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.
61 thoughts on “Is This The Most Incompetent Statement From The President Yet? I’m Trying Hard to Think Of A Worse One…”
Jack, the first statement is actually true. Daily we get Covid 19 updates showing how many new cases are identified. Whether or not the person is tested does not obviate the existance of the infection.
But, if we are testing say 25,000 people per day and we then test at a rate of 100,000 and if the infection rate is constant the media will claim we are seeing a spike in cases which existed regardless of whether the people were tested or not. That in turn is then used to rail against states that are relaxing the quarantine rules.
If we are accelerating the number of tests and the media will twist the numbers it would make sense politically to slow down testing unless the public is WILLING TO COMPREHEND the fact that nothing has really changed in terms of infections.
We need to know severity of cases, hospitalizations, average days hospitalizedor other relevant data. If we have a spike in cases but they are all asymptomatic the question is is this even newsworthy.
I agree. The media is bombarding us with Spike News, making sure we know every day how much worse it’s getting. Clearly, the increased testing is resulting in more people being identified as being positive. The media is trying to paint that the virus is continuing to spread unchallenged due to Trump supporters eating at Cracker Barrel.
So, in my mind, Trump is being sarcastic. This is the equivalent of, “Duh, of course the number is increasing because of increased testing. We could just stop testing and have lower numbers!” or something like that.
But, I also do agree that the President and his advisors should be aware that the Democrats and their allies in the news media and the entertainment industry have no senses of humor anymore and that facetious cracks will be taken literally.
But, then again, this is Trump so…fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly….
Perfectly stated, and what I believe he was driving at, albeit in his typically-clumsy way.
Something that is clumsily stated cannot be perfectly stated, by definition.
And as I’m sure you have read by now, Trump says he was not kidding. He also said he never kids, which is untrue.
This was my take away as well. The first comment is self evidently true…. If you have two Nations with similar populations and similar infection rates, but Nation A does 5 times as much testing as nation B, then the probability is that nation A will display 5 times as many positive cases both in raw numbers and on a per capita basis compared to Nation B.
The useful metric in that situation would be “percentage of tests with positive results”, but frankly the media hasn’t even been generous enough to report the numbers on a per capita basis, which would put America squarely in the middle of the pack, opting instead to report raw numbers because they make America (and Trump by extension) look bad because America is a large nation, especially compared to European comparables. Expecting nuance from those clowns is like walking around with your mouth open, having the expectation that someone will spoon feed you some rainbow sherbet.
And frankly, I’m struggling to understand the confusion. I think it’s fair to say that the president should tweet less, and failing that, tweet better, he wasn’t anywhere close to 140 characters on that, and a couple more would have been a much better message.
“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!”
“I believe that testing causes cases, so we should test less to fight COVID”
Is just… dumb. I’m sorry, but not only did he actually mean something that was true, he clarified it in the second part of that when he said “we would *show* fewer cases!” And while that’s horrible grammar, it doesn’t exactly require deep level parsing or translation.
Except that the tweet is fairly paired with the earlier statement at the rally.
Yeah, that was bad, but again… I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that he meant “I believe that testing causes cases, so we should test less to fight COVID”, I think he was saying the quiet part out loud… My translation of that is “The reports on these numbers are BS, let’s slow down testing so I look better.” Which, frankly, is a damning thing to say in and of itself, but is a very different kind of problem.
He’s indirectly asserting that the increasing number of cases the media announces frequently is an artifact of increased testing. We don’t know how many cases there were or are in reality. We can only count the ones we’ve measured. If we’re testing more people now, then it appears there are more cases than when testing supplies were low and rationed.
My place of work, a few years ago, reclassified all pulled muscles and paper cuts as recordable injuries, and then also pretended to be surprised how much the “injuries” increased in number. This “increase” justified newer and more draconian safety protocols.
The proper response to this form of deception is mockery and derision, but one has to be sure not to be so obscure that only a few are in on the joke.
I’m afraid it’s time to brush up on “God Save The Queen.”
