Marion County prison, 109 staff members also tested positive. These people do leave the facility every day. They go home. They shop. They have families who then move about in the world, too.

What I’m trying to say here is that if you have 2,500 people test positive and 2,200 of them are inmates, that’s a better scenario in terms of viral spread than if none of them were inmates.

But it’s still not “good.” In the same way that water seeks its own level, a respiratory virus is always probing for vectors.

(Also not good: It suggests that other prisons may be hotspots, too, and we just don’t know it yet.)


3. The Tiger King of Harlem

This may be the craziest passage I’ve ever read in my life:

Yates was lying to protect his best friend, his roommate and the one who nearly killed him — a 450-pound Siberian tiger named Ming.

After three years of peaceful co-existence, the tiger’s true nature, that of a ferociously violent super predator, had finally shown itself. That he’d been raised in Yates’ apartment since he was a cub was an open secret at Drew-Hamilton. . . .

Fifteen minutes later, the tranquilizer dart kicked in, and Ming stumbled around the apartment before finally crumpling up against a pile of trash bags and furniture. Satisfied the tiger was incapacitated, a squad of NYPD officers, assisted by officials from the Wildlife Conservation Society, entered the apartment and clumsily attempted to haul the tiger out. They also had to remove a six-foot-long alligator named Al from the premises, too.

Read the whole thing.

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.