Today President Trump tweeted,
“Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”
Now, this could be a joke. It should be a joke, because the statement is per se idiotic. Cases are doing whatever they are doing regardless of whether they are identified or not. Not knowing about a case of a virus infection, or a thousand cases, because we aren’t testing enough to find them, doesn’t make the cases disappear. This is so obvious, and the opposite assertion so ridiculous, that one almost has to believe that Trump’s tweet is a joke. After all, the logical extension of that tweet would be that the pandemic could be eliminated if we ceased testing. He can’t possibly think that.
If it is a joke, tweeting it is only marginally less stupid than tweeting it in earnest. First, Trump knows by now that the news media will always interpret whatever he says in the worst way conceivable, and that a certain proportion of the public will believe whatever negative spin is placed on his words. Second, it just isn’t clear that he’s joking. Third, if that was a joke just not funny enough to justify the risk of it being misunderstood. Finally, this is not a proper topic for levity, or for the President to be fooling around about.
However, and I have bent over to touch the back of my skull to my heels to give Trump the benefit of the doubt for more than three years, I don’t think it is a joke. At his rally two days ago, the President said,
“Testing is a double-edged sword. When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases, so I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.'”
Was that a joke too? If so, it was an even more ineptly worded one than today’s encore. It’s already caused confusion, too. In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Dr. Fauci was asked about the President’s statement at the rally that it makes sense to limit the number of tests. Fauci replied, “It’s the opposite, we’re going to be doing more testing, not less. None of us have ever been told to slow down on testing — that just is a fact.”
So what’s going on here? Is the President gaslighting us? Even when the country isn’t in times of crisis, a leader has to take special care not to make a substantial number of those dependent on his leadership not think, “Oh my God! This guy’s an idiot! We’re screwed!”
Because about half the country is following the lead of “the resistance” and has assumed Trump is an idiot since November 2016, he can’t afford to validate their assumptions through facetiousness or carelessness. He also cannot afford to hand the election to the Democrats and their anti-speech allies by making jaw-droppingly dumb statements that he hasn’t thought through. (I am hoping and praying that this is the reason for the tweet.)
The nation can’t afford it either, although if the choice is between a senile challenger and a President who really thinks we can limit the spread of the Wuhan virus by doing less testing, it may be time to ask Great Britain if they will take us back.