Her fascist regime?
With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”
smaller …..show in his usually semicoherent way he was saying testing is proportional to found cases…
I still want him to stop tweeting, he isn’t helping….
Part of the problem with tweeting is that you cannot explain your point when characters are limited.. i would like to see him develop a policy blog that can be shared as easily as a tweet.
Newspapers are limiting letters to the editor to 200 words. Complex issues cannot be developed in 200 words so the letters devolve into rants.
Complex issues cannot be developed in 200 words…
I was actually preparing an essay just on this theme. How apropos!
Thank you for the brevity, I often don’t make it to the end of your comments without glassy eyes or loss of interest. Don’t let others opinions silence yours.
But at least you make it to the end!
I’m an acquired taste. Both fruity and medicinal with some classical overtones.
I find intelligence very sexy in a woman. I remember that picture you had up too; wow!
I really don’t think the UK has any interest in taking us back so we will have to choose between Dumb and Dumber. (In my opinion, Biden is Dumber). Trump is beginning to look like Gerard Ford with his “Whip Swine Flu”.
It should be whip the flu. That way he can make WTF buttons. I would wear one.
Right? Right? Right? WRONG!
In each case President Trump’s statement is not only completely accurate, it is fit.
In fact, this is hilarious. Here it is the President who is not only correct, but is demonstrating sophistication in his understanding of the numbers. A pundit should only nervously deride the President for apparently misunderstanding numbers. You’ve been warned by Dr. Birx and others that this man is a numbers guy and has been reading statistics and charts his whole life.
It should be obvious to everyone that the President means “identified cases”. The number of actual cases in the US, or any location, is practically unknowable. Testing results give shadowy indications of what is going on depending on intensity, who and where. Testing results are never definitive and only extremely useful within a carefully administered information regime. As testing ramps up among various demographics, the results can be useful or totally misleading when extrapolated.
The problem is that the press is always looking for any statistic that will make the administration look bad. More testing identifies more cases, sure, but has no impact on the unknowable actual case number.
Take the scenario of a population where the virus is flattened and dying out. Even then, extreme new testing will find more and more positive cases. What the press will do is take the high new cases number and use it to show the problem rising, when, in this scenario, it is falling.
The press will beat the President over the head with the incriminating evidence of more cases, while the President knows that number used alone is misleading. This must be highly frustrating for the President. It is as if he is saying, come on people catch up.
He knows that things are as bad as things are. Indentifying more cases doesn’t make it worse. But the press, harping on it stupidly or dishonestly, will make it look worse.
So the sophisticated mind will say something like “Slow the testing, down, please.” But likely you still don’t get it.
I didn’t say he doesn’t understand numbers. I said the statement is stupid on its face, and it is. If he means ” “identified cases”, he has an obligation to say “identified cases.” He had two shots, and missed. I have excused many, many—too many, probably— Trump statements on the grounds that he’s inarticulate. Not this time. A President shouldn’t need a translator.
I think, as someone who has performed comedy, written comedy, directed comedies professionally and critiques comedy, am extremely qualified to identify jokes. If this is one, its an incompetent one. You seem to think Trump is Andy Kaufman.
No, in fact, he doesn’t have to say “identified” because it is so obvious.
And no, it was not a joke. He believes in the seriousness of the statement. Did he direct or intend to slow testing? No of course not. People silly enough to jump to that conclusion, could be told, to relieve their astonishment, to “lighten up, it was a joke”, simply because they had already demonstrated their inability to ascribe to Trump a serious thought.
Did he think that Russians were actually waiting for instructions from him to do mischief over Hillary’s emails? Of course not. But it was not a joke. Anybody silly enough to think that Trump would instruct his comrades via network news…..come on, it was a joke.
