Monday March 30, 2020
‘Totally Under Control’: What Trump Said About the Coronavirus in the First Months of the Pandemic
For future reference:
- Jan. 22: “We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China. It's going to be just fine.” Via Poliltico
- Jan. 30: “We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment—five—and those people are all recuperating successfully. But we‘re working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it’s going to have a very good ending for us ... that I can assure you.” Via Poliltico
- Jan. 30: White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow: “We see no material impact on the [U.S.] economy. The pandemic is, of course, in China, not the United States.” Via Washington Post
- Jan. 30: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: “[We don‘t] want to take a victory lap [but] I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America, some to [the] U.S., probably some to Mexico as well. ... I think there’s a confluence of factors that will make it very, very likely more reshoring to the U.S. and some reshoring to Mexico.” Via Washington Post and New York Times
- Jan. 31: U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar: “Today President Trump took decisive action to minimize the risk of novel coronavirus in the United States [by declaring a public health emergency and restricting travel from China]. ... We are working to keep the risk low.” Via NPR
- Feb 2: “We‘re gonna see what happens, but we did shut it down, yes.” Via Reuters
- Feb 7: “Just had a long and very good conversation by phone with President Xi of China. He is strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack on the Coronavirus. He feels they are doing very well, even building hospitals in a matter of only days. Nothing is easy, but ... he will be successful, especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone. Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!” Via Twitter
- Feb. 11: “The virus that we’re talking about having to do, a lot of people think that goes away in April, with the heat. As the heat comes in, typically that will go away in April.” Via The Hill
- Feb. 11: “And by the way: The virus. They‘re working hard, but it looks by April, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away. Hope that’s true. But we‘re doing great in our country. China, I spoke with President Xi, and they’re working very, very hard, and I think it's all going to work out fine. Rough stuff, I tell you, rough, rough stuff, but I think it's all going to work out good. We only have 11 cases and they‘re all getting better.” At campaign rally, via YouTube
- Feb. 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” Via Twitter
- Feb. 25: White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on CNBC: “We have contained this, I won’t say airtight but pretty close to airtight.” Via Politico
- Feb. 26: “The risk to the American people remains very low. We have the greatest experts, really in the world, right here. ... We‘re ready to adapt and we’re ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads. We‘ll spend whatever is appropriate.” During a press conference in which he announced Vice President Pence was coordinating the government’s response. Via The New York Times
- Feb. 26: “And again, when you have 15 people — and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero — that's a pretty good job we‘ve done.” Via Washington Post
- Feb. 28: “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? The coronavirus. They’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs. .... And this is their new hoax. But you know we did something that's been pretty amazing: We‘re 15 people in this massive country. And because of the fact that we went early—we went early—we could’ve had a lot more than that.” At a campaign rally in South Carolina. Via YouTube
- March 2: “I think it's very safe [to hold campaign rallies].” Via The Hill
- March 5: “With approximately 100,000 CoronaVirus cases worldwide, and 3,280 deaths, the United States, because of quick action on closing our borders, has, as of now, only 129 cases (40 Americans brought in) and 11 deaths. We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!” Via Twitter
- March 5: “Well, I think the 3.4 percent [mortality rate] is really a false number. ... Because a lot people will have this and it's very mild. They‘ll get better very rapidly. They don’t even see a doctor. They don't even call a doctor. You never hear about those people. So you can't put them down in the category of the overall population in terms of this corona flu—or virus. So you just can't do that. So if, you know, we have thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work—some of them go to work but they get better.” On Sean Hannity's Fox News Show. Via Politico
- March 6: “But I think, importantly, anybody, right now and yesterday, that needs a test gets a test. They‘re there, they have the tests, and the tests are beautiful. Anybody that needs a test gets a test. ... The tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. This is not as perfect as that, but pretty good.” At the CDC. Via Wired
- March 6: “You know my uncle was a great person. He was at MIT. He taught at MIT for, I think, like, a record number of years. He was a great supergenius, Dr. John Trump. ... I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, ’How do you know so much about this?' Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.” At the CDC. Via Wired
- March 6: “I like the numbers being where they are. I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn't our fault.” At the CDC. Via NBC News
- March 8: “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus. We moved VERY early to close borders to certain areas, which was a Godsend. V.P. is doing a great job. The Fake News Media is doing everything possible to make us look bad. Sad!” Via Twitter
- March 9: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!” Via Twitter
- March 11: “We made a life-saving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe. ... A number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe.” In address to the nation from the Oval Office. Via Politico
- March 13: “No, I don't take responsibility at all.” At Rose Garden press conference backed by CEOs. Via YouTube
- March 17: “This is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” Via The New York Times
Sunday March 29, 2020
Quote of the Day
“Beware of stories you want to be true.”
