Australia, Coca-colonial US satellite and missile guidance base is abruptly distracted from its Dear Leader’s sweet dream of a gas-led El Dorado; a nation great again with tax cuts and other handouts to the rich; a people soon to be joyously back at toil in workshop, sweatshop or even chook shed kit assembly- making things with our own hands again- manufacturing– when disaster befalls our great and powerful friend.
A dark angel hovers over Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC. A Sikorsky VH-92 Marine One helicopter, a giant, sinister, olive, tin dragon fly with white-top toupee livery oddly evocative of Trump’s combover, buzzes The White House Lawn, Friday.
The whopper chopper’s rotor blades’ force shreds plants and mulches grasses; plays hell with the presidential pompadour but what’s a military rescue mission without collateral damage? Cue shock, awe and suspense. And horror. Is the invincible, priapic, Pussy-grabber in Chief so stricken with ‘Rona he needs a helicopter medivac? Or has the Biden debate TKO’d the obese, sclerotic, seventy-four year old with hypertension?
Worse. Is this the beginning of the end for reality TV President Donald and the fawning claque of loyalist incompetents who make up his blighted, backstabbing, maladministration? Or is this just the end of the beginning of another cunning stunt? A twist in the plot? Trump trumped cos Corona is all reality and no show?
It’s certainly right on script, notes Megan McCardle in The Washington Post.
“The past four years have proceeded eerily as if they were being scripted by an HBO showrunner, complete with an antihero protagonist, and a deus-ex-machina pandemic, and the obligatory Helicopter Flight over the darkening D.C. skyline, all seemingly designed to revive fan excitement after viewers became jaded by the vulgar antics of the first few seasons.
With Trump, what’s certain is uncertainty. Fellow-kleptocrat Vladimir Putin’s patsy, Trump sows confusion. He’s an open-cut mine of disinformation. His tsunami of untruths, numbers 20,000 lies by 9 July, reports The Post, which keeps count on a large database. Above all, he’s an uber-kleptomaniac. It’s part of his malignant narcissism, a pathological inability to differentiate between himself and the rest of the world.
“The president can’t have a conflict of interest,” he claims. Human Rights Watch’s Sarah Saadoun sees the self-dealing Trump as a poster-boy for Kleptocracy International. (They have chapters everywhere – especially Canberra). Corruption cripples the state and reaches beyond achieving “transnational ripple effects”.
“Where there is impunity for official corruption,” writes Saadoun, “government itself becomes a means for the elite to enrich itself and silence its critics.” Morrison’s Covid Commission is a local example. Yet abusing your political office for personal profit is only part of the Trump strategy. Abusive relationships are key, also.
Late last year, as our own PM, Pauline Hanson, Hillsong Global Senior Pastor and founder, Brian Houston and other local Trump fanboys, who mentor Scott Morrison and who are under “ongoing” NSW police investigation will recall, the US Klepto-in-Chief was seeking to hold the G7 at his Miami resort. At business class rates. Currently, the Secret Service can pay up to $650 per night for rooms at Trump’s properties.
Trump’s outfit received $471,000 from the Secret Service between January 2017 and April 2018.
“I thought I was doingsomethingvery good for our Country,” Trump tweets, before upbraiding his critics for their “Crazed and Irrational Hostility”. Upholding the rule of law is irrational hostility? Trump is gas-lighting.
Gratuitous gas-lighting is a big hit with Trump fans. Two years ago, Jenna Price reports, Scott John Morrison told a range of people that bullying and harassment within the Liberal Party did not exist. Asked if he was 100 per cent confident bullying was not an issue in the federal parliamentary party, the PM replied: “I am.”
Clearly deluded, Julia Banks quit the party over it and Linda Reynolds, (a former defence industry lobbyist whose work for Raytheon in no way compromises her role as Defence Minister) was hallucinating when she thought she saw Liberal MPs bullying over the leadership spill orchestrated by Scott Morrison’s team but which Scott knew nothing about.
Gaslighting is an integral part of modern right wing politics, given the way the world stubbornly refuses to return to the 1950s and now neoliberalism’s absurdities are exposed, as state fiat conflicts with individual responsibility in our own local social distancing fiasco and our border wars.
Work experience Treasurer, Frydenberg, gaslights Andrew Probyn and ABC viewers Sunday. Hungarian Josh may change the subject but he never changes the lie that the high-taxing, high-spending Coalition is the party of lower taxes and spending. Or that tax cuts are a stimulus. Or that our economy was not tanking well before Covid-19. Or that a Morrison government is not just a junta of miners, banksters and business organisations.
