Coronavirus Reveals Trump’s Disaster Fault Lines

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S1: Last night, as you know, the Senate passed important legislation. We’re very proud of the product. We think it is. Oh, we did jujitsu on it that it went from a corporate first proposal that the Republicans put forth in the Senate to a worker’s first Democratic worker’s first legislation.

S2: The congressional action, in my opinion, simply failed to address the government need everybody is short on testing on all of the various things like respirators and masks, and we’ve all got requests into the federal government and all of the states are taking action to try to find these things on our own. And we’re also pushing the federal government to get more help.

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S3: Hello and welcome to tramcars time, Virginia Heffernan.

S4: If it’s 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time when you’re listening to this, please stop, drop and roll over your streaming TV or TV TV to catch Governor Andrew Cuomo daily press conference. Trump cast will be here for you when you get back. I realize I’ve said this before that Cuomo is the one to listen to. And I promise I’m not just being in New York City, Darek, who thinks it’s the center of the universe. I mean, I’m sitting here at my sock drawer with a cutting board on top of it. I’m not exactly feeling at the center of anything. But Cuomo is just so important when it comes to getting the facts from the epicenter of the pandemic in America, which in turn is fast becoming the epicenter of the disease in the world. Now, Cuomo’s CUOMO in ordinary times, I didn’t vote for him. He’s like the Neo-Cons. Call me when they’ve been on the right side of history for a full decade before I’ll trust them completely. But that said, Cuomo’s what we need now. And while I do like his appeals to what he called today, our better angels, the platitude part of the presentation, that’s the thing at the end. I mostly like how he gives unvarnished facts. I was chatting with a friend the other day. John O’Neill. Ed? Yes, we were talking about don’t groan Winston Churchill. Now, I was praising Churchill’s capacity. I’m clearly the first person to notice what an orator that Churchill guy was. Anyway, I was praising Churchill’s capacity to conjure the possibility of England subjugated and starving. Right. He pulled no punches. He was really thinking of what England might be at the end if there were Nazi rule there. And he did this. He conjured he mentioned he brought up that’s England could be subjugated and starving. Can you imagine Trump doing that about America? And that became before he joined the people of England to take heart. Now, John pointed out that a better still line from Churchill, his own favorite line, is the very simple opening line of Churchill’s speech after the fall of France to the Nazis in nineteen forty.

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S5: The opening line that the John like so much the news from France, is very bad. Ready? Going to try the news from France is very bad. And that’s Cuomo every day. He just says it’s simply the news from New York is very bad. So he speaks Queen’s English, not the queen’s English.

S4: Then Cuomo gives the facts and then he gives the praise for first responders and health workers and then the praise for New Yorkers and all Americans. And finally, the assurance that we’ll get through this and stronger. He doesn’t think the American people are incapable of handling the truth, that the news from New York is very bad. But yesterday, Cuomo might have outdone himself with two messages. The first is for the kids who are still doing stupid things, like having parties and borrowing around with their broe ways of touching each other because they don’t care. And the second, he said, was to senior citizens for whom some Republicans have shown something bordering on murderous contempt.

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S5: To the young, Cuomo said, you are not Superman to the old. He said you are not dispensable. And these home truths got me through yesterday.

S4: My guest today is Scott Knowles. He’s a professor of history at Drexel University, a disaster historian and the author of The Disaster Experts. Scott has set up a brilliant project for our time called The Covered Calls to bring together historians and scientists and experts of every stripe to talk via Xoom every day about the pandemic. And anyone can tune into this. You can find the link on Scott’s Twitter. He’s well worth following anyway. He’s at U.S. of Disaster. That’s at us of disaster to find Scott Knowles on Twitter. The link to the Xoom covered calls is in Scott’s pinned tweet. We will also put a link to it in the show notes. I warmly recommend it to you.

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S6: I’ll be back with Scott in just a minute. But first, the tweets.

S7: Can get regulations, the prime minister obey of Japan and the IOC. Their very wise decision to present the Olympics in 2021. It will be a great success and I look forward to being there.

S8: This is not about the ridiculous greed. It’s about putting our great workers and companies back to work.

