Littwin: The virus news has gotten so bad that Trump is forced to try telling the truth

President Donald Trump addresses the Nation from the Oval Office about the widening coronavirus crisis, Wednesday, March, 11, 2020. (POOL PHOTO by Doug Mills/The New York Times) NYTVIRUS
President Donald Trump addresses the Nation from the Oval Office about the widening coronavirus crisis, Wednesday, March, 11, 2020. (POOL PHOTO by Doug Mills/The New York Times) NYTVIRUS

I heard something strange and remarkable and frightening at the White House coronavirus press briefing Tuesday. I’m pretty sure it was something very much like the truth.

Yes, the charts were scary. The numbers were more than daunting. But I keep up. I read the papers and listen to the experts. So it wasn’t the modeling — no matter how shocking — that surprised me.

What got to me, right in the gut, was that matters had gotten so desperate that Donald Trump was finally forced to level with us. He had to come clean. He had to admit, with Drs. Tony Fauci and Deborah Birx at his side, what the models show — that even if we do everything right, if we follow the guidelines, if we take this as seriously as possible, that somewhere between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans will die.

Fauci and Birx said they hoped we could do better. They hoped the curve would flatten more than the model suggested. They hoped, but admitted the 100,000 to 240,000 are real numbers.

Trump, meanwhile, said that if only 100,000 to 240,000 die, it will show what a great job he has done. Yes, really. That’s how deep a hole he has dug for himself — and for all of us.

Sit with that for a minute, if it hasn’t already knocked you over. 

And sit with this: After months of trying to wish away the inevitable, Trump would say, “I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead. We’re going through a very tough few weeks.”

He added that we’re facing a “great national trial unlike any we have ever faced before,” which  would require, “the full absolute measure of our collective strength, love and devotion.”

He said it was “a matter of life and death.” He said it a few times. Because it is. We’ve faced greater trials — the Civil War would quality — but this one is great enough. The weeks ahead will be tough. It will take collective will.

And yet, Trump didn’t exactly take responsibility for his slow response to this great national trial. And Mike Pence couldn’t quite explain why there still aren’t enough tests to go around or why governors are begging for more ventilators or why the federal government didn’t take this thing seriously enough when everyone — I mean, everyone who doesn’t watch Fox News — knew in late January what could be coming. Do you wonder how many lives might have been saved?

Nobody accepted blame for Trump’s inaction, especially Trump. I mean, it was only the day before that the president was saying that “hospital masks might be going out the back door,” essentially accusing nurses and doctors of stealing them.

Governors are now saying that states are competing with each other and with FEMA for desperately needed ventilators and masks and other protective gear. Governors are loath to criticize Trump — who says that really all he wants is for everyone to be more appreciative of him and his team — but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has projected the strength and calm that Trump must wish for himself, had to say, “You now literally will have a company call you up and say, ‘Well, California just outbid you.’ It’s like being on eBay with 50 other states, bidding on a ventilator.”

Meanwhile, CNN’s Jim Acosta would ask if it was fair to say that Trump, over the many weeks, had “lulled Americans into a false of security.”

Trump answered: “I’m not about bad news. I want to give people a feeling of hope.”

And all I can wonder is whether he thought there was ever enough hope — unlike ventilators — to go around.

For Trump, even when faced with telling at least part of the truth, there were still embellishments and the expected self-praise and the excuse that his previous happy talk on the pandemic — it’s totally under control; or, lately, it’ll all be over by Easter! — was part of a grand strategy, since he knew, remember, that it was a pandemic from the beginning. Or something.

But even Trump couldn’t defend Mitch McConnell’s absurdity of the day when the Senate majority leader blamed the lack of early response by Trump on Democrats — yes, for distracting him with impeachment. It’s a bad joke, of course. The impeachment trial ended on Feb. 5. Nearly a month later, after a series of campaign rallies, after many golf games, after ignoring briefings from his intelligence people and from his scientific people, Trump said of the virus: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

When he was asked about impeachment, he said he didn’t think he could have acted any faster. “I think that’s a great tribute to something,” he said. “Maybe it’s a tribute to me.”

But back on planet Earth, where tributes should be reserved for the doctors and nurses et al, everyone must now fully understand the dangers, including, of course, the danger to the economy. We’re almost certainly in recession and that the numbers, for a while, will look far worse, maybe depression-like. It will get so bad that maybe even Lindsey Graham will regret saying that we’re paying too much in unemployment.