But it takes stable genius, to blend useful idiocy and nepotism with tax fraud. The shit hits the fan for the Trump mafia with revelations that the Trump Organisation’s paid Trump’s daughter, Ivanka $747,622. There’s even talk of a criminal prosecution. Donald’s lily-white reputation is in peril. Conspiracy theorists go wild with the notion that Ole Bone Spurs’ fakes Covid to evade accountability. Not only is his hectoring of Joe Biden not even a debate, let alone presidential, he’s caught fiddling his tax return because Ivanka fudged the cover-up.
A consultancy fee for Ivanka pops up in The New York Times’ investigation of Trump’s tax returns. His daughter’s disclosure of receiving fees for consulting on hotel projects in Hawaii and Vancouver, British Columbia matches exactly the $747, 622 which the Trump Organisation is claiming on its tax. By pretending that its employee, Ivanka Trump is, in fact, a consultancy firm. Not that the First Daughter received any money personally. Well, not technically. A company she co-owns banks the cheque.
Helping whittle down the family tax bill is only one of Ivanka Trump’s profitable roles in the Trump presidency of ever-declining vital signs. There’s the thirty-four lucrative Ivanka Trump “Yiwanka” trademark business deals in books, housewares, cushions and so much more in China way back when Xi Jinping and Trump were pals. The presidency is an Aladdin’s cave of business opportunities for godfather Trump and his family firm.
Ivanka is, moreover, senior adviser to her Daddy and architect of brilliant PR strategies such as his fabled St John’s Episcopal Church High Noon with Bible homage – after armed police clear the way by firing rubber bullets and tear gas at protestors – “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”
A sitting president commits a blasphemous act of aggression against his own people for the sake of a tacky photo op? Clearly, Ivanka has inherited her father’s “good genes”, his stable genius. But she excels herself Sunday with a PR coup – a drive-by (in an armoured, black, Chevrolet Suburban) royal wave to QAnon conspiracy theorists, followers of falsehoods, misinformation super-spreaders and other “great patriots” who picket Walter Reed Military Hospital to tell the world the President is a hero who has “god-tier genetics”.
Our MSM refer to the crowds as Trump’s “base” but QAnon is more than a fan club. They’re a fight club, too. Besides helping to spread dangerous disinformation about Covid-19, there is the fantasy that defeating Covid-19 will become just the latest thing to add to Trump’s “list of legendary feats. They’re hanging out on Wisconsin Avenue to get a ring-side seat at the fight of the century. Trump doesn’t disappoint.
Not everyone is as impressed. “Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days,” tweets James P. Phillips, a Walter Reed doctor who is also a professor at George Washington University.
“They might get sick. They may die. For political theatre. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theatre. This is insanity.”
Insanity? Trump’s first pick for running mate in 2016, was Ivanka. As her father explained to bemused aides –
“She’s bright, she’s smart, she’s beautiful, and the people would love her!”’
That’s Rick Gates’ testimony. The former campaign deputy and first big fish indicted in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference. It’s all in Gates’ Wicked Game which will also reveal,
“…how the current state of presidential politics is tearing apart the very fabric of our democracy.”
Ivanka talks her Dad out of making her his running mate. Republican Party cigar store Indian sans feather bonnet, Mike Pence, the Mick-Mack of US politics, gets the gig after his “vicious and extended monologue” bagging Hilary Clinton wins Trump over. A round of golf – in which Pence gushes that Trump, a notorious, blatant cheat, beat me “like a drum” – helps seal the deal. Trump treats Mike like a hick from the sticks.
A principle of perversity applies to Trump’s picks, a principle echoed by acolyte Scott Morrison in choosing for example, Angus Taylor, a climate denier, LNG advocate and carbon capture fantasist, for Energy and Emissions. Similarly, Sussan Ley is a Minister for an Environment who poses her own threat to biodiversity.
Let the UN warn that a million species across the world face extinction. Ms Ley says she is “concerned” about the problem, but doubts land clearing is to blame. Has she read her own government’s reports? Over 400 ecologists, including leading conservation scientists from Australia and around the world, issued a declaration in 2016 warning of the devastating impacts of land clearing on Australia’s biodiversity. The World Wildlife Fund says land clearing is the main cause of habitat loss in its Living Planet Report 2020.
But Ms Ley promises to cut green tape for big projects – just as Trump has done in the US. Despite opposition from environmental and indigenous groups, his administration exempts the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska from a 2001 prohibition on commercial logging and other development.