S9: Bright news quote Mitt Romney tests negative for Corona virus, close quote. This is really great.

S7: I’m so happy I could barely speak. He may have been a terrible presidential candidate, an even worse U.S. senator, but he is a rhino. And I like the price.

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S8: Transparency is so important for the people of our country. In many ways, it will prove to be as important as health care.

S10: It’s a great issue for both Republicans and Democrats. Hopefully it will be approved.

S7: The four hospitals that we are building in New York City at the Javits Convention Center are moving along very well ahead of schedule.

S10: Many additional ventilators also delivered. Good conversation with Governor Cuomo. I heard that fake news. CNN just reported that I am isolated in the White House, wondering out loud, when will life return to normal? Does anybody really believe that there was no leak? They made it up. They are corrupt and fake.

S3: Scott, welcome to Trump Cast. Thank you very much for having me on. Welcome back. I should say, because land crowds of my colleague had you last time and I was so jealous. I’m almost not exactly but almost grateful for another disaster so that we can have you to talk about your field.

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S11: I don’t take that amiss at all. And I’ve kind of gotten used to people saying, I don’t really want to have to talk to you, but we’re glad to have you in a situation under better circumstances, if only kind of. And precisely. And that call that we had around the California wildfires last time, we were pretty early in Trump’s administration. So some things still felt a little new. But we don’t have that anymore. We have a lot of perspective now.

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S3: Yes, there’ve been several disasters to think about. But that piece that you had in The New York Times that talked about the wildfires around that time, talked about the wildfires and talked about Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria, I thought was extremely instructive and set the template in a lot of ways for how he has responded to this virus. But I want to go back to something we were just talking about, which is looking at the books on your wall. We’re seeing each other in video. You mentioned that you have a copy of the Plague of Camas novel from the 40s. And I think a lot of us are turning to that book and also turning to accounts of past plagues, because if you’re going to extract anything about how people in general respond to disasters and how they think in emergencies, these precedents are very rich. And maybe because we always have time on our hands when we’re trying to stay healthy and stay away from people. There’s so much literature of plagues.

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S12: I think we’re not alone in this particular moment and looking to literature and the arts to try to find comfort, to try to find humanity and people coping with disaster and the unknown at various different points in time. I think that’s also, particularly to me, being important right now because so much of our daily life as information gatherers seems to be seeking out hard facts and seeking out, you know, strong data. Yeah. But I think there’s also an emotional register in which we’re also dealing with this, which can be countered with hard facts or with strong data. It has to be addressed in other ways. And I think that’s so I’ve been reading that move because he’s, you know, writing the story of a plague and many people who are who are dealing with it particular time and place. It’s also a metaphor for broader struggles that we all feel like we’re part of us. Struggles around power, struggles around trust, struggles around science and medicine, and also about this this problem of being stuck together. Yeah. And what does that do to society in these moments? Attention. So absolutely. I’ve been looking I’ve been looking to I’m not sure it’s I’ve been doing it the right way. I’ve been listening to it at night. That’s why I go to bed and often falling asleep with it still on for a while. But anyway, that’s that’s one of the ways of coping.

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S3: Well, you probably know I’m not going entirely spoil the end, but that can we, unlike other people thrown into the existentialist pile, emerges with a certain amount of optimism that I think you share about the human spirit in times of catastrophe. In times of disaster. He says that, you know, he finds more to admire than to despise about his fellow humans. And that’s something that you’ve pointed out, that contrary to the president, seems to panic. And just parenthetically, I just learned that epidemic, pandemic and panic all come from the same Greek root. The Greeks were obsessed with with these things. So, you know, it could be that panic has a scientific side or that. And certainly epidemics and pandemics have an emotional side close to panic. Anyway, back to the president. So he is very not only panicked, seemingly panicked himself, but also fears panic. And because he’s so afraid of people panicking, which is what he expects is gonna happen. He tries to kind of down regulate like play with the numbers, lie about the numbers, as he did with Hurricane Katrina, minimize the disaster. But you say something very interesting, which is panic is not the universal response to a disaster. It doesn’t have to be our response. And in some ways, Trump’s panic about panic, especially in the stock market, becomes part of the problem. He’s not apprehending our our capacity for resilience and for generosity and for compassion.

