Over 150,000 dead and we're supposed to feel sorry — for Trump?
"Nobody likes me." So said Donald Trump
"Truth or Consequences" is the name of a town in New Mexico, and of a game show dating from the 1940s. But it's also one of the primal laws of existence. Where an important truth is denied, consequences follow.
None of us can be surprised at the state of the union after seven months of President Donald Trump's lies, alibis and magical thinking in the face of one of the worst public health crises in history. More than 150,000 of us are dead, the U.S. economy just endured its worst quarter on record and there is no sign the disaster is going to abate any time soon. To the contrary, the federal government is adding to the list of "red zone" states — i.e., states where the COVID-19 infection rate continues to climb. Twenty-one states now make the list, including Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Mississippi.
And it should be lost on none of us that the "red zone" states are mostly politically red states. Nineteen of the 21 — California and Nevada are the outliers — went for Trump in 2016. Red states, not to put too fine a point on it, are those we'd expect to be most susceptible to his lies, alibis and magical thinking, and most resistant to masks and social distancing.
Again, this is no surprise. As has been noted repeatedly in this space, truth doesn't care about your feelings. Unfortunately, Trump doesn't care about truth, so on behalf of 330 million of us, he chose consequences instead. And this country will face years recovering — if it ever does.
All of which lends to a sense of astonishment at the morose monologue quoted at the start of this commentary. It came during a news conference last week, called ostensibly to provide an update on the nation's fight against the coronavirus pandemic. But the briefing also offered a squirm-inducing glimpse into Trump's fragile psyche as he ruminated over the fact that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the face of his coronavirus task force, is more popular than he is.
"It sort of is curious," Trump said. "A man works for us and yet they're highly thought of and nobody likes me. It can only be my personality."
And Lord, what to say about that?
It was pathetic, the miserableness of an unloved boy poking through the braggadocio of a 74-year-old man.
It was amazing, this most reality-resistant of men publicly conceding this most humiliating of facts.
It was sickening. With 150,000 people dead, the nation in chaos, he can't see beyond his own envy.
And it was revealing, testament to a failure of self-awareness more epic than Greek tragedy.
Consider that shortly before the briefing, Trump retweeted the crackpot theories of some woman who claims, despite expert consensus to the contrary, that hydroxychloroquine can cure COVID-19. Mind you, she also believes doctors use alien DNA to treat patients, and researchers are creating a vaccine to stop people from being religious.
Called on his decision to amplify this woman, Trump insisted she is "very respected." And also that, "I know nothing about her." Yet he muses why "nobody" likes him, and it must be his "personality?"
Well, yeah. That, his imbecility and his utter inability to feel — or even fake — compassion for other human beings.
"Nobody likes me." Boo hoo.
He denied the truth, and that's one of the consequences. Here are some of the others: People are sick, people are dying, people are losing their homes, people are losing their businesses, the country is unraveling. So, Trump's operatic self-pity is a bridge way too far.
If anyone has compassion to spend, there are 330 million people who deserve it more.
Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald. His columns are distributed by Tribune Content Agency.
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