Have you ever seen more evidence that God is a Master Ironist?
In retrospect, it was an overdetermined event ...
The Rose Garden Superspreader
That crowded Rose Garden ceremony last Saturday, at which Donald Trump announced Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee, defying Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s last wishes? It growingly appears that it was a super-spreader event. It seems old Ruth knows how plead a case in heaven as well as she did on earth.
Senators Thom Tillis and Mike Lee have tested positive. Kellyanne Conway—positive. Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Sepian—positive. RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniels—positive. The president of Notre Dame—positive. Hope Hicks—positive Three White House reporters, including New York Times correspondent Michael Shear. A White House staffer who works with the press. All positive.
Eleven staffers from the Cleveland debate—positive.
Note: The Trump entourage arrived late, declined to be tested, and refused to wear masks even though they were required by the debate rules, to which they’d agreed in writing.
It surprises me not one bit that the President—at least, according to the information they’ve released—is not being treated with hydroxychloroquine:
Nor, I presume, are they hitting his body with “a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet, or just a very powerful light.”
Nor are they going to “bring the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way.”
Nor are they going to use “disinfectant, which knocks it out in a minute, one minute—by injection inside, or almost a cleaning, because you see, it gets on the lungs and does a tremendous number on the lungs.”
But yes, they’re going to have to use medical doctors, who may very well save his life.
Wallace: You’re holding large rallies, with crowds packed together of thousands of people … Vice-President Biden, you are holding much smaller events, with—-
Trump, interrupting: Because nobody will show up!
Wallace: people with masks—
Trump, interrupting: Well it’s true! Nobody shows up to his rallies.
Wallace: Well, in any case, why are you [Trump] holding the big rallies, and why are you [Biden] not? You go first, Sir.
Trump: Because people wanna hear what I have to say!
Wallace: But are you not worried about—
Trump, talking over him: I’ll have 25, 35 thousand people show up at airports, we use airports.
Wallace: Are you not—
Trump: We have a lot—
Wallace: Are you not worried about the disease issue, Sir.
Trump: Well, so far, we have had no problem whatsoever.
[Note: It troubled him not one bit that Herman Cain died at one of his rallies.]
Trump: It’s outside, that’s a big difference, according to the experts (disdainful tone). And we do ‘em outside, we have tremendous crowds, as you see, and literally on 24 hours notice, and Joe does the circles and has three people someplace.
Biden, interrupting: By the way, did you see, one of the last big rallies he had, and a reporter came up to him to ask him a question and he said, “No, no, no. Stand back. Put on your mask. Put on a mask. Have you been tested.” “I’m way far away from those people,” that’s what he said. “I’m going to be okay.” That’s what he said. He’s not worried about you. He’s not worried about the people out there breathing in—
Trump, interrupting: We’ve had no negativity, no negative effect—
Biden, interrupting: Come on.
Trump, interrupting: —no negative effect, and we’ve had 35, 40 thousand people at these rallies.
Wallace: You have begun, increasingly, to question the effectiveness of masks as a disease preventer, and in fact recently you have cited the issue of waiters, touching their masks and touching plates. Are you questioning—
Trump, interrupting: No, I think masks are okay. You have to understand, if you look, I mean, I have a mask right here, I put a mask on when I think I need it. Tonight, as an example, everybody’s had a test, and you’ve had social distancing, and all of the things you have to, but—
Wallace, interrupting: but your rallies—
Trump, interrupting: I wear masks when needed, when needed—
Wallace, interrupting: Okay, let me ask you—
Trump, interrupting, pointing at Biden: I mean, I don’t have to—I don’t wear masks like him. Everytime you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me—and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen. I will say, I will say—
Wallace: Vice-President Biden. Go ahead, Sir.
Biden: Masks—masks make a big difference. His own head of the CDC said if we just wore masks between now—if everybody wore masks and social distanced between now and January, we’d probably save up to a hundred thousand lives. It matters. It matters.
Trump, interrupting: And they’ve also said the opposite. They’ve also said—
Biden: No serious person said the opposite. No. Serious. Person—
Trump: Dr. Fauci! Dr. Fauci!