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S11: I think that’s right. And I think there’s plenty of quite specific things to say about Trump and his leadership or lack of leadership in this time. But there’s also 75 years of social science disaster research that’s tried to look at this question of how society copes with stress, actually in United States.

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S12: This was first initiated and funded by the Defense Department during the Cold War because they were really concerned with civil defense and they were really concerned with what would happen in the aftermath of a nuclear attack and their expectation. The civil defense planners in Washington. Dictation is that society would fall to pieces, it would be, you know, nature red in tooth and claw and that you would need to organize the entire country like the military, basically with a strong command and control and study after study that the commission found just the opposite, that people are pro-social, they help each other. They cope. Their resilience, their creative things forge social bonds where they hadn’t been there before. Of course, this civil defense planners basically took those reports and said thank you and file those and continued with their command and control planning. Most of that also done it in secrecy. And I think that Trump is just replaying that old sort of Cold War story about this divide between the elites who are the really, I think the ones who panic and people who in general are quite good at coping with stress. Now, there are limits to that. People are not all the same. There are socio economic limits.

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S11: People who are already in communities that are that are suffering. There are going to be trust issues. There trust issues with authority. But in general, we can say within communities. People tend to turn to each other and help each other out. And it’s the elites in their bunkers that are that are concerned that society is falling to pieces.

S3: And Trump in this moment is absolutely replaying that same Cold War narrative, another Cold War invention and set of problem enticing features of the culture. What’s the development of ARPANET and the Internet? And we now are extremely dependent on the Internet for preserving our social bonds in a way that it’s hard to imagine in any other emergency we had. I just watched Dr. Strangelove with my son. We’re trying to show some good film, some interesting films and and the use of computers. And that is, you know, extremely interesting. But anyway, now here we are fully here on a Jetsons telephone. Absolutely. This is definitely mitigating the effects. It definitely is pro-social. Andrew Cuomo keeps saying stay socially distant but spiritually close. And we all love to laugh about the zoom technology that we’re using right now. But there is some way that this seems to be bringing out what you what you call the pro-social response to disaster. What do you make of that?

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S13: I mean, I have to agree with you. We’ve been having we’re having this talk. I’m getting ready to teach my classes in the spring term online.

S11: The number of emergent social communities that are coming up in this moment in all different forms of social media speak to this. Absolutely. You know, people have not gone into quarantine and then gone into some sort of shell. But it has, I think and this is actually pretty common with disaster, too, that people are seeking information on people sharing information. That’s very common. It’s just that we’re seeking and sharing through different media.

S12: Now, I do. It does raise some some quite serious concerns that I think had fallen off the front page for a while, for example, around the digital divide. So I know in the school district of Philadelphia, for example, they’re not able yet to deliver online education to students even though the students are out of school. So parents are going in picking up information packets if they want them. I was talking to a friend about this yesterday, and that’s because, of course, the schools in the district is doing the right thing. If they can’t provide online outreach to every student and this is just in the districts, then they shouldn’t provide it to any.

S11: And that’s telling us a story about the socio economic picture in Philadelphia. So, as usual, disaster reveals the sort of fault lines and fractures in society. So while it may be providing avenues, this digital remote connections that we’re making are providing avenues that we sort of knew were there, but they were using. It’s also cutting into relief some of the real fractures, economic fractures that still exist in American society.

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S3: I noticed today that the L.A. Times, where I write a column, has another column on this question that we’ve all brought up sort of laughingly about seeing each other’s apartments and houses. When we you know, when people are on TV and I initially thought this was silly. And by the way, I say we are seeing each others, which is if the tiniest fraction of people are on television and I’m not. So we’re getting these intimate glimpses into the houses of people in a very, very narrow band of life, you know, getting a really richly detailed portrait of the subjectivity of very, very few people. I mean, for most people, social distancing or quarantine, it carries some dangers. Domestic disturbances are everywhere. Domestic violence is up and simply just having the floor space. So that sick people can be separate. It’s not feasible. That goes to this thing that you’ve touched on earlier about the elites. The weird idea that middle class and lower classes tend to reach out to each other and b be pro-social. But there’s this fantasy among the elites that if they only get only. Stay with each other because the disease belongs to the other somehow that they might stay safe. This in a pose mask of the Red Death, Prince Prospero locks everyone in an abbey. The first thing he does is seal all the exits and entrances. He doesn’t want any riffraff to come in after he’s gotten in ballerina’s and Cartier’s and all that. And very quickly, they’re stocked by the red death. And finally, death has dominion over all of them. And so, yes, somehow the idea of like hiding away and sealing up all the exits and entrances is a an impulse of the elite and be a bad one.