Something I found on this issue and the limitations of testing: https://www.nationalreview.com/the-morning-jolt/testing-and-masks-can-only-help-so-much/
At this point, I don’t see what is wrong with the Tweet. I have been frustrated for a week with my local news relating a ‘spike in Covid19 cases’ each day. This is despite the fact that the percentage of positive tests has fallen from 5% to 3% in the last month as we have opened up the state. The ‘spike’ is due to increased testing, yet the mayor of Oklahoma City is threatening to lock down the city again because of ‘increased cases’. Well, if you are going to complain about increased numbers of cases when we do more testing, we should do less testing. If you are going to destroy the economy again if we have more positives due to more testing, we should do less testing.
The President’s tweet shows an understanding of the situation at hand. He may allow the truth come to light when people pounce on his statement and opens the idea up for discussion. The truth can’t come out otherwise. This might save the economy. Why is that incompetent?
“Well, if you are going to complain about increased numbers of cases when we do more testing, we should do less testing. If you are going to destroy the economy again if we have more positives due to more testing, we should do less testing.”
Then you say THAT, Chris. You did it. It’s not THAT hard. Saying “Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country” and counting on people to translate is irresponsible.
That is fair.
What I have noticed is that he combines multiple attacks on him into one defensive tweet.
It was not long ago that he was attacked for saying we were testing more than any othe country. The media then used rates if testing per 100,000 instead of absolute numbers. When he talks in terms of testing rates of infection they shift to absolute numbers. I don’t expect people to have to translate meanings but I did not vote for Trump because he was another Daniel Webster. In fact, my first choice was another bulldog named Cruz. When Trump became the nominee all I expected was that he would finally push back against the slide toward Marxist Socialism and its inherent terror. The media, BLM, and many others have launched an all out war against him to bring down the Constitutional republic or to protect their places at the federal trough. That is all I expected. I didn’t want a Pershing I wanted a York.
I know and respect your reverence for the office of President. Unfortunately, when you are constantly fighting those who believe everything is a street fight instead of a negotiation you wind up fighting on their terms if you want to prevail.
For my money, this statement is no more incompetent than a trained lawyer stating that a Massachusettes policeman acted stupidly without having any facts other than the Harvard professor was a buddy.
Fauci testified before Congress today that testing is revealing more cases and we should be concerned about these spikes. He failed to translate that into meaningful values. If that is what the “expert” supplies as testimony it is no wonder Trump makes statements like this. Fauci is Trumps biggest weakness. Dr Birx was more straightforward.
“It was not long ago that he was attacked for saying we were testing more than any othe country. The media then used rates if testing per 100,000 instead of absolute numbers. When he talks in terms of testing rates of infection they shift to absolute numbers.”
Which I think is a million times more of an issue than anything the president has tweeted. The media is mixing statistical units of measurement explicitly to achieve a partisan outcome, while misleading the public that they’re supposed to inform. This partisan fearmongering is being used to steer legislation towards a slower reopening schedule, which would cause a slower recovery, which is actually causing a significant increase in the suicide rate (We obviously don’t have concrete numbers yet, but calls to the National Suicide Hotline are up something like 800%.).
This thing is so fraught with potential statistical pitfalls, that many who truly understand biostatistics would say that it’s bound to do more harm than good. Most of the time, statistical analysis of an epidemic or pandemic on-the-fly has more value in herding a gullible public than it does for shaping effective policies. They’re great for getting to the bottom of foodborne illness outbreaks, or for planning pest control measures in the case of vector-borne diseases, but something like this?I smell a rat, and I think its name is Fauci.
An increase in positive cases does not necessarily mean an increase in new infections. If there were feweer tests, there would b e fewer positive cases.
We can only go by the preponderance of the evidence.
Given the protests half a month ago, which definitely increased contact and thus exposures, and thus infections, there is a preponderance of evidence that there was an increase in new infections this month.
I am, willing to consider contrary evidence.
“For my money, this statement is no more incompetent than a trained lawyer stating that a Massachusettes policeman acted stupidly without having any facts other than the Harvard professor was a buddy.”
My original reply is farther down under OB’s comment but to be clear the lawyer in question was the 44th president not anyone here.
One of the problems with this whole situation is that the ‘experts’ have pretty much exhausted their credibility with me. A person could get whiplash watching them make one contradictory claim after another. Were they lying then or are they lying now? Or is it both?
