Trump Is Still Eating Souls

I really don’t want to talk about injecting Clorox, but I kind of have to.

To start with: Don’t do it. Disinfectants work by killing living things. You are a living thing. Complete the syllogism.

With that out of the way, the thing to focus on here isn’t that Trump said something monumentally stupid Thursday. He does that; it’s usually not quite this bad, but he says stupid things fairly regularly. On the whole, I think I’d rather have him saying incredibly, ridiculously stupid things rather than run-of-the-stupid-mill things — like that you should take dangerous drugs that haven’t been tested yet — because fewer people are likely to believe him and do harmful things to themselves or others. (Though apparently some did believe him this time too.)

No, the really scary thing about the inject-disinfectant story is what happened next. DHS Undersecretary William Bryan (who had just talked about the effectiveness of sunlight and bleach in killing coronavirus on surfaces — not inside the body) was still standing near the podium, and Dr. Deborah Birx was sitting a few feet away, and neither jumped in to protect public health by telling people not to do what the President just suggested.

Within a minute or two, Bryan was asked a question by a reporter, and he didn’t backtrack to tell people not to inject themselves with bleach. Even later, when a reporter specifically asked “But I — just, can I ask about — the President mentioned the idea of cleaners, like bleach and isopropyl alcohol you mentioned. There’s no scenario that that could be injected into a person, is there? I mean —”, Bryan said “no” in a deflecting way, not calling it out.

No, I’m here to talk about the findings that we had in the study. We won’t do that within that lab and our lab.

In other words: “No, that’s not my department”, not “No, that’s a really bad idea.” Later, on Fox News, Birx did this bit of spin.

When [President Trump] gets new information, he likes to talk that through out loud and really have that dialogue and so that’s what dialogue he was having. I think he just saw the information at the time immediately just before the press conference and he was still digesting that information

Assume that’s true for a second: It’s still political malpractice. Imagine any previous president “digesting information” about a crisis on national TV in real time. Picture George W. Bush — not my favorite president — digesting what his generals are saying about Iraq and spitballing whatever crosses his mind. “Couldn’t we just nuke them? We’re going to wargame that, right?”

I can only assume that both Bryan and Birx have made the same calculation: Protecting public health is less important than protecting the President’s fragile ego. Admitting that Trump said something stupid is a good way to get fired — and then maybe no one in the administration would care about public health.

And so Bryan and Birx have been corrupted by the soul-eating process James Comey described a year ago: First you don’t interrupt when Trump lies about trivial things like his inauguration crowd. Then you give in to peer pressure and flatter him in public.

Next comes Mr. Trump attacking institutions and values you hold dear — things you have always said must be protected and which you criticized past leaders for not supporting strongly enough. …

It bothers you, at least to some extent. But his outrageous conduct convinces you that you simply must stay, to preserve and protect the people and institutions and values you hold dear. Along with Republican members of Congress, you tell yourself you are too important for this nation to lose, especially now. … Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.

And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.

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  • Karen Hughes  On April 27, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    If we assume that Dr. Birx and Dr. Bryan have made a calculated decision that they are protecting the public interest, then the media need to interact with them in a way that promotes the public interest and not play “gotcha”. For example, in the interview with Dr. Birx, what if the questions focused on solid information as to WHY current antibody tests were insufficient, WHAT was the government going to do to facilitate the development of accurate antibody tests and WHEN would this be done. This is information I’d like to have. We all know that Trump is not sane. Why not use precious interview time to get solid and important medical information?

  • Leon  On April 27, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    They may not be rationalizing it by “better to protect the president than public health”, but rather, “I can better protect public health by keeping my job than losing it.” Maybe that’s a meaningless distinction, but it is at least a popular one (and perhaps meaningful in some situations.)

    Of course, what many of those types of rationales ignore is that often times, even if you are unfairly booted from your position, your replacement can accomplish the mission goals as well as you could have. That seems fairly likely in this place, and certainly the turnover in medical doctors doesn’t reflect well on Trump.

    Still, I agree with the main thrust of your argument.

    • Anonymous Poster  On April 27, 2020 at 12:23 pm

      ” your replacement can accomplish the mission goals as well as you could have” – I dunno, seems like the Trump administration (and the GOP in general) puts expertise at the bottom of any list of requirements for potential hires.

  • Caroline McKee  On April 27, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    Trump’s very presence corrupts everything and everybody that/who CHOOSES TO BE AROUND HIM: notice the word CHOOSES!

  • George Washington, Jr.  On April 27, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    In any hierarchical organization, it’s considered desirable to project a unified message, and bad form for a subordinate to disagree with their superior in public. However, when the superior makes a mistake, there are ways to correct it without contradicting. For example, “let me clarify that” or “what we mean is” or “the thing to remember is” to segue into “keep in mind that bleach and household cleaners are intended for external use only.” But even that would be unacceptable in this administration.

  • Roger  On April 27, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    I don’t disagree with you. But I agree with a Vanity Fair article from about a month ago. Birx and Fauci are hostages. And hostages say (or don’t say) almost anything to stay alive.

  • Carlos Gonzalez  On April 27, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    I have never, ever seen in my entire life, in the entire globe, such an asshole or a worse “president” than this. He doesn’t even should be called president. It’s a word way, way too big for that guy.

  • ADeweyan  On April 27, 2020 at 5:50 pm

    Of course, this is how Trump has been as “successful” as he has been his entire life. By creating leverage over others he avoids any accountability or even pushback. When he’s lucky, his money is enough to create that leverage, but if that’s not enough he’s willing to create a problem so bad that others adopt the stance described here. He’s a man with no morality, no principles, and certainly no sense of honor. His only understanding of those things is how he can use them in other people to control them.

    If he hadn’t been born wealthy he would either be in jail now, or, more likely, dead.


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