The Tongass is an enormous carbon sink. Its store of carbon is equivalent to taking 650,000 cars off the road each year, Andy Moderow, Alaska director of the Alaska Wilderness League, estimates.
A fossil fuel lobbyist heads up America’s EPA, assisted in its toxic chemicals programme by an industry insider. Ken McQueen, a former oil executive, who pooh-poohs manmade global heating, is top Environmental Protection Agency official in the South-Central US, a fossil fuel industry hub and site of recent climate-driven disasters such as Hurricane Harvey. Trump’s made it much easier to drill for oil in national parks.
Similarly, Pence is a perfect fit on public health. A Big Tobacco stooge, he says in an opinion piece, “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.” Yet, two out of three smokers die from a smoking-related illness, according to medical research. Smoking kills half a million Americans a year.
As Governor of Indiana, the “cross-roads of America”, where intersecting highways mean increased risk of infection, Pence cut funds, forcing HIV test stations to close, banned needle exchanges and helped create the largest outbreak of HIV in state history. Who better to lead Trump’s coronavirus task force?
The VP’s performance has not been without incident. Pence’s use of his personal AOL account for State of Indiana business is eerily similar to Clinton’s abuse of protocol for which she is still mercilessly pilloried.
Totally different, Pence defenders snort. Yet Mike’s account was hacked into. Pence’s contacts were startled to receive desperate emails claiming Mike and Mother (as the VP insists on calling his wife, Karen) were attacked on their way back to their hotel in The Philippines and needed money urgently. A scammer claimed the Pences had lost all their money, bank cards and mobile phone. Luckily they still had their faith.
“Startling” and “extraordinary”, The Washington Post calls the mixed messaging over Trump’s health. Oddly, there is nothing remotely approaching Vice Presidential leadership from Pence or any official statement from the leader of the Trump Administration’s Coronavirus SWAT team. Is Pence too busy getting himself tested?
We do know that he believes God has a plan for him and that entails “servant leadership”.
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” Yet we also know that when The Washington Post published the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump boasts of grabbing women “by the pussy”, 7 October 2016, Pence was contemplating a coup.
Should Trump die or become incapable of serving as President, Pence will step into his shoes. But that does not mean that he will automatically become the Republican Party’s candidate in 3 November. The Republican National Committee makes that decision. There is no question that Pence has his eyes on 2024.
Is Trump still alive? Has he been saved by a cocktail of experimental drugs? By Saturday, peak uncertainty is reached. Exceeded. Yet later that day, his doctor “clarifies”. Trump will stay at Walter Reed Military Hospital “for an indefinite number of days.” He’s placed on a five-day antiviral drug regimen for Covid-19. Evidently, Trump’s condition may be more serious than official briefings suggest. He has only himself to blame.
Trump is the single largest driver of false and misleading information about the coronavirus, report Cornell University researchers who publish a study this week showing that Russia’s chump makes up nearly 38 percent of what they coyly describe as the overall “misinformation conversation,” based on 38 million articles in English language media around the world. Trump’s toxic bullshit covers eleven main topics, but the most prevalent, ironically, is his promotion of untested miracle cures, including anti-malarial and disinfectants.
Currently, the president is reported to be taking not one but two experimental treatments; a hint of panic in medical ranks. Saturday, a swarm of white coats from central casting, appear; an homage to Big Tobacco’s classic advertisements where doctors swear that smoking is good for you. Trump’s in great shape, they lie. He continues to improve, they claim since Saturday and could be released as early as Monday.
The team confirms Trump had lowered oxygen levels at one point. They won’t answer questions about whether the president has suffered lung damage. If this is their damage control, it has the opposite effect. Again Trump and his team have seen to that personally.
“We’re in an environment where conspiracies are thriving, in part because the president encourages them,” says Melissa Ryan, CEO of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation.
“And we have a White House comms operation that gives the press and public disinformation constantly.”
Yet, exercising reasonable scepticism is to miss the theatricality; the magical surrealism of Trump’s presidency. Above all, even down under, Trumpism entails the willing suspension of disbelief.
All eyes are on China Flu in The White House, a special effects episode of the epic TV soap that is the Trump Dynasty presidency – a perverse parody of Camelot, a festering wen of turpitude and lies in a dis-United States of degeneracy, deceit and greed presided over by huckster Donald Trump and his grasping, venal family.
