Joining up the dots shows the true depths of Trump’s dangerous narcissistic pathology
Black Voters Are Coming for Trump
Trump claims he was in bunker for a ‘tiny' period of time to inspect it
He can't even admitthe truth, they scare himto death he was shiting himself but....
President also said on Fox News he visited the bunker in the daytime, not after dark as was reported
The president’s appeal to his base amid protests was derided by some Christians. Others saw a victory in a world oevil
Everyone has encountered this formula: Look, I’m not denying the badness of [some bad regime], but that doesn’t mean the United States should [bomb it/sanction it/insult it/topple it]. In each of its variants, it tends to be correct, which we know because it tends to get ignored.
Then we run into some predicted bad thing [chaos/blowback/strained alliance/increased nuclear proliferation], and we shrug and find a new bad guy and repeat. Belligerence—or “moral clarity,” if you’re a pious ninny—has become a staple of our foreign relations, achieving a pinnacle under George W. Bush but never fading away.
Perhaps it is mad, then, to keep repeating the “Look, I know monsters are bad, but” formula and hoping for a different result. But madness has its place. It’s at least saner than what we’re about to embark on with our latest bad guy of the day, China.
As we can read in a recent memo sent out to candidates by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, hitting China hard is going to be a campaign strategy for Republicans in 2020. “China is not an ally, and they’re not just a rival—they are an adversary and the Chinese Communist Party is our enemy,” goes the recommended messaging.
Candidates are also encouraged to say, “I will stand up to China,” and, of course, “my opponent is soft on China.” As for the topic of Donald Trump’s handling of this pandemic? The memo stresses, in italics: “Note - don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban—attack China.”
Great. We can already see this at work, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accusing China of cover-ups and claiming to have intelligence that the coronavirus escaped from a Wuhan lab.
If politics were only a game, all of this might be shrewd. Deflection and distortion and wedge issues are part of the political tool kit. But the stakes are higher than that, and foreign policy, as matter of decency and safety, has always enjoyed more exemptions from demagoguery than domestic policy.
Politicians can have passionate opposing views on global affairs, but they’re expected to voice them with less of an eye toward partisan gain than they would with domestic matters. Politics ends “at the water’s edge,” and all that stuff. But forget that. Let’s set the world on fire to reelect David Perdue. So here goes the formula:
I’m not denying that Beijing is trouble. Nor would I be sad to see an economic separation between the United States and China. But one of the most dangerous ways to get that is to indulge in incendiary scapegoating.
The disagreement here isn’t over whether the Communist Party of China is our friend, or for that matter anyone’s friend. China’s rulers have put in place a stifling security state that, while low-key if you’re compliant, turns ruthless the second you give it any trouble. During the weeks that we’ve been distracted by COVID-19,
Beijing has engineered a major crackdown on activists in Hong Kong. In the past several years, it has also been seeding a growing military presence abroad. In January and February, we couldn’t get a proper sense of what was going on in Wuhan, because any embarrassing stories were suppressed.
Yes, Chinese readers were permitted to learn that thousands of tragic deaths were occurring and that those dying included medical workers and entire families. But they weren’t allowed to see stories about health care workers lacking protective equipment
or apartment dwellers failing to get food deliveries or hospitals being disorganized or people dying from lack of care. Such stories would have hinted at government incompetence and therefore threatened CCP legitimacy.
Still, even if one grants all of this, it doesn’t justify the current climate of China bashing—and for more than tactical reasons. Take the geopolitics out of it for a moment and just look at the moral question of whether it’s all China’s fault.
The strongest case we’re hearing against Beijing is that it hoarded medical supplies in January and February and concealed the gravity of the situation when the rest of the world needed to know what was happening.
Because of that lost time, it is argued, the rest of the world had too little understanding of what was happening to prepare as it should have. Also, since Beijing wants to draw a curtain over the origins of the virus, we’re still lacking crucial information of its workings and spread.
How convincing is this? Maybe a lab in Wuhan was the accidental source, and maybe it wasn’t. Pompeo could be telling the truth about the intelligence, or, truer to form, he could be lying.
(When even the Wall Street Journal editorial page is cocking an eyebrow at your claim, you know you’re out on a limb.) Maybe there’s something shameful to be found in the origin story of COVID-19, and that’s why China has been blocking some researchers, or maybe there’s just unease about allowing outsiders to pry in China’s affairs.
Either way, since China’s own people and economy were the first victims of this disease, we’re not looking at something intentional. Tracing COVID’s origins may help us prevent future outbreaks, but it won’t help us much today.