Congress came up with the $2 trillion stimulus, but that won’t be enough. In New York, they’re expecting that as many 40% of tenants won’t pay their rent this month. In Denver, the numbers will also be high. And in the House, Nancy Pelosi is talking of yet another bill to help.

There are no other options. The pandemic is here until it goes away, at its own pace. As Dr. Birx said, “There’s no magic bullet. There’s no magic vaccine or therapy. It’s just behaviors — each of our behaviors translating into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic.”

The guidelines are simple enough, and they have nothing to do with anti-malarial treatment. We keep the numbers at 100,000 or 200,000 if we continue to stay in our homes. If the schools stay closed. If we don’t travel. If the restaurants and bars are shut down. If non-essential businesses are shut down. If we continue to physically distance. If we obsessively wash our hands.

Birx mentioned behaviors, which, when enforced, some of our state Republican leaders will tell you threaten to turn us into a police state. Here’s what the model says will happen if we didn’t follow the guidelines now mostly in place in more than three dozen states: Somewhere between 1.5 million and 2 million Americans would die.

I wonder if that impresses Ken Buck, who has been saying that it was “just craziness” to shut down restaurants and bars and other businesses. I know it scares the hell out of me.

As I write this, 173,741 people have tested positive for the virus across the country. And 3,433 patients have died. And that is still just the beginning. Dr. Fauci says it looks as if mitigation might be working, but that we haven’t come close to reaching the top of the curve yet, even as he reminded us that it’s a long way down once we do. Deaths, he said, are the last piece of the deadly puzzle. They lag all the other indicators.

In New York, which has been the hardest hit, they’re being forced to use freezer trucks for morgues. Trump said he saw it on TV at the hospital in Queens near where he lived as a kid. It’s part of what led him to understand that there would be no Easter parades this year. There were also poll numbers, The New York Times reported, showing that people strongly favored the restrictions, wanting, more than anything, to get past this. They’ve seen what’s happening in Italy, in Spain. They must have seen, too, what early mitigation did in slowing down the virus in South Korea.

A friend of mine asked me the other day if it was possible to wrap my head around just how great a disaster it is that we’re facing. I had to say I could not. It’s too much. It’s so terrible, so beyond understanding, that it’s too late to spend much time trying to comprehend it.

Instead, we follow the rules set down by the governor and the guidelines from the CDC. We insist the doctors and nurses and paramedics and first responders and the rest absolutely get everything they need. And, like Dr. Birx, like Dr. Fauci, all of us, we hope that that’s enough to save as many people as we can.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Mike, maybe you can help. I’ve written to the major news sources, online and print, and asked them to have their White House reporters ask a simple question when trump says something like, ‘Many people are saying’ , or ‘Friends of mine are saying’, or, ‘I’ve hear people say…’ The questions are ‘Who are these people? Please name three.’
    Put the light on this idiot who uses Roy Cohn techniques to deflect and diffuse.

    Major media have not responded. Will you help?

    • Gee, Gene, “there are those who say” was a frequent shibboleth during the Obama years. I take it you were just as concerned about that strawmanning then as you are now.

      Oh, let’s not kid ourselves. You don’t give a damn when it’s a fellow Democrat, so stop the special pleading.

  2. Gene and Mike, President Donald Trump has always had the same experts around him at prior press briefings, and I, along with my peers who are still living (worked with many of same ones since 1991, to present, as many dropped along the line, younger than me). I supported most of the leaders in Colorado from 1991, as they campaigned for the offices they held, and I also served in Veteran Retiree Organizations through those years. Could always talk to politicians of both major parties and even minor parties, in civil discussions, and we accomplished many things. That changed in last 20 years, as parties started splitting, and not working for same goals. ———- Reason Donald Trump was elected by 63 million Americans in 2016. And his briefings, or statements were received and understood by us, since we had learned who and what he was, in business world for so many years. I do not understand those who do not understand him, or his agenda, since he spelled it out in books, CDs, speeches and interviews from 1980, on until he announced in 2015 for Presidency. Knew he would receive opposition, and that there would be those who would not vote for him. Have not been surprised they still oppose him, but he has been opposed before, and presses on. When you really listen, it will come easy.

  3. “And Mike Pence couldn’t quite explain why there still aren’t enough tests to go around or why governors are begging for more ventilators or why the federal government didn’t take this thing seriously enough when everyone — I mean, everyone who doesn’t watch Fox News — knew in late January what could be coming.”

