Trump jests while Americans die

Several people had asked me when my next blog post would appear, and I wasn’t sure. But after Trump’s Thursday night press briefing, in which he suggested people could shoot bleach or disinfectants as a cure for the coronavirus, a blog topic fell on my lap: L’affaire Clorox.

Torrents of words have been written by newspaper and TV commentators trying to figure out what goes on in Trump’s head, but that’s like attempting to decipher a hieroglyphic that keeps changing daily. Is he a narcissist? A pathological liar? A sociopath with no moral bearings or empathy for fellow human beings? A wannabe medical doctor? All of the above and then some?

To that long list of possibilities we can now add “comedian,” although one with such recondite sense of humor and sarcasm, his punch lines likely will leave most listeners stupefied rather than amused. 

Manufacturers of Lysol and Clorox immediately implored people to forget about injecting disinfectants. And so did the Federal Drug Administration, and state and local agencies running poisoning hotlines.

Kayleigh McEnany, the hapless White House press secretary who gets to explain Trump’s constant excursions into Fantasyland—a job as thankless as cleaning up after the elephants at the circus—said that it was the media’s fault for acting “irresponsibly” and taking Trump’s remarks “out of context.”

Emily Litella for White House
 press secretary. 

Let us pause here for a second, and at the count of three, let’s all shout, “Fake News! Fake News! Fake News!”

Except Trump himself made clear his remarks were accurately reported, but that he had made them “in jest.”

Video of Thursday’s briefing, didn’t record any stifled laughs or even discreet tittering. It showed Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, sitting nearby, at times clasping her hands and looking at the floor. Later she offered that Trump’s remarks were deliberate, but reflected an “unorthodox” thought process.

How that’s different from out-and-out lunacy, she didn’t explain.

 L‘Affaire Clorox, though, shows at least two salient characteristics of Trump’s disordered personality.

One is his dishonesty, which he has demonstrated time and again, during the series of press briefings related to the coronavirus pandemic.  He lies constantly, casually, needlessly, almost compulsively. Does he do it for fun? To get out of answering questions his stable genius mind can’t handle?

Profiles in compassion: Trump at a photo op in El Paso,
where 22 people died during a mass shooting; Barack Obama and
George W. Bush, as “consolers-in-chief”; and Prime Minister
 Jacinda Ardern comforting relatives of victims of a massacre
at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, last year.  

But talking about his dishonesty, or fact-checking what he says, is a tiresome endeavor.

What intrigues me most is his lack of empathy or compassion, even in situations where a furrowed brow or look of concern, a quick hug, would go a long way to comfort  people who are suffering or mourning the death of a dear one.

In this specific case: Why would someone make a joke during  a press briefing about an epidemic that has killed almost 54,000 fellow Americans and more than 200,000 people worldwide? 

How can a human being be so emotionally clueless? Whatever the answer to that might be, I can’t imagine there’d be anything funny about it.

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