The chief problem America faces right now is a potential pandemic with Coronavirus spreading rapidly. A disease specialist named Michael Osterholm that was interviewed on the Joe Rogan show predicts the virus is just beginning to show its impact. Interestingly, he notes that children are some of the people least likely to be infected while adults in their forties and beyond are most susceptible. He also says that the disease spreads both by physical contact and through the air. This is new information to many of us.
Newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune have begun to release information from disease specialists as well. That is the function of a free press, to educate people without the barrier of censorship or control by factions that might benefit from controlling or influencing public opinion. In this case, good information can mean the difference between life and death.
That is where the Coronavirus pandemic intersects with the dishonesty of the Trump administration, whose immediate goal in addressing the disease was first trying to ignore the threat, then moving to control the flow of information distributed to the public. This included blocking experts on disease control from informing the public. Instead, the Trump administration and especially its specious leader, Donald J. Trump, sought to play down the risks and pump up the volume on how, according to Mr. Trump, the disease would “go away.”
Trump even compared this approach to the “perfect” phone call he made to the President of Ukraine. That call led to Trump’s impeachment after multiple officials associated with or managed by the Trump administration testified their concerns about the manifest corruption at work in the President’s efforts to bribe, coerce or manipulate Ukraine into announcing an investigation of Hunter Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, who just now swept a sea of delegates into his corner after a Tuesday election.
That dishonest action was deserving of impeachment along with the obstruction of justice that followed. Along the way, Trump blocked or attempted to block testimony that might compromise his own versions (and they were multiple) of what he calls “truth.”
Meanwhile, Trump maligns the press as “fake news” because it refuses to comply with that approach to information dispensation, otherwise known as propaganda.
It all led to a Constitutional crisis in which the House delivered articles of impeachment to the Senate, a body that first took an oath to conduct a full and honest trial and then refused to allow additional testimony even while confessions trickled out that Republican Senators knew that Trump had abused his power. But they were too afraid to vote using whatever shriveled notion of conscience they had left, and Trump was ostensibly exonerated.
This rewarded Trump’s dishonesty, and he loves it when that happens. His entire career is a testament to “winning” but he seems to love it best when it hurts others. That’s why he ran a show called The Apprentice in which he got to bully contestants by telling them, “You’re fired.”
In an article produced by a professor named Prof. David Honig of Indiana University, who teaches negotiation to college students, he examines Trump’s preferred method of achieving success. It is always the all-or-nothing approach in which he benefits. Honig notes that rather than approach negotiations through integrative bargaining, where both sides collaborate for mutual benefit, Trump prefers ‘distributive bargaining,’ in which he sees success as him winning when the other guy loses.
Honig writes: “Distributive bargaining always has a winner and a loser. It happens when there is a fixed quantity of something and two sides are fighting over how it gets distributed. Think of it as a pie and you’re fighting over who gets how many pieces. In Trump’s world, the bargaining was for a building, or for construction work, or subcontractors. He perceives a successful bargain as one in which there is a winner and a loser, so if he pays less than the seller wants, he wins. The more he saves the more he wins.”
Distributive bargaining has another facet that is not mentioned in Honig’s article, likely because he maintains the perspective of a teacher. But distributive bargaining has an even darker side than the tactics he mentions. Among its keen practitioners, distributive bargaining embraces the harsh philosophy that the ends justifies the means. In other words, even dishonest dealings are allowable if it means winning the day.
That’s why Trump’s dishonesty is now more dangerous than the Coronavirus itself. His emphatic claims that the disease poses no threat to the American way of life are just another case of distributive bargaining. But this time, he’s trying to bilk the American people into embracing a worldview that will literally kill people, possibly hundreds of thousands of people. Don’t get me wrong: Trump is not responsible for the Coronavirus or its spread in this country. But his selfish desire to have it just “go away” in an election year when he feels his power being threatened by forces outside of his control are an offense to his notion of distributive bargaining.
And if Trump feels there is no way he can win, he resorts to his most effective tactic of all. He lies, and then repeats the lies. Then he hire or forces other people to repeat the lies. His lawyers. His media buddies. Then he accuses those of questioning his lies of promoting “fake news.” This is Donald Trump’s entire way of life. It is how he has gotten him everything he wanted except one thing: actual respect.
But we don’t owe Donald Trump any respect when he lies to us. This is not about “respecting the presidency” anymore. Trump has blown through that protection ten times over. His properties and his children are stealing taxpayer money and enriching themselves through forced purchases and international contacts that funnel money back to the Trump family. Trump’s own University was convicted of fraud and fined $25M. His foundation was proven to be corrupt. There is nothing honest going on with Donald J. Trump at all. His thousands of lies to the American people on every subject he addresses are well-documented.
And how he’s lying to protect his precious economy, a benefit that he dishonestly claims as a product of his own policies. And even that is a lie, as President Obama’s economic performance the last three years of his two terms in office beat Trump’s any way you slice it. That means Trump got to sail along for three years, all while doling out tax cuts to the rich and lying to the middle class that they would be permanently “better off” once growth rates of 6% took over.
That was a lie too. He will lie until his hair stands on end if he thinks it will help him “win” somehow.
But the Big Lie that Coronavirus is harmless is one of the most dangerous of its kind. Experts such as Michael Osterholm project that 48M people could be infected before this is through. That does not mean they’ll all die. And it doesn’t mean we have to panic.
But being smart is critical in times like these. That’s not what Trump has been doing so far. He’s telling us all to choose to be willingly ignorant and believe that he’s got this thing under control through his “natural ability” to divine the seriousness of any matter under the sun. But most of all, he fears that the one illusion holding him afloat, economic prosperity, is now being yanked like that combover on his head in a high wind.
But Trump clings to the virus of dishonesty because it sickens his detractors and gives his supporters a supposed immunity to the truth. That describes the entire legacy of the Trump presidency and the sickening support his faithful lend to his credulity.
That is the real sickness in America.