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S12: Well, I mean, look at Trump’s own approach to leadership in this disaster. His first impulse was to like it often has been his presidency, close the border. So at one level, your notion of elites is that he has tended to frame the United States as a group of global elites. Right. And the rest of the world is, you know, somehow struggling to catch up or keep up with us. So his first move, let’s close the let’s close the border. And he’s still that’s still in his talking points, although I’m kind of amazed that it is.

S11: And this idea that it’s the one horn virus, that the Chinese virus that’s defining it as some other, which so that’s been a part of his strategy, I think, from the beginning. To your point about, you know, let’s lock ourselves inside with our provisions and let the rest of the world take care of itself and die outside, and we’ll come out and check things out when it’s when it’s over. Well, obviously, with the light, it was put to that as early as January, certainly by February in the United States. Yet he’s stuck with this.

S13: And then it sort of operates at another dimension in which, you know, it came out two days ago and said that he’s ready for Americans to go back outside by Easter and we’ll have this joyous resurrection by Easter. But what does he mean that for really? I mean, I think we have to we have to dig into that a little bit. Again, we look at people who can quarantine themselves with large amounts of resources or socially distance themselves physically because they have the real estate to do so or they have the Secret Service protection to do so.

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S12: That’s fine for them. But what he is sort of trying to counterintuitively do now is to order the rest of us back into the social sphere. We’re sort of being kicked out of that safe space. So I find myself daily trying to keep up with where the line of safety and danger is for Trump, because it keeps moving all the time. And I’m always, you know, trying to figure out where I am. Where am I? Where’s my family on the site? Which side of that line are we on? For a while we were on the inside of that. Now we’ve been pushed to the outside of that line. He’s always playing with borders is what I’m what I’m saying.

S3: No, I think that’s right. Talk to Ali. Misdialed earlier this week. And he is pretty much focused entirely on the political and social implications of this pandemic, which are obviously legion. But this is something else that gets less attention. And since you talk about fires and hurricanes and now we were talking about a elektro microscopic virus that enters our bloodstream and our lungs and our nasal passages. We’re also in this battle with nature. And in the end, it’s a biological fight. And I think part of the reason that a person starts to look around where’s the enemy is that this is something that cannot be addressed with guns. It can’t be addressed with politics. It can’t be addressed with walls. When Rand Paul was diagnosed with Corona virus, I was wondering, what do libertarians do you know? Did they get nano assault rifles with nano bumps, stocks for their for a hit, for their capillaries and their at those little balloons in our lungs? No, this becomes part of us and we live in sync with pathogens. That is one of the great discoveries of our time that we’re made more of the genetic material of the bugs we live with than our own genetic material. Our scientists even stumble with explanations and we just can’t conceive of what’s happening to bodies or what this war might be like. And I think thinking in terms of this other battle in our bodies and in the bodies of people we love as something that requires resilience, adaptability, maybe a measure of aggression, fighting, this is another interesting way of thinking about disasters.