Dr. Fauci said that the risk from coronavirus is miniscule.
I agree he should be more clear. His press secretary is. She says “with more tests we continue to identify more cases” – she was asked about his comment. then a reporter said “so Trump doesn’t think that we get MORE cases from testing?” And she repeated, “Of course not, we IDENTIFY MORE WHEN WE TEST MORE.”
they seemed happy with that but NOT with the comment about “slowing down testing” i need to find that to see the context as i heard he said it at a rally.
Now they are hammering her on him using “Kung Flu” lol..
How many times has the MSM been caught editing out any illuminating context? Ever since they quoted him as saying “these people are animals”, and not playing the 10 seconds before that where he was asked about MS-13, I haven’t taken any supposed quote at face value.
C’mon Jack. Take a breath. As testing increases, of course the number of positive results will increase, if the number of cases is evenly distributed among those tested. For the sake of argument, and easy numbers, say the overall infection rate is 1%. Now test 100 people and you will get 1 case. If you test 500 people you will get 5 cases. Reporting the number of new cases shows and increase or 4 cases, a four-fold increase, even though the rate of infection is still 1%. Space those two tests by a week and there is the “increase in cases” we see reported.
Show me one report, especially a broadcast report, where the number of persons tested was reported.
At this point we, the public, have no idea just what the actual extent of infection is, so reporting only the number of positive tests without reporting the number of people tested to find those reported cases, is unethical, either of the press for reporting the incomplete data or of the people reporting this to the press. Remember way back when things were really going strong? A term came out often: denominator. We were told that the extent of the infections would only be known when we knew how many did not have it; that combined with the number of cases would be the denominator of the fraction. The bigger the denominator, the smaller the fraction.
For the record, back in the 1950s that was taught in 7th grade arithmetic.
You do know that I made the companion of this point, in more detail,in the Warm-Up, right?
If there is anyone who does not need to be told about how the news media misreports the news, it’s me. However, if the President’s aim is to clarify what the media fogs, making inarticulate statements isn’t a competent way to do it.
To me, the tweet reminds me of the stupidest thing Marion Barry ever said, and he was a lot more articulate than DJT. That was his famous, ““If you take out the killings, Washington actually has a very very low crime rate.” That was true too.
I think the difference is that Trump’s point, as poorly worded as it was, is actually salient. Reporting on the COVID “Spike” has been journalistic malpractice. On the other hand, Barry was attempting to spin an increase in his city’s murder rate.
Nah, Marion was just joking.
That seems… in poor taste.
I actually understood what he meant the moment I read it and found myself defending the tweet on FB to my perpetually apoplectic friends. After 3.5 years, expecting him to be articulate is… I mean, have you met the guy?
Billions and billions of word clouds…
Hoo boy, Jack. You kind of kicked over a hornet’s nest You against the commentariat. Good to see. So much for an echo chamber.
We are encouraged to think for ourselves.
You should check out the comments section of Reason.com articles.
Actually, I was not rationalizing I was answering the question in your title about a more incomptent statement. You said it was hard to think of one I just gave you one I thought fit the bill.
I wll allow the characterization of Trump’s comment as incompetent but a trained lawyer should know better than to weigh in on an issue without knowing any facts. Unless of course, the lawyer meant to start us on the road of division. Then it would be deemed highly competent and effective in getting us to where we are now.
I don’t think of Obama as a trained lawyer. He went to law school. By nature and experience he was a racialized community organizer. He had all the facts he needed as a black activist, a class snob and an elitist. A white cop had a dispute with a black Harvard professor that he knew. Obama didn’t need any more information than that.
I was reading yesterday about a state that had its reported Covid cases each day increase by over 100%, while hospitalizations due to Covid rose by approximately 25%. It didn’t occur to the reporter to mention what changes had occurred in the area’s testing regime, but it seemed obvious that in the absence of dramatic new treatments for the disease, the “100% increase” had to be an artifact of improved testing. (Assuming that the press would inform the public if overwhelmed hospitals stopped accepting new patients…)
Interesting series of comments.