Wallace: I want-
Trump: Dr. Fauci said the opposite!
Biden: He did not.
Wallace: I want to ask you, we’ve got a minute left and then there’s—
Trump, simultaneously: He said very strongly that masks are not good! Then he changed his mind, and he said, masks good!
Wallace: I want to ask ….
Nagorno-Karabakh exploded this week. This would once be the sort of thing that penetrates, at least, the consciousness of the President and causes urgent meetings of the NSC to be convened. It is the oldest ethno-territorial conflict in the post-Soviet space. This is the kind of emergency that could suck all of Europe down with it.
Since the 1994 cease-fire, Russia, France, and the United States, via the OSCE Minsk group, have been trying to broker a durable peace. Then the United States disappeared. Really, it just disappeared when Trump took power. We decided we wanted no role or influence in the Caucasus, despite our interest—our permanent interest—in a stable Eurasia.
Two days ago, the OSCE Minsk Group issued this statement:
The President of the Russian Federation and the President of the French Republic, representing the Co-Chair countries of the OSCE Minsk Group, condemn in the strongest terms the recent escalation of violence along the Line of Contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
Notice who’s missing?
The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is considering activating the mutual defense obligations of the CSTO treaty. This is like activating NATO’s Article V: One for all and all for one.
Turkey is backing Azerbaijan and not trying to hide it at all. Turkey’s position toward Armenia is, roughly, that there was no Armenian genocide—the very idea is a filthy libel and they’ll sue or imprison anyone who suggests it—and it’s a damned shame they didn’t finish the job.
The situation is now far more dangerous than it was in 1994. The risk of escalation and mass destruction is alarming—as is the risk to Europe’s energy security.
The conflict is far more dangerous than it was before, first, because both sides are armed to the eye teeth with modern weaponry. Second, Turkey is openly backing one party. Previously, Ankara had always called for restraint from its little brother in Baku, calling for the peaceful settlement of the conflict. Those days are over. Turkey is shipping Turkish-controlled Syrian mercenaries from Libya to Nagorno-Karabakh. The geopolitical balance has been toppled.
Third, the United States has completely checked out.
Since 1998, Washington has been one of the three co-chairs of the Minsk Group mediation effort, and its engagement led both parties to the dispute to believe, at least, that something worth waiting for might happen—and the United States might object to a bloodletting. The Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan met, for example, in Key West for US-mediated summit.
Then the United States became distracted—9/11, Obama, and, finally, Trump who is interested in the region only insofar as there’s a half-completed Trump Tower in Baku. Years have gone by with only desultory diplomatic activity. Occasionally there is been a discussions about the wording of a 2006 document treating the number of OSCE monitors to be stationed on the ground.
The United States has given up on being a global power. We’ve gutted the State Department. We no longer attempt to defuse regional conflicts before they get out of hand. In Karabakh, Turkey is facing off against Russia—as it has been in Syria and Libya.
What difference does it make to the man in Peoria? It doesn’t. But the man in Peoria trusts that the man in the White House will know when something like this is a big deal—and that he will handle it. This is a big deal. Turkey’s involvement, Iran’s proximity, a dense network of major oil and gas pipelines—this could become an international crisis. A massive war between major powers.
It will be a bloodletting. The last round of fighting claimed 20,000 lives. Given the improvement in weaponry, on both sides, since then, this could easily make that look like a bagatelle. Americans used to care about this sort of thing. We were a better country when we did.
A national security catastrophe
Presidents have been incapacitated in the past, but not by a highly infectious virus whose victims must be strictly isolated, not three weeks before an election, and not while the same disease decapitates Washington, leaving the US military and foreign-policy chain of command in disarray.
Our adversaries are increasingly belligerent. Because Americans have been so distracted by the White House Follies, most have no idea just how belligerent they have become while—and because—we are paying no attention. They will likely never have a better shot at us. Americans won’t notice until a catastrophe affects our troops—or us, at home. But our national security apparatus is right now operating with hearts in their stomachs, wondering just how are adversaries are planning to exploit the President’s debilitation, and certain that they will try.
