Frank DeFilippo: A Cornered Man Looking for a Convenient Rabbit Hole

President Trump. Getty Images photo by Alex Wong

A talk with Doc Trump about the coronavirus pandemic is like a visit to a good psychiatrist: Nothing very much happens, but it’s supposed to make you feel better.

In a nation divided and its cities under siege, there are two kinds of people in this upside-down world: Those who believe Trump, and those who know better.

True or false, Trump is ever on the lookout for ways to deflect the eye and redirect the story line away from the pandemic (China, WHO, voter fraud, the media) and to himself. Trump must be a LOSER! He spends much of his time worrying about getting even.

Trump now has the diversion he sought. His tweets have helped to provoke riots and destruction in cities across the country to give momentary pause to thoughts of the pandemic.

It is now documented and definitive. There are more than 18,000 reasons why Donald J. Trump is unfit to be president.

Many of them have been gift-wrapped for the public between book covers by The Washington Post’s fact-checker team. To wit:

Facebook has flagged Trump.

Twitter now asterisks his Tweets.

And if this were the 1950s, he’d be banned in Boston for his mendacity. If America were any less than the free country that it is, Trump would be hog-tied and marched to the gallows for inciting riots.

He has botched and bungled management of the pandemic and shown no remorse or empathy for its 100,000 victims except the narrative reflex that there’d be hundreds of thousands more without him at the helm. Trump’s delayed expression of grief (via Twitter) came only after days of being hammered for its pronounced absence.

Trump’s Strangelovian behavior proceeds unchecked. In the middle of a quarantine, where even haircuts are prohibited, Trump is insisting on a July 4 parade rumbling down the leafy boulevards of the nation’s capital. Masked, or unmasked?

For a flag bedecked backdrop and likely a solemn speech – with the customary detours into personal attacks – Trump, the commander in-chief, is ordering cadets back to West Point – in New York, the state hardest hit by the pandemic – for full-dress commencement exercises on June 13 so that he can appear as a (sunshine) patriot. Would any of the newly commissioned officers want to be in a foxhole with Cadet Heel Spurs?

Way back when, nearly two months before Trump was forced to act to contain the virus, he reportedly asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, “Why don’t we just let this wash over the country.”

Dr. Fauci was reportedly flummoxed by the question, but responded: “Mr. President, many people will die.”

The CDC even cooked its own guidelines to assuage Trump.

Allow “fake news” to fill in Trump’s missing empathy genes.

The front page of The New York Times May 24 Sunday edition took on a funereal appearance by listing the names of 1,000 persons who died of COVID-19, along with ID markers and the elegiac line – “They were not simply names on a list. They were us.”

The front page of The Washington Post May 28 Thursday edition carried a black box, four columns wide and the full-length of the page, illustrating the story, “The U.S. marks a somber milestone in the coronavirus pandemic as the death toll reached 100,000.”

The fact-checkers book, “Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth,” is described in a Post ad as “A compendium of mendacity featuring every exaggeration, specious misstatement, and flagrant falsehood since the first day of the Trump presidency. . . .”

The fact-checkers’ book hit the brakes at 16,000 Trump gaslightings on April 3, because, well, they had to halt at some point in order to get the book into print. But the romp continues in the daily paper, way past 18,000 since he took office, by their arithmetic, an average of 15 false statements a day, repeated repeatedly.

To compound Trump’s tussle with truth is his direct line to the 80 million gaping primates (H. L. Mencken’s phrase) who follow him, the social media. (Taylor Swift has 86 million followers on Twitter.)

The social media, mainly Facebook and Twitter, have provided a pathway for the wingnuts and crazies to bypass other channels of communication and to talk directly to each other.

So outrageous have Trump’s falsehoods become that Facebook and Twitter have been forced to fact-check his rants and raves – not block, mind you – but provide alternative, factual information.

A case at hand is Trump’s cruel and baseless claim that MSNBC host and former congressman Joe Scarborough was involved in an affair and murder plot of one of his former aides. Scarborough was 900 miles away, in Washington, when the woman, Lori Klausutis, suffered a heart arrythmia, passed out, fell, and died of a head injury. Her husband pleaded for an end to Twitter’s accommodation of Trump’s false accusation.

It was on this lugubrious note that Twitter decided to hoist the fact-check flag. But the ever-pugnacious Trump signed an executive order, another of many symbolic gestures for the cameras, aimed at punishing social media companies, though there are questions about what authority he has in what appears as an attempt to remove social media companies’ protective shield. The First Amendment wept.

He punctuated the executive order with an incendiary tweet and a retweet: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a reference to the violence in Minneapolis, and “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” Both were flagged. Trump must have a learning disability.

Trump is a cornered man searching for a convenient rabbit hole. With polls in hand and death notices piling up, he knows his days may be numbered. And the Republican-controlled Senate may go down with him.

Nearly every major poll, national and state, shows Trump trailing the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, by losing margins, in some cases double digits, and most telling, in crucial battleground states. Notably, Trump is falling behind Biden in Florida, his newly adopted legal residence, where the senior-retiree vote is shifting perceptibly to the Democrat and former vice president.

The Real Clear Politics listing of polls shows the election, at this point, decidedly tilting to Biden with Trump’s disapproval ratings rising measurably.

The most recent Gonzales poll in Maryland last week, shows Biden stomping Trump by 24 points, 59-35 percent, about the same margin as Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in Maryland in 2016.

Add to Trump’s escalating misery the economy. Most economists, including those at the Federal Reserve, foresee a long slog out of the recessionary mess caused by the coronavirus shutdown, likely well beyond the November elections.

Trump, though, insists that the economy will be at full blast in the third quarter – just in time for the election. (It has been reported that the White House will not release the customary summer economic projections which surely would reflect the staggering losses in the economy and the uncertain months ahead.)

Pay little attention to the gyrating stock market. It’s nothing more than America’s casino. But keep an eye fastened on the unemployment rolls, those left behind in the recovery and the number of business closings for a more detailed portrait of America and to fact-check Trump. Last week, for example, nearly 41 million Americans – a quarter of the country’s workforce – applied for unemployment benefits.

And pay no attention whatsoever to Doc Trump’s curative prescriptions – inject bleach, ingest hydroxychloroquine and go unmasked. The fact-check to those is common sense — for those who have it.

Frank A. DeFilippo
Frank A. DeFilippo is an award-winning political commentator who lives and writes in Baltimore. DeFilippo has been writing about the comic opera of politics for more than 50 years. He reported on the Maryland General Assembly for 10 years before joining the administration of former Gov. Marvin Mandel (D) as press secretary and speechwriter. Between times, he was a White House correspondent during the administration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and he has covered six national political conventions. DeFilippo is the author of Hooked, an alleged work of fiction, and an unpublished manuscript, Shiksa: The Rise and Fall of Marvin Mandel.