I just took a look at the national testing data going back to the last week of May. We’re testing more in June, to be sure, but there does seem to be a recent trend of the percentage of positive tests going up — from in the vicinity of 4% or so to in the vicinity of 5% or so. It’s gone down over the weeks — the overall cumulative positive test percentage is around 8% (I’m doing the math in my head so I could be off a bit).
On the other hand, the number of deaths per day is definitely trending down — back towards the end of May it was around the 700-1000 mark, and now it’s more along the lines of 300-600 per day. 15800 total for 23 days in June, which is …. about 690 per day I think?
And, of course, no one knows what the true numbers are in either case — and we’ll probably never know just what the real death toll was. We might get a handle at some point on the total number of infections if we get large scale antibody testing — and I suspect the numbers we see right now will prove to be very low, since so many cases are apparently asymptomatic.
Yes, more testing means more positives. Yes, opening up also probably means more cases. But we just can’t stop now — keeping our figurative knee on the neck of the economy much longer would be suicide.
I often think of a phrase (which I’ve not a clue where it’s from): Don’t take counsel of your fears. As someone who is in a relatively high risk demographic — we need to persevere and get things moving again.
Concur in the main. Not sure deaths are going down from 700-1000, they appear to be on the rise now from a low of 400 after a long period of ~1000 daily.
You can get a pretty good estimate of deaths by looking at excess mortality.
If ~100 people died in May in 2015,2016,2017,2018,2019 but in 2020 ~250 died, then it’s likely that Covid-19 is responsible for ~150 deaths that month.
There will be overcounting due to car crash victims not having access to full ICUs, and undercounts due to flu deaths decreasing due to anti-virus social distancing etc, but close enough.
Excess mortality in the US suggests deaths are undercounted, but only by at most 50%. Close enough under the circumstances. Books remain raw, not cooked.
Australia has an issue with this method: around 400 excess deaths were recorded in January, due to the 20 x lethal levels of smoke affecting major cities. Compare with 103 deaths nationwide so far in 2020 from the virus. Smoke inhalation can cause deaths months later, but most would have been in January.
I said “at most 50%”. Best data I have suggests 30%, and shrinking as the chaos and consequent inadvertent misdiagnosis rate decreases. Neither of the two conspiracy theories, overcount for financial reasons, nor undercount for political ones, is supported by the evidence.
There is so much variation from one facility to the next, let alone counties, states, and nations, about the circumstances under which COVID-19 gets listed as the causal agent, that it’s almost not worth thinking about. I’ve talked to more than a few doctors who told me that they were directed to list COVID-19 as the COD, when it was either a confirmed, or sometimes even presumed, co-morbidity.
… keeping our figurative knee on the neck of the economy much longer would be suicide.
I like that take-no-prisoners sense of humor, too!
If you want an example of a worse statement.
I’ll use that, but you cheated: the challenge was to find a worse TRUMP statement.
What an absolutely spineless weasel this guy is!
On a more fundamental point: Why are we testing all these people anyway? We don’t test the country at-large for the flu. The CDC is now saying that it is very unlikely that you can catch COVID19 from an asymptomatic person or from surfaces. So, why do we need this testing? What do we do differently with the testing that we wouldn’t do without the testing? Why don’t we just test people with symptoms so we know what we are treating? Why do we need to know that people with no symptoms, who are aren’t going to spread it to others, and who we aren’t going to treat, are positive?
The testing is just another excuse to destroy the economy and the US ahead of the elections.
The federal government is ending its support for 13 drive-thru coronavirus testing sites on June 30, urging states to take over their operations — even as cases spike in several parts of the country.
The sites, which HHS says are spread across five states, are the remnants of a larger federal testing program established early in the pandemic. Seven sites are in Texas, which is experiencing record numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
Have you not heard?
Coronavirus is not importanty anymore. These health officials said so! Who are we to question them?