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S12: Absolutely. Virginia, I think I mean, to me, you’re really thrown into relief. Some of the problems we have, even in our own language, you’re talking about disaster. And so we often talk about, you know, the the microbe is an invader. We have to mount a World War World War 2 style response. I mean, how many Manhattan projects have we launched, you know, this kind of thing? I’m perplexed sometimes at how much I even fall into talking using war as a metaphor, because I I speak out against it. I mean, I really think we have to look hard at our metaphors because they give us deep insight into how we’re actually conceptualizing what we’re in the. Stop giving care is pretty fundamental. It’s like the world that we grow up in. For most people, we hope they grow up with care and they care for others. And trying to cure a disease is as old and giving care when people are sick is as old as war. But somehow the war metaphor drags us in. Yes. Every time I’m talking about the way our leaders think and talk. And if everything is a war, well, how two wars ends. They don’t end with peace. They end with continuing generations of carnage. A war is a slow disaster that plays out over a long period of time. Yeah, and we talk about disasters as events or or we think of them only in military in a military sense. We think of them as something that happens to us from the outside. Do not be part of us. And that it can it can be solved somehow by ramping up. We can defeat it. But the reality I mean, you’re talking about Hurricane Maria. You’re talking about camp fires, California or this pandemic disaster right now is revealing the vulnerabilities that we have in our midst every single day. It’s revealing our health system. It’s revealing our unstable relationship with the natural world because of where we choose to live or how we choose to live.

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S13: And I think it’s really important that we talk plainly about that and we talk honestly about that, because it also opens the way for a continuing critique of the way our government has responded to this disaster. It has responded in a military command and control style that frankly, up to this point has been unsuccessful, particularly those orders that have come from the commander have been the most panicked and the least sensible. And so if we’re relying on war as a metaphor, then we’re losing all of that.

S3: Makes me think again of Governor Cuomo’s. And I don’t want to do hero worship here. But, you know, obviously, he’s been a touchstone for many people trying to understand this for a very kind of unitary executive figure. He is not very interested in the war metaphor. I don’t know why it hasn’t come out. He’s described always as aggressive as a kind of pushy New York style. And yet yesterday he was saying something closer to what you’re saying about how to ameliorate the situation. Anyway, what Cuomo said was New York’s strength.

S4: Is it? He used the word close. I don’t know if you saw this. We are close, not intimate. Just like just this beautiful word. We’re close to each other and we’re welcoming. We’re hospitable. So we take in strangers. And here’s the other word. Instead of thinking of the of the virus as as warlike, we might use the scientific word novel. It’s a novelty. It’s strange. It’s something our body doesn’t immediately recognize and has to take a while to assimilate, you know? And in a weird way, assimilating the virus, which New York is aiming to do right now is different from fighting the virus. You know, we’re mounting a defense against it, but we’re also trying to make it familiar enough to us that we can price it in when it recurs and that some of us will have a herd immunity and the rest of us will be protected by our herd. I’m really surprised. Cuomo emphasizing it didn’t say density. He said closeness like it was an emotional state.

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S12: That’s a powerful way to think about it. And since most Americans do live in metropolitan areas, I think, you know, this shouldn’t exacerbate some sort of urban rural divide. This is just talking to the realities of governance in a big, complicated state where a lot of the people most that people live in metropolitan region. And it’s exactly that. It’s that closeness. If we want to talk about it that way, that is the foundation of the economy. It’s the foundation of the social structure. It’s the diversity in the way to think of it as an ecosystem, which actually gives it strength. And that’s why people want to come to New York and L.A. and Milan and Seoul and Tokyo. And so, you know, that’s an important way to think about it. If you want to reframe it as a as an ecosystem, you know, biological system in that way. I think what I’m hearing also from people I’m talking to who are really up on the science is it’s not that we want to. The testing is still important, but that moment has passed. And so now we do need to be attentive, though, to testing, as you said, to see if people antibody tests, to see if people have had it and acquired some immunity, because then we can. That’s the strategy for beginning to return to some form of normalcy as moving people back into the population who can give care. And that’s that’s a really important part of sort of the knowledge frontier of this right now. And it lays special emphasis on a group of people who I think are going to become a lot more important in this. And Trump has talked zero about which the survivors of this. Yes. Most people who encounter war survivors and most people who encountered disaster, not war, survive. And we have to draw strength from them. We’re gonna we need them in this. It’s probably to keep our health system going as we move forward in our economy and our education system going, if this goes as long as some academia artists are telling us. But we also need them to talk about how hard it was, how stressful it was, how much they wanted leadership and clear instruction and couldn’t get it. I think it’s a tremendously important moral force because after disasters, disaster victims and survivors have incredible moral power. But, you know, if we just, as Trump has done downplay all this is just another flu and this is something that’s happened in China. We’re doing just fine. And of course, it’s well known after disaster. He attacks victims rather than supporting victims. I expect we’ll see something like that here as well. But I think we need to be really, really attentive to supporting survivors and allowing survivors to coalesce as a group of people who have a special voice in this moment because they have an important role to play as we cope. And they’ll have an important role to play in the political discussion about governmental reform as this goes forward.

