For a brief period, Donald Trump took to pretending he cared about keeping the number of American deaths due to the coronavirus on the low end. In late February, Trump mused, "When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done."
It was fanciful, sure, but at least Trump was still on the side of limiting the body count. A little over a month later, on March 31, the White House task force relayed the startling news that anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000 Americans would ultimately die from coronavirus infections. Administration officials were prepping the country for what they believed would be the worst of it over the next few weeks.
“This is going to be the roughest three weeks we’ve ever had in this country,” Trump said of the first few weeks in April. “I wanted as few as a number of people to die as possible. And that’s all we’re working on.”
But having a three-week spike in deaths followed by a drop off also turned out to be magical thinking. This week alone, the daily death toll has surpassed 2,000/day three times, according to Worldometers.info, including 2,129 on Thursday, 2,528 on Wednesday, 2,350 on Tuesday, and 1,324 on Monday. Graphs vary depending on their data sources, but bottom line: the national death rate hasn't eased much since the supposed peak in mid-April. Rather, it continues to be brutal.
But by late April, with patience wearing thin, Trump was ready to declare victory and move on.
"If you lose 65,000 people—it's so crazy to say it, it's just so horrible—but if we lose 65,000 people, and instead of that, going the other route, we would have lost a million or a million and a half or 2 million," Trump said on April 29, "Could you imagine? Look how horrible it is to lose [65,000]. And then multiply that times many, many times, that would not be sustainable."
But now that 65,000 casualties is but a dream, maybe multiplying it is actually sustainable. Trump isn't smart enough to have realized that only a moron would continue making overly optimistic daily predictions, only to change them several days later.
"We'll be at 100,000, a hundred and ten," Trump forecasted Friday morning during one of his Fox & Friends therapy sessions. Just five days earlier, he had imagined losing "anywhere from 75-, 80- to 100,000 people." Later Friday, Trump threw out 95,000, just to kind of play around with the numbers.
Forget keeping up—it's a moving target that's ultimately ratcheting up, week by week. But one thing Trump has changed is his aversion to the skyrocketing nature of the death toll. Following the advice of aides, he has incorporated into his schtick the notion that even "one is too many," but now his predictions are more of a pro forma part of his mad coronavirus musings—less horror, more fascination with this awe-inspiring and very clever "germ," as he once called it.
"This is a very brilliant enemy," Trump marveled during his Friday therapy session, "And it happens to be invisible."
Having been thoroughly outsmarted by that invisible enemy, Trump is now simply embracing its consequences. "We have to be warriors," Trump told America this week of his macabre push to reopen the country, no matter the costs. And yes, the death toll along with Trump's forecasts will continue to rise. But he's just fine with that and, in his estimation, we should be too. It’s simply the price America has to pay for his continued leadership.