The Cold Shower of Reality

Author: Gary Hart

Donald Trump exacts a heavy price of unvarnished loyalty from those around him, not least from his Vice President, newly named the leader of an ad hoc task force responsible for controlling a virus until recently dismissed as a spring flu by the maximum leader.

A few hours ago, Mr. Pence held a lengthy press conference meant to show the Trump administration in complete control, pushing virus testing kits out the door as fast as possible and otherwise fighting the invisible virus into a diminishing corner.

Mr. Pence has been a profile of anti-science rectitude, questioning experts on climate science, moving appointees into positions of authority whose main purpose was to scrub regulations and policies of any mention of established expert reference to overwhelming proof of scientific evidence that contradicted out-of-thin-air assertions by the president that black was white and, being a stable genius, he knew better about just about everything than those pointy-headed Ph.Ds.

But there he was at the hastily called press conference to reassure an anxious nation that all was under control and was surrounded by genuine experts, none of whom was known to have claimed stable geniusness.  They were recognized experts in epidemiology, virus control, medicine, mass inoculations, and career officials of the Center for Disease Control.

One waited, hoping against hope, that a bright reporter might have asked, “Mr. Vice President, are the experts up there with you part of the ‘deep state’?”

No such luck, alas.

The only slight bright spot in this dark experience is evidence that even the leaders of this strange administration are, when confronted with genuine and widespread public anxiety, capable of dropping the mask of denial and venturing on tiptoe somewhere near telling the truth.

Up to now, virtually every government responsibility hinging on facts and scientific evidence has been met with a top down question, Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

It has always been the mark of authoritarianism that facts are false, news is fake, science is flawed, evidence is relative, and questioning authority is the quickest way to be banished from the magic kingdom.

But our current authoritarians have not been able to duck and dodge when real people, our neighbors and friends, get sick and die, especially in increasing numbers.  You can only shuck and jive so long.  Then reality catches up.

And a reality like a pandemic throws political claptrap into a very cold shower.

It is a wonder for those of us who didn’t get beyond eighth grade biology that a single cell from a strange animal in an open market in a suburb of a Chinese city can get on an airplane or a cruise ship or even just a bicycle and spread around the world faster than all the science in the world can catch up.

Those of us who respect, perhaps even worship, the wonders of Nature sooner or later understand that it has its dark side.  Like the problem of evil in theology, it must be accounted for and appreciated.

That viral single cell has the power to plunge markets into chaos, destroy billions of dollars in value, wipe out whole companies, rattle entire industries, and scatter panic across societies.  We are not as smart, or as safe, as we like to think we are.

And for the authoritarian masters of the universe who think they know everything and make up what they don’t know, pandemics mock the phoniness of the Wizard with the megaphone behind the curtain.

Reality may slumber, but sooner rather than later it will wake up and sober up the pretend leaders.

 

12 Responses to “The Cold Shower of Reality”

  1. Michael Says:

    Frightening commentary. The inexcusable lack of testing kits has set up an administration that has been downplaying the spread of the virus to have to deal with a huge dose of reality, including possible panic, as the number of known cases spikes. No one in this administration is managerially capable enough or politically savvy enough to deal with what is surely coming. One has to wonder whom the conservative media complex will attempt to blame, and whether this time their audience will fall for it.

  2. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    With this current coronavirus outbreak, I sense that, in the US, it will be important for critics of the Trump administration to focus on how they can help the situation and encourage an improving response.

    Thankfully, and I have to disagree with Michael on this, there are many people and scientists in the administration (the deep state?) who are quite capable of managing this crisis.

  3. Neil McCsrthy Says:

    Elizabeth is right IMO. For the sake of my ninety year old mother, there need to be some adults in the room of our otherwise dysfunctional politics.

  4. Michael Says:

    I agree we have excellent scientists, health care professionals, and administrators who are probably the best in the world at what they do. But it takes political leadership to bring it all together. It takes leadership to inspire confidence and prevent panic, not only in the general population but also in the markets. It’s why we have government. But the government we now have in the person of Donald Trump is incompetent and irrational. It was Trump who closed the U.S. pandemic response team in 2018 to cut costs, (someone has to pay for those tax cuts). It was the Trump administration that downplayed the extent of the virus, and bungled getting test kits out into the country. And today with the virus spreading fast and global markets crashing the ‘president’ is off golfing in Florida. This can’t end well.

  5. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Neil, you are so right … if my mom was still with me, her safety and security would be all that mattered. She died recently, just before her 98th birthday. I’m so grateful that there are adults in the room …

  6. Gary Hart Says:

    Oh, Elizabeth, I am so sorry to hear about your mother’s passing. I know I write for all on this site that we send our most sincere condolences. I lost my mom when she was just 63 so you were blessed to have your mother as long as you did. Our thoughts are with you during your grief. Gary

  7. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Michael,

    My point was just that in this moment of great fear and apprehension that calling the government incompetent is probably not a good idea. 🙂

  8. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    And, leadership will emanate through this crisis from quarters other than the White House, mercifully.

  9. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    A fine article. Thoughts with Elizabeth.

    I have by coincidence, just written about this very topic and greatly concerned as are most who are sensible. But in support of experts we must recognise they do not all agree and we need to reveal personal responsibility as we deal with public health. Too often, caution is the way, caution to the wind, thrown, by the reckless causing disease or ignoring results, rather than by an over mighty but highly responsible state level of effort I would prefer. In the UK we have terrific experts but too libertarian an attitude by both government and governed when it boils down to being responsible. I ask you to read my article and share it if you are in agreement with any of it, as many of us, are very concerned, the article, on Ustinov Forum, by me, called, Viral Expertise

    http://www.ustinovforum.com

  10. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    It may be “just desserts” for all of his followers, if they believe and follow his advice about this virus. It might just lead to an awakening of great proportions come November.

  11. Michael Says:

    Elizabeth, the incompetence of this administration cannot be hidden; it is out in the open for everyone to see. It is also a political issue. The November election is going to be largely a referendum on competence.

  12. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Well, Michael, it’s too late now, anyway. But, there is greater hope now for November and beyond … hopefully.

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