    LOL at this dessicated hippie’s revisionist history. A quick glance through Littwin’s article archive in late January shows nary a mention of anything related to “what would be coming.” Guess Mikey-poo was obsessively watching Fox News and couldn’t be bothered. If everybody “knew this was coming,” as Littwin asserts, what’s Europe’s excuse?

    No, the truth is that no one “knew what was coming” because China and the WHO initially claimed this couldn’t be spread person-to-person. After that was revealed to be a lie, Trump closed off travel from China on January 31st (apparently Littwin forgot about this salient detail), only to be met with cries of “DAS RAYCIS” and Democrat lawmakers encouraging everyone to go to the local Chinatowns and to attend mass public gatherings, And this guy is pretending that he saw this coming a mile away? Stop lying, MIke, you’re embarrassing yourself.

  4. Yeah not so much.

    As was the case after 9/11 and Iraq, it’s important to make sure that conservatives aren’t allowed to lie about what’s happened.

    Republican failures have been the hallmark of this crisis, from gutting much needed departments and resources, to refusing to use well established protocol, to ignoring warnings that started coming in 2019…and now finally on to blaming everyone but themselves (laughable still Obama included) for their failings.

    It’s been an absolute clusterfvck.

    Don’t tolerate the propagandists trying to sell the snake oil history rewrites like we see here.

    Despite the Pravda-Phox loop spinning tall tales to the contrary, support for Republican machinations during this time period won’t age any better than those after 9/11.

    Maybe they need to get Bubbles a bullhorn for a bump

    • LMAO. Yeah, Jay, it was conservatives telling people in New York and San Francisco to go party in Chinatown in February. It was conservatives that lied for weeks that the virus couldn’t be spread from person to person. And of course, it was the highly conservative nations of Europe and their not-at-all national healthcare systems that were completely overwhelmed by COVID cases.

      Stop the gaslighting, because you’re really REALLY bad at it..

      • I don’t think gaslighting means what you think it means.

        I’m not calling you crazy for believing in the Fox/Trumpian/Republican false reality in which their coronavirus actions have been competent.

        I was just saying that you’re either unbelievably misinformed or deliberately trying in vain to rewrite history.

        Neither of which qualifies as gaslighting.

        No amount of lipstick is going to make this pig look good.

        “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
        –Bubbles The Clown, January 2020

        • If you and Mike were capable of using rhetoric that hadn’t passed its sell-by date in 2007, you’d probably be able to make your case. This effort is just sorry.

          • If you’re having flashbacks to 2007, don’t blame them on me my friend.

            It’s simply the side effect of watching Conservatives failing again.

          • If you’re having to resort to 2007-era talking points, why would I take the blame for your lack of creativity?

            Have fun dodging BatAIDS while the state’s economy burns to the ground!

  5. Jay, There you go again. As the famous line was used before, and just as accurate now. Remember Swine Flu (H1N1 in Obama years). Only took 5 years to get vaccine and cure for that. Did you forget. And all the State governments then, were offered protective masks and testing equipment, but said they would not need them, and never would in future. Did you forget, or that a common practice for progressives, liberals, or other? I also remember, and saw the video again 2 days ago, when Bill Gates predicted after Swine Flu, that something worse would come in the future. Well the future is here now? And will the State Governments plan and buy needed equipment, to be ready for the next one? You do know History books, the Bible, and other literature has recorded “plaques and locusts” in cyclical periods into the future, as long as planet EARTH exists. (And just who and what reference do you have, that anyone knew in USA, before 20 January, what this was? I still have not seen any comment, by MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS, of knowing why this FLU is more deadly then common pneumonia? What happens in the lungs, destroying or overcoming the little air sacs, in lungs, that removes oxygen from air breathed in, and injecting it into the blood stream, to feed the body cells? THIS IS COPD, ON STEROIDS. z

  6. Thanks for another great article, Mike. You know what would make it even better? No photos of Trump. I feel quite ill just looking at him.

  7. “(President Trump) always fingers China — Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said it was because some Chinese eat bats and dogs, not mentioning that some American eat snakes and squirrels — not because the virus started in China, which it did, but because it is suitably foreign.” – Mike Littwin

    “In a 2007 journal article, infectious-disease specialists published a study arguing that “the presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. “ – The Atlantic

    “Bats are still thought to be the original host of the (COVID-19) virus.” – New York Times

    “COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, likely began in a “wet market” in Wuhan, China. Early research suggests the virus originated in bats and was transferred by a yet unknown intermediary animal to people. (wet markets) supply the conditions for such diseases to arise and infect humans.” – USA Today

    **********************************

    In 2004 Barack Obama addressed the Democratic National Convention and asked, “Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?”