Every hour of the day, the President is followed by a military official who carries the so-called football—the briefcase containing the codes to order a nuclear strike and connect the president to the National Command Authority.
Our command-and-control apparatus is designed to make it clear to adversaries that there is no way to neutralize the United States through a sneak attack. No matter what, there will always be massive retaliation. This involves a system of special presidential transport aircraft, such as Air Force One, which have command and control capabilities, linked to an arc of hardened government facilities, spread from southern Pennsylvania to North Carolina.
FEMA runs all of these facilities, with regional command bunkers as far flung as Texas and Massachusetts. And there is NORAD, of course.
All of this—and indeed, our entire nuclear program—is designed to say to any adversary: Don’t do it. We will survive long enough to annihilate you. (And that is all it is designed to do. No one imagines anything like the United States we now know would survive a nuclear attack.)
Trump, reportedly, has shown no interest in how this works or what it means.
Garrett Graff is the author of Raven Rock: The U.S. Government’s Secret Plan To Save Itself While The Rest Of Us Die. Aviation intel specialist Tyler Rogaway interviewed him last May:
Does it worry you that there are a lot of reports stating President Trump doesn’t seem very interested in details like this? This is reportedly the case across the full range of the government, and he has supposedly delegated decision making authority to the military on a fairly unprecedented level, at least in modern times.
Yes. And I think that you have a president also who has made very troubling comments about his own appreciation of nuclear weapons, and the extent to which he would like to see nuclear weapons spread in the world. Which goes against decades of US policies to try and limit nuclear proliferation around the world.
So perhaps it is not a surprise that he failed to understand what it would mean if he became ill or incapacitated. It is not merely an inconvenience, or even a tragedy, for him. If the disease affects his health and mind in the extreme ways it has other Covid-19 patients, he will clearly be unable to fill his designated role in the National Command Authority.
Our emergency plans involve quickly whisking the President and his cabinet to safer locations equipped with command and control capabilities. That’s why the 12th Aviation Battalion is always on standby—waiting, just in case, to scoop up the President and move him to a safe location. But what do you do if the President is a feverish and hallucinating bag of lethal germs? You can’t put him in an enclosed aircraft and expose the pilot. You can’t bring him to one of the isolated, hardened bunkers—and expose everyone in them.
According to US Air Force General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, head of NORTHCOM, the protocols in place to keep these facilities from infection have been arduous:
Everything we’re doing here is in line with the Secretary of Defense guidance to protect service members and their families, to safeguard our agency, and support a whole-of-government approach. And Covid-19 or not, it should be absolutely no surprise to anyone in this audience that NORAD and US Northern Command continue to actively defend the homeland—24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. And already this month, just to give you an example, on several occasions, we’ve had to intercept multiple Russian aircraft off the coast of Alaska. We intercepted those aircraft with both US and Canadian fighters, ensuring the Russian aircraft never entered Canadian or United States sovereign territory or airspace. And additionally, we continue to be prepared for any other potential threat so we might face, including potentially North Korea, as they continue to test their missiles, as well as any other potential threats to either the United States or Canada. And I’ll give you a level of detail to illustrate the point that our commands are, and will always continue, to execute our only defense mission with the same capability and capacity we always bring to the fight. And that doesn’t happen just by luck. It happens because we take delivery actions, for example at this time, measures to ensure we’re able to conduct our No Fail missions.
To ensure we can defend the Homeland despite this pandemic, our command and control watch teams here in the headquarters split into multiple shifts. And portions of our watch team began working from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force base, creating a third team in an alternate location as well. I thank all of the professionals of NORAD and Northern Control command-and control squads who’ve left their homes, said goodbye to their families, and are isolated from everyone to observe, so they can stand watch, each and every day, to defend our homelands. It’s certainly not optimum. But it’s absolutely necessary and appropriate, given the situation. I appreciate your commitment and sacrifice, as well as the sacrifice of our families.