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S3: What do you think of the suggestions? It’s sort of an unusual idea. But I’m starting to like, get that? I think Larry Brilliant said as we acquire immunities and, you know, some of the worst victims, people who got as far as oxygen, if not ventilators, you know, have their immunities now and that they might, if tested, get some kind of marker like almost a bracelet. I think he said a bracelet. So they can teach. They can help. They can show up places with no fear that they’ll transmit the disease to someone else or get the disease or much reduced fear. And I sort of thought that rather than signaling that people are sick, signaling that they can help, you know, almost like wearing a Red Cross symbol, I think of I brought up on the show before a little family pride is that my grandfather during World War One or in 1896, he started a Navy hospital right outside Bermuda on a tiny island where everybody got the Spanish flu except him and the nurses and his Catholic faith. He assigned this to God’s protection so that they could help. But some idea that once you have your strength, the thing you use it for is to help and you signal that you’re available to help you. Mr. Rogers thing. And, you know, marking someone as someone able to help with the resources to help the biological psychic resources to help a survivor, like you say, as opposed to marking them as diseases, putting them in a leper colony seems to be a kind of beautiful expression of the resilience that you’re talking about. And yeah, and maybe maybe something that has even happened in the past with the curious case of nurses who get immunity very early on and are able to serve. Not true in every case. But it does seem like it shows up in the literature around plagues and maybe goes to what you’re saying. There’s strength that comes literal strength that comes from having survived, that is. And then a capacity to be of service.

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S12: Virginia, I think I mean, you’ve opened up really important question here that again, shows the the long term impact of the failure that we’ve had to get when we got the testing wrong early on. So already at a disadvantage is a lot of people out there who won’t know until they get some tests. On the other side, if they’ve had it, they feel like maybe they did, but they weren’t sick enough to go to the hospital. They didn’t want to tax the health system. So we’re gonna have to overcome that. And that right there is that one of the signal features of the failure of leadership in this disaster. But that aside for a second and gets this more hopeful part, I agree with you entirely. I want to stay inside my epidemiological lane here and defer to others about how much immunity it will confer in relationship to the to the severity of the case. But this idea that survivors could come together either to provide therapeutic care, to provide psychological care is really important and has strong historical background. If you look after World War Two in Japan, the bomb affected people, the Havok Shah. They were forced into silence. The stigma around their exposure to the bomb was so great that some of them carried that secret to the to their to their deaths. They died at disproportionately high rates of cancers. They were not women were deemed not worthy to marry. I mean, there was so much stigma around radioactive exposure. And that’s an example. And it was. And it was kept under wraps, as it is almost as a state secret. And I think we have to use those sort of analogies from history to help us think about this particular moment, because stigma of disease exposure is real. And this is one of those sort of ways in which, you know, the pro-social reaction to disaster is there. But over time, to introduce fear into the mix, things can it can get concerning to people we want to help. But is that person safe or is that person not? Can they infect me? How long are they contagious after they’ve had the disease? This is where we I agree with you entirely. I think we need strong gestures from the government again to empower survivors and people who’ve gotten better through this and not make the same mistakes that were made in Japan. And frankly, some of the same mistakes think that were made after 9/11 in the United States. You know that people who were affected by that disaster, I think there was a many of them were sort of felt like they were expected just to get over it real quickly and get back to them at some point. There was a fatigue in the culture. We didn’t want to hear about that anymore. And I think we’re looking back 19 years later on that saying, no, people are still getting sick from that. We need that Survivor network more than ever. And I I’m absolutely convinced. When it comes and I don’t want to sugarcoat this, because I think that if you start to see those reactions in the public and thus empowering victims, I think Trump will go after them. I do believe that. I think he will. He has already and will continue to try to stigmatize them. And that’s why I think we’re going to need as a society again, to kind of come together and wrap our arms around that community and let them do what they can do, which is tell us this was real, this was bad, this didn’t have to happen.