    Mr. Littwin answered loud and clear.

    After President Trump audaciously answered a reporter’s question by saying, “I want to give people a feeling of hope.” Mr. Littwin’s response was, “And all I can wonder is whether he thought there was ever enough hope — unlike ventilators — to go around.”

    Cynical? You bet! Targeted and partisan cynicism? Absolutely!

    But his cynicism doesn’t stop there: Mr. Littwin claims “everyone……knew in late January what could be coming . Do you wonder how many lives might have been saved?”

    “Everyone”, evidently, didn’t include Mr. Littwin who did not mention the danger posed by the coronavirus until mid-March because he was too busy obsessing over either impeachment or which old-white-guy the diversity-challenged Democrats would nominate to oppose President Trump in November. But Mr. Littwin seems totally unconcerned about “how many lives might have been saved” had China not tried to cover-up the initial outbreak in Wuhan. A cover-up that surely, sadly, needlessly increased the worldwide body count.

    If—-and this is a big if—-Mr. Littwin was as interested in discussing China’s cover-up as he obviously is in convincing readers that our president is worse than COVID-19 he would admit that, unlike China, “(President) Trump didn’t block the media from reporting on the coronavirus; he did not disappear his critics”. This from The Atlantic:

    “The evidence of China’s deliberate cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan is a matter of public record. In suppressing information about the virus, doing little to contain it, and allowing it to spread unchecked in the crucial early days and weeks, the regime imperiled not only its own country and its own citizens but also the more than 100 nations now facing their own potentially devastating outbreaks. More perniciously, the Chinese government censored and detained those brave doctors and whistleblowers who attempted to sound the alarm and warn their fellow citizens when they understood the gravity of what was to come.”
    “Some American commentators and Democratic politicians are aghast at Donald Trump and Republicans for referring to the pandemic as the “Wuhan virus” and repeatedly pointing to China as the source of the pandemic. In naming the disease COVID-19, the World Health Organization specifically avoided mentioning Wuhan. Yet in de-emphasizing where the epidemic began (something China has been aggressively pushing for), we run the risk of obscuring Beijing’s role in letting the disease spread beyond its borders.”

    Even Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times noted about China, “act decisively they did—not against the virus, but against whistle-blowers who were trying to call attention to the public health threat.”
    Mr. Littwin also apparently believes “everyone” (e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e) should have anticipated and prepared for a cataclysmic, epochal global event the size and scope of which he admits even now he’s unable to “wrap (his) head around”.

    In a column ostensibly written about the tragic COVID-19 pandemic and the number of lives lost worldwide Mr. Littwin doesn’t…..mention…..China…..once. Not once, despite the fact that China was not only the birthplace of COVID-19 but SARS in 2003.

    You can’t make that stuff up!

    Instead of acknowledging China’s role in COVID-19, Mr. Littwin cynically hides behind his phony-baloney claim that “Wuhan virus” and “China virus” are racist terms. A claim that conveniently allows him to completely ignore the fact that this tragic and deadly pandemic started in China.

    Apparently, facts are racist.

    Discussing the COVID-19 pandemic without mentioning China’s role is like discussing World War II without mentioning Japan’s role and then claiming “Pearl Harbor” is a racist term solely to avoid having that discussion.

    Contrast Mr. Littwin’s sneering, mocking and contemptuous characterization of our president’s COVID-19 response to the 2009 swine flu pandemic when despite the loss of 12,000 American lives Mr. Littwin said he was “trying very hard to panic, but somehow (couldn’t) quite pull it off”.

    Of course, his cavalier response to the swine flu pandemic obviously was different because, well, in 2009 there was a Democrat administration.

    Mr. Littwin obviously does not believe in “Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty.”

    At least not when hope is embraced by our president.

    ***********************

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      • Mr. Littwin,

        First of all, I hope you’re safe and healthy. Your grandkids are really cute and deserve more exposure at the top of your column.

        I stand by this statement:

        “Everyone”, evidently, didn’t include Mr. Littwin who did not mention the danger posed by the coronavirus until mid-March because he was too busy obsessing over either impeachment or which old-white-guy the diversity-challenged Democrats would nominate to oppose President Trump in November. But Mr. Littwin seems totally unconcerned about “how many lives might have been saved” had China not tried to cover-up the initial outbreak in Wuhan. A cover-up that surely, sadly, needlessly increased the worldwide body co

        I know you’re a huge fan of Senator Elizabeth Warren so I will tread lightly.