“The president has never overnighted at a hospital before” squeaks an aide from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Overnighted? Trump’s boasts of invincibility already look sick. Delusional. Rapidly, the narrative becomes “a few days’ stay”. The hospital is named after the US Army doctor whose 1901 work on the role of mosquitoes in spreading yellow fever helped pioneer biomedicine and epidemiology.
Reed’s work also allowed the US to complete a Panama Canal which would make America a world economic powerhouse. Above all, by linking its growing Pacific power to its traditional Atlantic allies, the canal was a geopolitical strategy to make the United States the most powerful nation on earth. Now it’s a pariah nation, thanks in no small part to Trump’s foreign policy failures – and, of course, his administration’s coronavirus mismanagement.
Walter Reed is a thirteen minute drive away – the chopper on the White House lawn is overkill. Yet it adds some of the grand-standing, big-noting, big-hair, big-orange Bronx Colors brand face make up melodrama which fuels Trump’s tacky, stage-presidency.
Not to be overlooked, however, is Trump, the authoritarian’s fetish for all things military, currently echoed in our own PM’s incessant attacks on Dan Andrews who is constantly rebuked for failing to call in the ADF, thus causing Victoria’s corona-crisis.
In President Bone Spurs’ suite, reserved for high-ranking soldiers, distinguished draft-dodgers and other public heroes, the man who scorns the pandemic as a hoax and who mocks Joe Biden for wearing a face mask is lethargic. He has some trouble breathing and his blood oxygen levels have caused doctors some concern. Medical experts are divided. Some subscribe to the view that to be prescribed a cocktail of experimental drugs plus dexamethasone, means that Trump must be severely ill.
Dexamethasone is a steroid used to head off an immune system overreaction that kills many Covid-19 patients reports The New York Times. It is generally reserved for those with severe illness. Yet there is another equally plausible scenario. Trump himself is directing his own treatment. If he’s able to overrule doctors and visit fans in his SUV, he’s quite capable of ordering a hamburger with the lot.
Suddenly they’re throwing the kitchen sink at him, says Dr. Thomas McGinn, a top physician at Northwell Health, the largest health care provider in New York State.
“Is he sicker than we’re hearing, or are they being overly aggressive because he is the president, in a way that could be potentially harmful?” Or is Trump dictating his own medication regimen, oblivious to the risks of ingesting a cocktail of unproven drugs?
“Am I dying?” is one of the first questions Trump asks doctors at Walter Reed. The answer may be yes but it is just as likely at this stage, that the autocratic malignant narcissist is bossing the doctors around, demanding, as his right what he believes is the best of everything. He may have VIP Syndrome.
‘VIP syndrome,‘ describes a phenomenon in which medical treatment of a famous, powerful, or influential patient, even a celebrity president, is compromised precisely by the patient’s fame, power, or influence. Complications can arise when doctors are pressured into decisions which diverge from the normal routine of care into treatment which may ultimately turn out to be detrimental to the patient’s health.
Trump may, of course, already have compromised his health by choosing to leave the hospital in a drive-by flirtation with his deluded fans. The stunt has all the hallmarks of Ivanka’s direction but it may have been entirely his own idea. What we do know is those close to him would endorse if not applaud Trump’s latest act of genius. Such are the potentially deadly perils of surrounding yourself with yes-men – and women.
Whether Trump survives or not, there is the vexed question of his legacy. When he leaves the presidency it will be in far worse shape than he found it – but in the meantime – two hundred and ten thousand Americans have perished and 7.44 million are infected with the virus. This need not have been the case.
Had his administration shown leadership, or even competence, the tragedy of America’s coronavirus experience may have been averted or at least attenuated. Instead, like fellow narcissist and buffoon, Boris Johnson, Trump set a tone of hubristic denial and worse. He actively perpetrated disinformation, disparaged science, suppressed information, advocated bleach or hydroxychloroquine, sunlight and other quackery.
Of immediate concern are the lives of those workers in The White House and those members of the Republican Party who have been needlessly put at risk by a Presidency that is more than dysfunctional, more than corrupt and self-serving; a presidency that could not even acknowledge the need for basic precautions, such as the wearing of masks or social distancing let alone exercise its duty of protecting the American people.
Whether he recovers or not, Trump’s presidency is moribund; so utterly corrupted it is rotten to the core. Mendacity and recklessness are two of its worst traits, notes Frank Bruni. Add a third: Trump’s petty tyranny.
If you wanted the boss to be happy, you left your mask at home, report Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman of The White House’s top-down culture of fear. A staff too frightened to displease their boss cannot tell him the hard truths he needs to know. In the end, this is the illness that has undone Trump. He is the architect of his own decline.