The Second-Most-Dangerous Contagion in America: Conservative IrrationalityRoundup
tags: conservatism, politics, Donald Trump, coronavirus
Max Boot, a Post columnist, is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a global affairs analyst for CNN. He is the author of “The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam," a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in biography.
The most dangerous contagion we now confront is the coronavirus, which has killed more than 20,000 Americans and thrown more than 16 million out of work. The second-most-dangerous contagion is the conspiracy-mongering, hostility to science and outright irrationality promulgated by President Trump and his loudmouth media enablers. It will take intensive contact tracing to follow the spread of crackpot ideas: Is Trump infecting the cable news hosts, or are they infecting him? Suffice it to say, the president and his media fans are both afflicted with perilous misconceptions that are making the threat from the coronavirus far more acute.
At first, both Trump and his media toadies dismissed the threat from the coronavirus, claiming it was no worse than the flu and that it would miraculously disappear by April. Any suggestion that Trump was mishandling the threat was dismissed as a “hoax.” Then on March 13, Trump finally declared a national emergency, and the tone among the Fox News propagandists instantly changed — from deriding concern about the coronavirus among liberal bed-wetters to lauding Trump’s heroic wartime leadership.
The new resolve did not last long: Within days, the drum beat on the right evolved into “the cure cannot be worse than the disease.” Conservative talking heads argued that the economy had to be reopened even if it meant sacrificing the lives of the aged and infirm who are most vulnerable to covid-19. Trump was listening: On March 24, he announced that he would “love” to restart the economy by Easter.
Thank goodness Trump did not follow his instincts: Can you imagine how much devastation would have ensued if the economy were being reopened just as the United States was overtaking Italy for the most confirmed coronavirus deaths on the planet? Mercifully, after being shown models predicting that millions of Americans could die from a premature reopening, Trump agreed on March 29 to extend his social distancing guidelines until the end of April.
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