        The same Chinese pandemic she feared, China denied. Senator Warren didn’t mention what she would do if China told her not to concerned about a pandemic because they had it under control.

        She also mentioned nothing about closing borders as a preventive measure.

        Can you imagine the reaction—especially yours—-if in January President Trump had closed our borders to all Chinese?

        And nowhere did she equate “China virus” or “Wuhan virus” with racism but she was courageous enough to mention pandemic and China in the same paragraph.

        • Mr. Lopez,
          The kids are cute, aren’t they? One of the things I admire about you — other than your appreciation for my grandkids — is your unwillingness to ever admit you are wrong. I’ll admit I was “wrong” to use the word “everyone.” I assumed people would understand that there is nothing that everyone knows. What I should have said to be more clear is that it was public knowledge in January, and many of those with insight into the situation were quite concerned where the virus, which began in China, would lead. You seem to think that I have some concern for the leaders of the Chinese government. They are corrupt and cruel, murderers and worse. What I feel confident in saying is that the president, in using “Chinese virus,” was trying to say that it’s a foreign virus for which he couldn’t be responsible. I assume you know that as well. No one else in the world (by which I don’t literally mean no one else) called it the “Chinese virus,” except Mr. Trump and his sycophants. I don’t think the president even says it any more. So, as you see, I’m happy to admit when I’m wrong. I pointed out a few days ago how you were wrong to say that my positions on many key issues were — I think this is the word you used — fluid. I offered a long list of issues where my position has been clear and consistent for decades. And your reply? There was none. Ah, I’ve come to expect that, which is not say I don’t enjoy your communications. Each one brings a smile to my face.

          • Mr. Littwin,

            I still think your grandkids are cute and I still think you should use the space at the top of your column to post their pictures more often. By the way, who was that guy with the beard in the background?

            I hope you’re sitting down because I’m about to do something you didn’t think was possible, something sure to bring another smile to your face. Ready? I was “wrong”…….not to reply to your response to my “fluid” charge.

            To be clearer, your opinions of people—-as opposed to issues—-can be, well, fluid. For example, James Comey. In July, 2016 you described Comey as a man “whose reputation as a truth-teller was forever sealed when he served as deputy attorney general in the Bush administration”. Four months later you described the same James Comey of trying to “cover his ass” because he felt his reputation was more important than the “future of the country”

            One other thing: China.

            “You seem to think that I have some concern for the leaders of the Chinese government. They are corrupt and cruel, murderers and worse. What I feel confident in saying is that the president, in using “Chinese virus,” was trying to say that it’s a foreign virus for which he couldn’t be responsible.”

            That was not my concern at all. You said President Trump’s use of the term “Chinese virus” was racist: “And then he went on to say how the media —some of which (like me) are saying Trump’s constant use of “China virus” is racist”

            I still believe that claiming the use of “China virus” is racist was simply to taint the views of those Americans less willing to forgive China.

            And I still hope you and your grandkids are safe and healthy!!!

  8. I saw that Mike. Sure would have liked to have seen her do better in the primary.

    Don, I think mail in ballots would be a tough sell to your political brethren. The demos would be an uphill climb for you folks.

    If you guys want to worry about voter fraud…watch “Kill Chain” on HBO.

    That’ll scare you.

    Watch your top knots.

  9. I hope all of you watched the press briefing today, when President Donald Trump had reached end of his patience with the reporters asking “gotcha questions” for the 10th or 15th time. He cut them off, and questioned them of what year they were referring too, and it was from Obama years. And President had the experts there, as he has before, with facts, numbers, and of equipment supplied by Federal Government. That eqauipment should have been in storage and state supply areas, bought for and by state officials. They had experience with H1N1 Swine Flu, and was offered equipment and supplies at discounted prices, after that crisis ended. (Took 5 years to develop a vaccine, and get on top of it), but also Bill Gates told them to expect something worse in future. And Viruses have been cyclical ever since EARTH was occupied by Humans, Animals (but I repeated myself there), fish and fowl. Virus will always transfer from animals to animals, and even sometimes into fish or fowl groupings. And each virus, is more lethal than one that came before. So will our Medical and State Officials plan for, and manage to be ready for the next one?”???? I doubt it. ( New York spent lot of money to support a Potato Chip Company, rather then medical preparations, just as example.).

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