Those men have been buried under 2,000 feet of solid granite, completely isolated, for months. They’ve done this to ensure there’s no possibility of an outbreak among the forces who would retaliate if ever the United States were attacked, or God forbid, nuked. You can’t fly a President who’s carrying a highly infectious disease right into one of these facilities. You would take it offline.
Even if the President is well enough (by Trump’s standards) to discharge his duties, and even if the emergency is something short of an attack on the United States, the situation is a nightmare. Trump has dismantled the systems of Washington’s national security machine. We’ve been governed by his Twitter feed. There are no longer any smooth, established protocols.
In a lesser emergency, the President, key Cabinet members, and the military leadership cram themselves into the Situation Room. If there’s a heightened alarm, they and their families descend into the bunker below the White House. As photos from 9/11 suggest, there’s no room, there, for social distancing:
“All of this bleeds,” writes Tyler Roganay in the Drive’s War Zone,
into the realm of the U.S. government's worst fears and darkest emergency planning, but what is important to understand is that under these conditions, it is not a flexible regime. These facilities and measures underpin the very credibility of our nuclear deterrent. If they were weakened or made unavailable, America's ability to deter a nefarious act before it would occur is degraded significantly. It is truly a game with the highest imaginable stakes. …
With foreign adversaries, especially peer states like China, already pushing the boundaries in highly tense regions, it isn’t any leap of the imagination to see how they would leverage the current uncertainty to their advantage. What time is better than now? This is the prevailing logic of America’s foes.
In short: The President’s inattention, incuriosity, belligerence, stupidity, narcissism, and selfishness have not only cost hundreds of thousands of Americans their lives—644 Americans out of a million have died of this disease, compared to 178 in Israel, 114 in Germany, 38 in Greece, 12 in Japan, 8 in South Korea, and 5 in Singapore—it has endangered the entire government, and placed us all in grave peril.
He had it coming
They had it coming. The White House staff and all other people who had no choice but to be around the most powerful man in America didn’t. But he, and everyone in his Administration did. If ever anyone can be said to have courted this fate, it’s Donald Trump.
MAGA world is awash in pious outrage toward anyone who points this out. The only acceptable response, in their view, is graciously to offer thoughts and prayers for the President and the First Lady. They are enraged that the rest of the country and the world is chortling with Schadenfreude. Matt Gaetz, of all people, has suddenly discovered the importance of empathy:
Whether it is the President of the United States or a beloved family member, we would always want to show empathy for someone who is a little ill or maybe in need of a weekend off to recover. Instead, what we’ve seen are vitriol, hatred. Some of the things we have seen are so disgusting that people are willing to post online on social media, literally hoping that someone die. I can’t imagine there is any person I’ve disagreed with politically that I would wish that outcome on.
That’s this Matt Gaetz, if you need a refresher:
Yes, that Matt Gaetz—the one who invited a Holocaust denier to the State of the Union in 2018.
Under normal circumstances, I’d agree. I was taught to respect the office of the Presidency. Americans should respect the office of the Presidency, irrespective of political disagreements. But there’s two sides to that civic compact. The President, too, must respect the office of the Presidency—not to mention his citizenry. And he respects neither.
The President is not just the commander-in-chief and the head of our government. He is also our Head of State—the public persona who officially embodies our nation. In a monarchy, such as Britain’s, the role is of course played by the Queen. The head of state symbolizes the unity and integrity of the state at home and abroad. He symbolizes the authority and power of the United States. He acts in the name of all Americans.
And he has disgraced us. If he does not respect the office of the Presidency, I cannot muster more respect for the Presidency than the President can himself.
I genuinely do hope the First Lady recovers quickly. Melania is my very favorite First Lady. “Who gives a fuck about Christmas stuff?” Indeed. I’ve waited my whole life for a First Lady to express my feelings about that. I’m so sorry the news was overshadowed by the news of her illness, for she deserves always to have a very special place in our hearts just for that refreshing remark.
I bear Melania no ill-will at all; I am praying for her and praying, as I’m sure she is, that the lawyers who renegotiated her pre-nup knew what they were doing. If they’re as good as Trump’s tax attorneys, she’ll be fine—but I’m not sure how the law works: Does she also stand to inherit his debt? Surely that’s not possible, is it?
