Donald Trump is the captain of the Titanic. Except he’s still arguing that this is the greatest voyage ever, complaining that people want too many lifeboats, and telling everyone to get back to that fantastic dinner. So … strike up the band and take a seat. More are available all the time.
On Thursday evening, Trump called in for a chat with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, and in that conversation he demonstrated that just because the nation is in the midst of a catastrophic epidemic where normal life has been destroyed, millions have already lost their job, and thousands are going to die—it can always be worse. Because there was absolutely nothing in the conversation with Hannity that demonstrated that Trump had the slightest sense of what was really happening in the world around him, or that he was going to lift a finger to help.
It’s never a good sign when Trump begins a conversation with his best pal/propagandist by informing the world that he told the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party to chill for a couple of hours while he got out his on-air whining. But that’s exactly how Trump’s conversation began, with Trump telling Hannity that he put a scheduled call to President Xi Jinping on hold.
"Because of you, I made it at 10:30," Trump said, explaining how he had put off the call. "That just shows you the power ... that just shows when you have the number one rated show in television.” Because there is never anything in the world that Trump thinks about more than television ratings. Really. Even now. The purpose of that call with Xi was supposed to be discussing the pandemic, how China brought the virus under control, and whether they might be able to provide material assistance now that the United States has taken over the #1 spot as the world’s most-infected nation. All of that went on hold.
Trump then went straight to his major theme of the evening—complaining about people wanting him to display leadership. Which is exactly what Trump did for the next hour. Rather than expressing his concerns about the coronavirus epidemic, rather than offering his support to those suffering, or condolences for those already mourning, Trump used his appearance to complain that people, governors in this case, were asking for things. In particular, Trump was upset that governors wanted personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, and ventilators for patients. Trump seemed to treat these requests like they were not only coming direct from his own pocket, but as if the governors were trying to trick him by … requesting lifesaving equipment as citizens died around them.
“I have a feeling that a lot of numbers that are being sent in some areas are just bigger than they need to be,” said Trump. Even as the numbers in New York shot up again, with over 100 deaths in a day, three-hour waits for an ambulance, and every available space filled with suffering, Trump dismissed the idea that the whole state of New York might need large numbers of ventilators.
“I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” said Trump. “You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’” Many hospitals have a ventilator system for every ICU room. There are 214 hospitals in New York State. Even 40,000 would be less than 200 each at a time when those hospitals are being swarmed by thousands of patients.
But Trump has a “feeling” about it, which is of course much more important than numbers or facts or dead people. In fact, Trump returned to this point and decided he had been too generous in his earlier assessment. “You go to hospitals who have don’t even have one in a hospital,” said Trump, “and all of a sudden everybody is asking for vast numbers.” Greedy bastards. Wanting all that … lifesaving equipment.
But even then Trump wasn’t done complaining about the request. “When you talk about ventilators,” said Trump, “it is a highly intricate piece of equipment. It’s heavily computerized, and good ones are very, very expensive. And they say … Gov. Cuomo and others ... they say we want 30,000 of them. 30,000. Think of this.” Yes, think of it. A new medical ventilator costs around $15,000. If Trump gave everyone what they wanted, it could cost $450 million. It’s not like it’s a real national emergency, when Donald Trump took funding from veteran’s housing, schools, and even hospitals to channel billions into his wall.
What Trump took from unallocated Department of Defense funds just when he declared a national emergency in 2018 would be enough to buy over 1.2 million ventilators … but then no one elected Trump to save lives. And he’s not.
But Trump wasn’t satisfied in just complaining about governors wanting things. Not when he could also complain about governors. Trump took multiple shots at Washington governor Jay Inslee, who was the first governor in the nation to face a coronavirus hot spot. Despite earning widespread praise for his handling of the situation, including from Mike Pence, Trump described Inslee as “a snake.”
But at least he remembered Inslee’s name. Trump’s other major target was also a Democratic governor in a state hit hard by COVID-19. “We’ve had a big problem with the young ... a woman governor … you, you know who I’m talking about. From Michigan,” Trump said to Hannity. “We don’t like complaints,” said Trump, apparently invoking a royal pronoun.
That’s Michigan Gov. Gretcher Whitmer. And her complaint is that Trump is hoarding materials while letting her people die. It’s a pretty valid complaint.