As for China downplaying the crisis at first—yes, it did, and it paid a big price for that. But was China unique in such sins? I recall a U.S. president assuring us in late February that the number of coronavirus cases “within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” As for medical supplies, it’s hard to blame China for holding onto its stores and blocking their export. In January,
China, and only China, was in crisis, and it was short of supplies. Today, every sane country is trying to hoard its own medical supplies, much as China did, and the United States is outbidding friends like France and blocking mask shipments to Canada.
That leaves the idea that China cost us all valuable time, because we couldn’t see what was happening. Somehow, the lockdown of 50 million people and the standstill of the world’s manufacturing behemoth at the end of January wasn’t enough of a clue.Of course, in theory, knowing everything a few weeks earlier may have made all the difference. If that’s the case, however, then there should be a record of the U.S. government kicking into action the moment it became clear how serious things were in Wuhan.
Is there such a record? We know that Donald Trump imposed limited travel restrictions on arrivals from China in late January. It’s a constant talking point. What else did he do? What did anyone do?
It wasn’t China that caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to send out contaminated testing kits in early February. It wasn’t China that caused the Food and Drug Administration to stand in the way of Seattle-based researchers who were using their own testing kits.
It wasn’t China that made U.S. airports fail to do health screenings of passengers coming from abroad, even from hot spots. It wasn’t China that made Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, tell the public that the virus was contained to a degree that was “pretty close to airtight” or, after stocks started sagging, urge people to “think seriously about buying these dips.”It wasn’t China that led Trump to spend February attending rallies and fundraisers across the country and take a trip to India and ignore the problem for week after week as cases spread. It wasn’t China that made budget hawks in the White House deny requests for preparation funding
It also wasn’t China that caused us to use up most of the federal stockpile of N95 masks in 2009 without ever replenishing it, either under the previous White House or this one.
It wasn’t China that led cable news, with the exception of Tucker Carlson, to all but ignore the coronavirus until late February. It wasn’t China that caused so many pundits to lecture people about why the familiar seasonal flu was a greater threat than a lethal new virus or why our fear was indicative of human irrationality.
It wasn’t China that told health experts to attack Trump’s travel bans as pointless and xenophobic. It wasn’t China that made Bill de Blasio tell New Yorkers in early March that they should “get out on the town despite Coronavirus.” It wasn’t China that told people,
“Stop wearing face masks.” It wasn’t China that insisted on being the producer of so many of our crucial medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. This epidemic is our debacle now.
But fine: Let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that Beijing really is to blame for all of these things, and more. Would that be a greenlight to start bashing away at it?
We might want to remember that—good or evil, friend or foe—China has become powerful. It has allies and trade arrangements all over the world, and the United States cannot count on the world to be on its side if there’s acrimony between Washington and Beijing. China has considerable military capabilities, especially on the cyber front.
Most important, it has economic power. As much as it relies on the United States as a customer, the United States relies on China as a producer. We’re not going to replace our supply chains overnight, and in the meantime we’ll still want lifesaving drugs and equipment.
That we extricate ourselves from such a fix is an aim that many would support. But if you want to break out of jail, you do it quietly. You don’t yell that you’re going to kick the jailer’s ass. Playing a long game on the world stage requires patience and cunning. Just ask China. You don’t make a scene, and, unless you want war, you don’t force players to defend their honor.
Losing face on the world stage can weaken a leader irreparably, and people everywhere—but especially in China—will do crazy things to avoid it. To his credit, Trump up until now, has kept up a friendly front toward China’s leader, Xi Jinping, but behind the scenes there are hints of a new and confrontational course of action in the making. God help us if Trump signs onto it.
Most galling about all the China-bashing is how unserious it is. A genuine decoupling from China’s economy requires hard decisions, and only the fewest of our elected officials seem prepared to make them. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has devoted lots of resources to lobbying for unhindered trade with China.
Republican billionaires Charles Koch and David Koch have been spending fortunes on pushing the GOP away from non-free-trade heresies. And Democrats, at this point, seem to dislike tariffs even more than establishment Republicans, at least according to polling by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
So the entanglement isn’t about to go away soon. Earlier in this article, I suggested that the worst approach we could take to our rivalry with China would be to divorce it amid incendiary scapegoating. But an even worse approach would be to stay married amid incendiary scapegoating.
This White House, and this GOP, are about to take us all to that future, and Democrats, afraid of looking soft, are unlikely to stand in the way. So, as always, trotting out the old “I know the bad guy is bad, but don’t get us all killed” formula feels futile. But it’s too important not to try
Perhaps the most hated man on the planet
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