Having Donald Trump conduct a TV interview in the Lincoln Memorial must have seemed like a good idea at the time
One of the most obvious problems with parking yourself in a chair next to a colossal statue of Abraham Lincoln is that you look so very small.
Not one of the political and communications brains behind Donald Trump bothered to point this out when they dreamt up the dingbat notion of a live TV interview inside the hallowed Lincoln Memorial.
Nobody thought it was anything other than genius to compare the two presidents. One of them saved the Union and created the model for the muscular federal government we know today; the other got impeached for corrupting that government for his personal profit.
One gave his life to unite the country and free it from slavery. The other wants tens of thousands of Americans to give up their lives to free the country from lockdown.
One was known as Honest Abe. The other lied about paying off porn stars with hush money. You can see how they confused the two.
To be fair, presidents in times of crisis often reach for the same analogy. It calms them in their hour of need to think that Lincoln was also misunderstood as he stood alone in the maelstrom of history.
George W Bush supposedly read 14 Lincoln biographies while in office as he grappled with his disastrous war in Iraq. Barack Obama all but wore a stovepipe hat as he quoted liberally from the Great Emancipator in a career of speeches ranging from his campaign announcement to his presidential inauguration to his final State of the Union.
To be less fair, Donald Trump somehow missed the entire point of Lincoln while sitting inside a secular temple to one of the greatest presidents of them all.
When asked by a fan if he couldn’t tone down his bullying – if only to help the world understand what a great leader he is – Trump sailed on by like a giant asteroid spinning on its thoughtless journey through the galaxy.
“I am greeted with a hostile press the likes of which no president has ever seen,” said the gas-filled lump of rock. “The closest would be that gentleman right up there. They always said Lincoln – nobody got treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse.” Frankly Lincoln had it easy. Apart from that night at the theater, and that blood-drenched civil war. Not like the Trump presidency, where every hour brings another nasty word or two from a talking head on cable news.
Sitting at the feet of Honest Abe, Trump naturally lied about why he was even there. “You know, I didn’t know that it was creating criticism,” he innocently explained to his softball interviewers at Fox News. “But I thought it was your choice, not ours.”
This must have been news to Fox News, whose executives confirmed that it was the Trump White House that wanted him to be seated inside the Lincoln Memorial. In fact, they wanted it so badly they changed the federal rules to allow Trump to speak inside the inner sanctum.
Their official reason? It’s the pandemic, stupid: “Given the extraordinary crisis that the American people have endured, and the need for the president to exercise a core governmental function to address the nation about an ongoing public health crisis,” explained Trump’s interior secretary, David Bernhardt.
As it happens, the American people have endured only the start of this extraordinary crisis. If this president could exercise any core governmental function – or any core brain function – America’s ongoing public health crisis would look far less deadly.
The total American death toll is likely to be around 134,000 by early August – but could also reach double that figure
Instead, Trump’s own experts – if that’s not a political paradox – are predicting 3,000 deaths a day by early June. According to a CDC document leaked to the New York Times, instead of flattening the curve, America is building a Trump Tower of new infections over the next month.
Those stunning numbers are in fact the middle range of the new projections, which could be as high as 10,000 deaths a day. Independent modeling by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation suggest the total American death toll is likely to be around 134,000 by early August – but could also reach double that figure.
Since we’re indulging in historical comparisons, that’s more than the number of Union soldiers Lincoln lost in combat. It’s more than America lost in the first world war. It’s the equivalent of a 9/11 massacre every day, just one month from now.
Why are the numbers rising so sharply? Not, as Trump likes to claim, because of China. Not because the experts are too pessimistic with their public health models. But because so many governors are following Trump’s toxic mix of arrogance and ignorance to relax their own lockdowns. This is a deadly pattern of dunce-like leadership. Instead of suppressing coronavirus spread in January and February, Trump obsessed about his own job survival. Instead of surging medical supplies in March, Trump claimed he was doing a great job on this whole pandemic thing. Instead of figuring out contact tracing in April, he encouraged armed protesters to pressure for an end to lockdown. Trump has brought a whole new meaning to the concept of killing time.
Soon the rock-solid Trump voters in previously Republican states will understand the true cost of Trump’s leadership. Trump’s partisan blame game will fall apart before Memorial Day. The most recent polling in Texas suggests Trump is now tied with Joe Biden in a state he won by nine points in 2016.
These are the kind of numbers – not the death toll – that keep Trump up at night. It was past one in the morning on Tuesday, when Dishonest Don rage-tweeted against a group of former Republican operatives who call themselves the Lincoln Project.
“They’re all LOSERS, but Abe Lincoln, Republican is all smiles,” our Lincoln expert tweeted, in a rhetorical flourish that evoked Gettysburg.
What peeved the great insomniac in the executive mansion where Lincoln once slept? The Lincoln Project crossed a bright red line by remaking the epic 1984 re-election ad about how Reagan had made America great again.
Like most Trumpian tales, it is a parody of the presidency. It tells the story of lives lost “from a virus Donald Trump ignored” and the economic decimation that followed. It tells the story of an American sunset, not a sunrise.
They called it, naturally, Mourning in America. But if the projections are correct, this nation’s mourning is only just beginning.