As Trump’s COVID-19 Death Toll Rises, He Desperately Fumbles To Distract

There have now been over 80k COVID-19 deaths in the United States. If the Trump administration had acted on testing and transmission reduction in the first days, this number could be significantly lower. If Donald Trump spoke in support of preventative measures, and set an example, instead of eschewing masks and telling the public that the virus would just go away, it could reduce the death toll. Instead, the sitting U.S. president is working to distract the public from the pandemic and his administration’s handling of it. Trump’s new focus in press conferences is what he calls Obamagate — a hypothetical scandal the details of which don’t seem to be clear even to Trump.

Donald Trump hopes to change the coronavirus narrative
[Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

Trump spent a significant portion of Mother’s Day tweeting and retweeting. He shared posts supporting or praising him, tweeted an advertisement for his own golf course, praised his own COVID-19 response, and tweeted about President Barack Obama and his VP Joe Biden a lot.

He retweeted Representative Jim Jordan, who claimed that Obama targeted conservatives via the IRS, and that he targeted Trump and ‘allies’ before the 2016 election. Trump added, “And we caught them and their illegal activities!” (As Bloomberg reported in 2017, there was never a focus on conservative groups, but on politicking — in addition to ‘tea party,’other keywords the IRS used to select groups for extra scrutiny included ‘progressive,’ and ‘occupy.’)

He retweeted a Gateway Pundit article insinuating that Hillary Clinton and the DNC funded the dossier of data on Trump, from which arose allegations that Trump had conspired with Russian agents to interfere with 2016 election results. (As even Fox News reported almost three years ago now, Fusion GPS was initially hired by conservative organizations to dig up dirt on Trump.)

He also tweeted the one-word accusation, “Obamagate!”

When asked about the supposed scandal at a Monday press conference, Trump was unable to identify any details of exactly what accusations he was leveling at Obama.

Q: Mr. President, in one of your Mother’s Day tweets, you appear to accuse President Obama of the biggest political crime in American history, by far.


Q: Those were your words. What crime exactly are you accusing President Obama of committing? And do you believe the Justice Department should prosecute him?

THE PRESIDENT: “Obamagate.” It’s been going on for a long time. It’s been going on from before I even got elected. And it’s a disgrace that it happened. And if you look at what’s gone on, and if you look at, now, all of this information that’s being released — and from what I understand, that’s only the beginning — some terrible things happened, and it should never be allowed to happen in our country again.

And you’ll be seeing what’s going on over the next — over the coming weeks. But I — and I wish you’d write honestly about it, but unfortunately, you choose not to do so.

Yeah. Jon, please.

Q: What is the crime exactly that you’re accusing him of?

THE PRESIDENT: You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.

In fact, ‘Obamagate’ seems to be a general conglomeration of all of the false and failed accusations leveled at Obama, Clinton, and Biden over the years since Trump’s announcement that he was running for president, up to and including having the audacity to call out the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ultimately, the former president’s condemnation of the current administration’s pandemic response, perhaps even more than Obama’s VP emerging as Trump’s final competition for the next presidential term, may be what truly set off this latest round of vague accusations.

Now, instead of talking about what can be expected from the federal government in the way of support for families affected by the pandemic, Kayleigh McEnany can spend press briefing time pointing fingers at the prior administration. See for example the selection below, from a conference in which McEnany also repeats the false claim that the Mueller investigation exonerated Trump:

So it rings the question — it brings the question to light: Why then did we have many years of investigating collusion that these Obama administration officials — never existed, they never saw any evidence of, but for three years the American people were dragged through the mud and told that their choice for the President of the United States might have been a Russian asset based on no evidence of all — at all?

(As the BBC reported in 2019, Robert Mueller explicitly responded under oath to deny claims that his report exonerated the president.)

The Obamagate fabrication supplies team Trump with something else to talk to the press about, something to say on camera that isn’t about the pandemic. It’s something to talk about besides the death toll. It’s a talking point that sidesteps children being diagnosed with Kawasaki disease after a bout of COVID-19, a growing phenomenon Med Page Today discusses in-depth here.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control is reporting that U.S. cases exceed 1.3 million, with more than 80k deaths. A billboard has been erected in Times Square counting COVID-19 deaths that might have been avoided, based on a presumption that 60% of the death toll is due to failures of the Trump administration to act in a timely and effective manner.

The 2020 election outcome could ride on sentiments about the Trump administration’s handling of the virus, and how the pandemic affects the nation. Unfortunately, results of ineffective actions are easier to see than the results of effective actions — that is, if the nation reopens and the death toll soars, it will be very noticeable, but if businesses stay shut down, and lives are saved, voters will likely be upset at the inconvenience of closure and the hardship of unemployment.

Lives saved can be somewhat invisible — no voter can know for sure that with more incompetent handling, they, or their mother, or their child might have been lost to the virus. Scandal, by contrast, is visible, exciting, vibrant. If voters are hearing about a terrible scandal — however unspecified or unproven — that Barack Obama, and by extension, Joe Biden, were deeply involved in, if the public focus can be shifted to shadowy unspoken allegations, then that, too, can affect outcomes.

If Donald Trump is able to change the narrative and focus voters on an imagined crime wave by the previous administration, then he may be able to sway the vote in November. However, if the pandemic isn’t addressed, and the daily death toll doesn’t start to fall, it’s going to be very hard to keep people from noticing that. If the Trump administration doesn’t fight to protect the nation from COVID-19, there’s no amount of distraction that will make the American people forget their losses.

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