Did she realize how indebted he was, I wonder? She’s been looking forward for so many years to becoming a grieving, enigmatic, and fantastically wealthy widow. I can imagine her now rushing over to Walter Reed with tablets of purloined hydroxychloroquine in her black crocodile edition Hermès handbag—
“Donald, ve saw together in Plandemic how this is all Big Hoax , Deep State doctors no good. I see Doctor Stella Immanuel, she give to me to give you this hydroxysquirrel, take four with vater …. ”
—a woman whose courage, stoicism, and composure in the wake of her husband’s sudden and tragic demise—“Reports indicate that the President perished of Long QT syndrome”—gives rise to thousands of mournful photographs of the grieving, exquisite, widow billionairesse, caught at times lowering her oversized Cartier sunglasses to dab a diamond-ice tear from her cheek with her Italian silk handkerchief, attired in a black dragon mourning dress finished with fur by Gucci, Louboutin stilettos, striking sorrowful poses in the manner of Jackie O while wearing a white-and-black mourning coat from 101 Dalmatians—
“Oh,” they say, “but vhat about leettle puppies?” Giff me a fucking break. Where did they say that when Michele wore pussycat hat? Vhat you mean—vhas not real pussycat? So—it vhas cheap fake pussycat?
But imagine spending all those years sharing a bed with that corpulent pussy-grabber, putting up with his slobbering and groaning, night after night, only to discover at the end that not only is she not a billionaire, she’s 521 million dollars in debt?
So yes, I respect the office of the President, and I do wish the First Lady well, along with the unknown multiples of Americans that Rose Garden caper infected. But I can’t quite bring myself to wish the President well. There are 213,524 Americans dead and countless more disabled, perhaps permanently; we have not seen such suffering and poverty in America since the Great Depression, and this is because our President is a clown and a fool.
After watching the debate between Trump and Biden, our enemies could barely contain their glee and our allies struggled to find words to express their dismay. “Ein Witz, ein Tiefpunkt, eine Schande für das Land,” wrote Spiegel’s Markus Feldenkirchen. It needs no translation and sounds more apt in German.
Empathy for him? Sure, a tiny squeak of empathy. I force myself to feel it out of superstition: It brings bad luck to wish ill upon a man. But it would be a lot easier to feel if 212,660 Americans weren’t dead, a great many of them because they trusted him. It would be a lot easier to feel if he hadn’t betrayed our country, defiled it, and left it helpless and prostrate before a hostile world.
But sure: Get well soon, Mister President.
I can muster that.
All they had to do is distance the chairs. All they had to do was wear masks. Instead, they broke every last rule issued by the experts they so disdain. The consequences were just what the experts predicted.
They put the entire executive branch—and parts of the legislative branch—at risk. Justice Roberts was at the Rose Garden, so they put the judicial branch at risk, too.
Then they scattered all over the country, meeting hundreds if not thousands of people. The Senators at the Rose Garden went off to convene with other senators. The President debated Biden—putting him, Wallace, and everyone in attendance at risk.
The reckless disregard for safety and human life is entirely consistent with the whole of the Trump Administration’s pandemic response. Blindingly irresponsible and negligent. In every conceivable way.
Not one of the people who attended, not a single one, had the spine to stand up to the President and say, “This is stupid and dangerous.” What cowardice, and what an absolute dereliction of duty.
Not one of them should ever again hold power over another American.
I have to assume there is no chance of a second Trump term. The Jerry Springer Presidency is over; the proles took the presidency for a joyride and wrapped it around a tree. It’s over, thank God, who works in mysterious ways and really does have a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.
When Trump took office, the United States was the undisputed premier power of the world. We are now viewed, more or less, as a rogue state. It will take decades for Americans to be viewed by the rest of the world as a normal country again, if ever. And leader of the free world? Forget it. That’s over.
Americans will want to move on quickly after Trump is defeated. We’ll want to pretend it never happened.
Soon, no one you know will admit they voted for him.
But the world will remember this for a very long time. And it will poison everything.