David Frum Profile picture
10 Sep, 15 tweets, 3 min read
I made this point w @AriMelber tonight am still brooding on it:

So Trump has confirmed in his own voice that he was not self-deluded about COVID. He knew the danger - and still opted to do nothing and instead belittle the risk in public.

The question that then follows ...
What on earth did Trump expect to happen next?

I get the utility of the "lie your way out of it" approach to scandals and crimes.

But you can't cover up an epidemic!

So *why* was he so passive? Action might have saved him, even the appearance of action. Instead, nothing. Why?
This question I think casts light on Trump's habitual lying.

At some deep level of his psyche, he imagines that words can change reality.

He has no idea eg how to run a business. But if you keep saying your business is "tremendous," bankers lend you money you need not repay.
His hotels and resorts are 2nd-tier at best. But keep insisting they are "classy" - and people who don't know better may be duped to regard the Trump brand as somehow equivalent to Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons.
So when a virus materialized, Trump did the only thing he knew how to do: try to talk his way out of it.

He kept promising Americans the virus "would go away" as he once kept promising creditors that the check was in the mail. Maybe something would happen to save him!
Talk, talk, talk, never stop talking, refuse to be interrupted, overwhelm your creditors/customers/wives with words ... and so long as you kept talking uninterrupted, nothing too very bad could happen. Or so Trump had learned to believe.
Any true plan of action against the virus would have required Trump to cede control and attention to someone else, someone who possessed the expertise and competence Trump lacked. That course was truly radically intolerable to the narcissistic Trump.
So instead he chose the only course of action he had the know-how to execute: try to out-talk the virus.

He talked and talked and talked. He contradicted himself, he lied, he made false promises - but he ballooned himself over the landscape on a great gush of hot air
He felt safe so long as he floated up there, above the people who got sick on his watch, above the dead and dying, above the shuttered businesses, above the lost jobs, above the interrupted educations ... words words words, the only thing he knows how to produce.
He surely could see the air leaking from his balloon of blather. He could feel the basket slowly losing altitude, anticipate the shock of the crash ... and so he kept pumping more words, hoping if he could only stay above the tree-line until voting day, he might yet survive.
It was never a good plan. But any other plan was either intellectually impossible for Trump (do a good job) or psychically impossible (yield power and attention to someone who could do the good job Trump couldn't). So ... he yammered and trusted something would save him.
Maybe the virus would fall only on the blue states. Maybe sugar tablets would cure it. Maybe he could push enough people back to work to revive the economy without killing too many of them. Maybe Putin's vaccine would work. Talk talk talk, never pause.
And so here we are. The trick that more or less worked through so many bankruptcies and relaunches failed to work. Almost 200,000 Americans are dead. He's facing electoral defeat - and probably massive civil liability and criminal exposure post-defeat. Still ...
... all things considered, it was a pretty good run, wasn't it? When it's all over, what will be hard to explain will not be, "What went wrong?" but "How did such a transparent fraud dupe so many people? And how did the fraud continue even as everything crashed into ruin?"
Those are questions for the future. For now, the immediate problem is, how do we save from the wreckage a country where two-fifths of the population prefer to suffer death and disaster rather than admit a mistake?


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More from @davidfrum

8 Sep
Some Trump defenders try to justify Trump's slurs against the military by comparing them to Eisenhower farewell address, the military-industrial complex speech. Anyone who says that is counting on you - not to read the speech. Here it is. avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/e…
As you'll see if you do read Eisenhower's speech, at the core of the speech is a plea by Eisenhower to control the defense budget.
And indeed, Eisenhower - who inherited the Korean War - did reduce defense spending over his eight years by some 27%.

In this respect, Trump is no Eisenhower. Over Trump's four years in office, he boosted defense spending from just over $600 bn to just over $700 bn.
Read 10 tweets
7 Sep
Every adversary of the United States, every enemy of liberal democracy, must smile with gratitude every day that Trump is president.
It's not the warriors who have seen combat who say, "I love war." It's Trump who said it.
It's Trump, not any American general, who fantasizes about a second Civil War
Read 12 tweets
5 Sep
This Trump scandal is breaking through. Here's People magazine
TMZ.com is reporting Trump's denial that he called fallen soldiers "losers" tmz.com/2020/09/04/don…
Read 11 tweets
2 Sep
People used to say "LOL nothing matters" to marvel that no Trump outrage drove his support much below 40%.

Also true: "LOL nothing matters" means that no Trump stunt or gambit can drive his support much above 44%.
If every legal voter who attempts to vote is allowed to vote; if every legal vote cast is counted; Trump will lose and lose big.

Election talk is not talk about "what the people want."

Election talk is talk about "what the governing authorities will permit the people to do."
Nothing in recent political memory has been as stable as the 52-55% anti-Trump majority in the US.

What we've been uncertain about since 2016 is only this question:

"How vulnerable to authoritarian manipulation is the US political system in the 21st century?"
Read 5 tweets
28 Aug
"Donald Trump is a huge warrior against human trafficking" motherjones.com/politics/2016/…
"Donald Trump is a huge warrior against human trafficking" thedailybeast.com/cheats/2016/08…
"Donald Trump is a huge warrior against human trafficking" theguardian.com/us-news/2020/m…
Read 8 tweets
20 Aug
My youngest daughter returned to Washington by air. At US customs in Toronto, no questions about quarantine plans. No isolation requirement at all. (She's a good citizen, she's observing the same 14-day rules on US side as she did after entering Canada earlier in summer) 1/x
When she presented herself at customs, the US official said sarcastically, "Take off your little mask," exactly those words. Of course he need to check her passport photo, but his tone conveyed a personal opinion enhanced by the power of uniform and badge: masks are dumb. 2/x
Toronto Pearson airport was ghostly empty. On landing, DCA was bustling. As Bea said, at the first footstep off the plane, one can see why one country is minimizing cases and how the other is maximizing cases. 3/3
Read 4 tweets

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