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S13: And I’m here to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.

S3: I was thinking, you know, what he said about McCain. I like people who weren’t captured. You know, he’s this close to saying, I like people who weren’t intimated. You know, I like people who didn’t have a relative die. There’s indifference to suffering, which, you know, is bad enough. But then, you know, and there might be some kind of sadistic pleasure in other people’s suffering, which is sick in its own way. But Trump has contempt for those who suffer. I’ve never seen anything like it. You may know the work of al-Ain Scary. He’s written about thinking in an emergency and written a lot about borders. And she says to have pain is to have certainty. To hear about pain is to have doubts. You know, that first hesitation of is this really as bad as it seems to other people, does seem to have to come close for most of us, two or three degrees of remove it for me. It took Susan Hennessey describing her experience being on a ventilator for a totally different reason. And when she was in her 20s, it took me seeing a video of a young woman talking about being on oxygen, being in the hospital with it. And it took Dan Goldman, you know, the prosecutor in the impeachment, him having trouble getting a test, you know. And by then, I was like relieved of my doubt that this is a horrible, horrible thing and that people are are just deeply suffering. I mean, I I don’t know what it would take to convince the president that that’s A, true and B, something that he ought to have compassion for.

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S12: He governs by disruption. Yes. The normal framework for presidents and governors is to see this. They would rather not be in office when a disaster occurs in general. But when one happens, they want to demonstrate strong leadership. And that has every time in American history up to now has involved extending compassion, the compassion of states through all of the instruments that the president commands and then the personal compassion of the president as a leader. And think about Barack Obama and the Chris Christie hug as a sort of ultimate example of that kind of that kind of a gesture. Think about President Carter actually showing up at Three Mile Island in 1979 and his approval rating took up, took a real battering after Three Mile Island. But he was still in that moment trying to show sort of solidarity and compassion. Yeah, people. I think Trump is completely playing to his and his normal strategy, which he believes he’s strategist, number one, and it’s worked. Why would he abandon it now that, too, that he must keep things disrupted, that he cannot be a person who obeys norms, the government can’t follow norms, and that attacking victims is not a sign of being a bully. It’s a sign of pointing out who the winners and losers in society are. Yeah. You attacked the victims of the under-counted, the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and then he’s attacked them. Ever since he undercounted the victims in the California wildfires and Calif. in 2018, he’s attacked them and even slow disasters, things like the Flint water crisis.

S13: I’m tired of hearing about people complaining about, you know, these kinds of things that he’s said he doesn’t want to hear about it. And when he does hear about it, he wants to point out the weeks of victimhood. So I think we’re going to continue to see that here. I hadn’t thought of the analogy to the McCain, but of course, he’s going to go there and we should be ready for that. And I think we have a responsibility to call that out is exactly what it is, which is a political strategy of his. This is not just some thing he’s firing off that day. This is strategic for him. And I think he’s going to run on this election. The border, the distancing from the disease, the idea that Americans are healthy inherently. And this victimhood and this has a double effect for people who already have chronic disease and disability. They’re being double marginalized in this particular moment. And it’s awfully hard to take when it comes from the from the podium, from the farm assistant chief up there telling us to take unsafe drug combinations and not trust expertise and not show compassion for victims.

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S3: Having fixated on plays in antiquity, I’m now fixating on this Poe short story vaska Red Death, which of course, is about a disease that never existed. He calls the Red Death like the Black Death. But there’s two things in there that really remind me of Trump and also your point about elites. The second is the major when they print press for a lot. Everyone in this room. And that makes me think of Trump just after saying we should all wash our hands, shaking hands firmly with and being flanked by the most elite of the elite CEOs of major companies. As long as they stay close to him, flank him like, you know, valets and man servants and courtiers, but are themselves seem powerful. He self-prescribed self-proclaimed germophobe is willing to shake their hands, lock himself in with them. So strange. And I didn’t understand what it meant until you said that elites sometimes make this mistake, that they just need to be close to each other and far from the other, as if the disease will never reside in them or never visit their own bodies. The second thing is another ominous part of that story. It’s only like a page and half long is the reason that Prospero is starting to enjoy himself. When the red death takes over the land is that its half depopulated. You know, it’s like Thanos in the Avengers, 50 percent of the people are gone. And you heard a little of this in the beginning with people pooh poohing the quarantine and the social distancing saying, well, actually, I think it’s great out here because we have more room on the beach and we have more room to do these places, which then leads into this other thing, which is the kind of idea of a utopia where 2 percent of the week are all sloughed off. And that is just about the most ominous kind of thinking. I think there is. I mean, people being grateful for the disaster because, well, if it’s the wildfires, maybe we’ll lose Californians who don’t vote for Trump.

