The New Yorker:
Early last week, the Trump era—which defined itself by a lurid celebration of “alternative facts,” a contempt for science, and an assault on global institutions and the “administrative state”—came to an end. Regrettably, Donald Trump remains in office, but, at least for the moment, he appears to have ceded the argument: he cannot bend the harshest realities of the world to his fantasies. The aggressive and deadly coronavirus is unimpressed and unimpeded by the bluster of a con. Yet the prolonged process of Trump’s humbling, the time it took him to recognize the power of the global pandemic that has emptied our streets, has put untold numbers of Americans at risk.
The disease now known as COVID-19 was first identified three months ago, in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Much like SARS, which flared eighteen years ago, the likeliest breeding ground for the new coronavirus was a live-animal market. Like SARS, H.I.V., and Ebola, COVID-19, scientists believe, is a zoonotic disease, one that “jumps” from mammalian animal hosts to human beings. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 soon made its way to nearly every corner and crevice of the planet.
For many weeks, the President resisted understanding the magnitude of the problems and the responsibilities of his office. In late January, he declared, “We have it totally under control. . . . It’s going to be just fine.” A month later, he told attendees at a White House celebration of Black History Month, “One day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.” Was he doing a good job? He gave himself “a ten.” Those who raised concerns about the Administration’s cuts in emergency preparedness or the outrageous failure to supply testing kits were promulgating “a hoax.”
This blithe unconcern for the looming crisis was hardly limited to Trump. His satraps in the “alternative fact” industry took their cues from him to rest easy in a warm bubble bath of denialism. Rush Limbaugh, who received a Presidential Medal of Freedom at Trump’s latest State of the Union address, told his immense radio audience that the virus was “the common cold, folks.” And, by the way, “Keep in mind where the coronavirus came from. It came from a country that Bernie Sanders wants to turn the United States into a mirror image of: Communist China.” Mark Steyn, filling in for Limbaugh one day, said that a shelter-in-place order had been issued in the Bay Area because “it’s a big gay town, San Francisco, and they’re the ones with all the compromised immune systems.”
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