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S12: But I think you’re pointing out that we’re always just one disaster away from eugenics coming right back. That this notion that there’s no weakness out there. And and, you know, we’ll let these natural forces sort of sort of winnow the herd and winnow society. That’s it. You know, I mean, the basis of the modern society that I want to participate in, which enables expertise, is that that that’s not the society we want to live in. If there’s any reason for modernity in the first place is to create a society that uses science and technology to enable survival and equality, not sort of reveling in the idea that some are weak and some are or and some are strong. Some are rich. And you know. But I mean, again, I think this this has been pretty consistent with his strategy all along. And I think he hasn’t said that expressly. But people who are who are mouthing the talking points like the lieutenant governor of Texas, I don’t know if you saw this the other day basically saying, well, you know, we can’t allow the grandparents are going to are gonna have to just, you know, buck up on this. And because we can’t wreck the economy for the next generation because of the older generation. And, you know, I mean, I first my first thought of that is like, well, a lot of Trump’s base are those so-called grandparents are supposed to, you know. Yeah. On ventilators here. So the rest of us have our stock portfolios doing fine. I mean, it’s so insane when you actually articulate it and try to try to examine it, but just one low blow it. I think it is this notion that there’s there’s weakness in society and there’s strength in society. And we’ve got to go with the strength and let the weak fall wherever they are. And look, are we very far from that discussion when we talk about the social safety net more generally or about our medical system more generally? I mean, I think in some ways when Trump says things about how, you know, this is gonna be a disaster which will only affect, you know, just older people or something like that, or he’s really telling us sort of wild truth about the American health system to a certain degree. He’s just being really honest about it. We just don’t want to. We just don’t want to hear it. I think to a certain extent, you know, that this is the reality every day in America and health care is rationed. Not everyone get this gets the care we make those decisions through policy means that we can our society are going to struggle to find health care. It’s surprising to us when we hear it in the midst of a disaster, it’s very jarring. But I again, I think it’s the way that disaster reveals society sort of shows up. And that was what I was doing with that story. Before I forget, there’s a graphic novel version of that story for kids, Goth kids. Well, and I strongly recommend it’s the most terrifying version of it you can possibly get. But it’s you know, it’s to this thing about, you know, Prospero. His own paranoia and his own sort of weird fascinations of a world without anyone who’s not a least. Yeah. I mean, as you said, how far away from that are we? I don’t think there are. For some people in powerful positions right now, Scott Knowles is a.

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S3: Wrestler of history at Drexel University and the author of The Disaster Experts, the link to his daily project that covered calls can be found in our show notes.

S14: Thank you so much for being here, Scott. Thanks, Virginia. That’s it for today’s show. Hey, what do you think? Say hi to us on Twitter. I’m at page 88. The show is at Real Trump Cast. Our show today was produced by Melissa Kaplan with engineering help from Richard Status Lord John D. Domenica is our amazing voice of Donald J. Trump. You can find him on Twitter at Johnny D. Twenty three. I’m Virginia Heffernan. Take care out there. And thanks for listening to Trump Cost.

S15: My lovely wife, the first lady, invented social distancing years ago. Remember, she would slap my hand. That was for me to get six feet away. I’ve been getting a lot of heat about wanting to reopen the country on Easter Sunday, but I think it’s a tremendous idea. Packed churches. People shaking hands, hugging. I think that would be really, really incredible. Remember, everyone stay positive. Test negative.