Ben Bradlee, executive editor of The Washington Post, 1968-1991, taken from the HBO documentary “The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee” (recommended)
Sunday March 29, 2020
Box Office: No Time to Die
This photo was posted on Twitter the other day. It's from the Uptown area of Minneapolis—yes, the same as in the early Prince song. It's also the arthouse theater that ran a calendar schedule in the ‘70s and ’80s where I first saw so many classic films: from “Casablanca” to “A Clockwork Orange.”
I like the callout below the marquee to the post-credits scene in “Ferris Bueller.” Nice touch.
My first blog post on the Covid-19 epidemic related to China closing all its theaters in January/February. If I thought the same would happen to us I didn't think it would be this soon. I also couldn't imagine it. China is an authoritarian country so it can do this. In the U.S., I thought, it would take businesses to do it. And they wouldn't do it; they'd lose money. But they did it. They stepped up. Relatively quickly. SIFF closed all its local theaters on March 13. Regal closed its theaters nationwide on March 16. SIFF canceled its annual film May/June film festival on March 18. Studios pushed back release dates for the 25th James Bond movie, the ninth Fast & Furious, Wonder Woman 1984. The Bond movie is appropriately titled “No Time to Die.”
Of course, box office dwindled down to nothing:
- March 6-12: $134 million
- March 13-19: $58 million
- March 20-26: $5,176 *
* How is money still being made in theaters? Apparently, two movies are still playing somewhere. One is titled “Lost in America.”
Against this backdrop, then, it was huge news that China was reopening its theaters. It had flattened its curve and could now tentatively celebrate with re-releases of “Avengers,” “Avatar,” “Wolf Warrior II” and “The Wandering Earth.” From The Hollywood Reporter:
China's theater operators have faced two interrelated difficulties: convincing customers it is safe to return to the multiplex in large numbers and convincing distributors that there are enough customers to resume marketing and releasing their most valuable film titles—and without the latter, it would seem hard to achieve the former.
Agreed. The germaphobe part of me thinks this is premature. It still feels like no time to die.
Saturday March 28, 2020
'I Want Them to Be Appreciative'
Not enough is being written about yesterday's press conference. The New York Times barely mentioned it in their COVID-19 coverage. Not even a headline. They glossed over it. Any other president says shit like this in the middle of a global pandemic—about which he's given nothing but mixed messages from the get-go—and it would be front-page news. Trump says it and everyone shrugs. Just Trump being Trump. Meaning being such a solipsistic raging asshole that everyone is left without words. We‘re all speechless. Covid renders us breathless and Trump renders us speechless. Maybe that’s why the Times didn't cover it. Because what the fuck do you say?
Here's the exchange. Early on, he touted the administration response in his usual vague terms:
We‘ve had great success over the last month. We’ve, as you know, the millions and millions of pieces of equipment have been delivered successfully by us, purchased and delivered, and we‘ve made it available to the states and the governors have been very gracious—for the most part, I would say. A couple that aren’t appreciative of the incredible job. They have to do a better job themselves.
It took 20 minutes for a reporter to follow up on that nasty aside by asking if he could be more specific about the governors, and Trump interrupted, and we got this horror-show of a response:
Well, I think we‘ve done a great job for the state of Washington and I think the governor, who is a failed presidential candidate as you know—he leveled out at zero in the polls—he’s constantly chirping, and I guess complaining would be a nice way of saying it. We‘re building hospitals. We’ve done a great job for the state of Washington. Michigan, she has no idea what's going on. And all she does is say, “Oh, it's the federal government's fault.” And we‘ve taken such great care of Michigan. You know the care we’ve taken of New Jersey.
“We‘ve taken such great care of...” How specifically? “We’re building hospitals.” What hospitals? Where? The one I know about in Washington state is the temporary field hospital being built on the Shoreline soccer field, but that seems to be a county effort. In the meantime, we‘re short on masks, respirators, tests. And we were ground zero in the U.S. for a time. For the time when Trump was dismissing all of this, saying it was under control. Just one person. Just 15 and they’re all getting better. And it‘ll all just disappear like a miracle. It’s the Democrats' fault. It's being politicized. It's a hoax.
The reporter then followed up again—asking specifics about the governors of Washington and Michigan—but Trump interrupted again:
All I want them to do, very simple, I want them to be appreciative. I don't want them to say things that aren't true. I want them to be appreciative. We‘ve done a great job, and I’m not talking about me. I'm talking about Mike Pence, the Task Force, I'm talking about FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers. There's no country in the world could have done what the Army Corps of Engineers has done and is doing. Now they‘re going in and building literal... They’re going into hotels and renovating hotels. That should be for governors to do. That should be for states to do.
Masks, respirators, tests. Again and again. That should be the mantra. “I don't want them to say things that aren't true,” says the man who can't open his mouth without lying. What untrue things are they saying? Apparently that Trump isn't doing a good job. “We‘ve done a great job,” says the man who can’t open his mouth without making it all about him, without trying to pull us into his demented worldview. He says it as if it's a fact. As if he's given evidence of anything he's done to ameliorate matters for states and hospitals and nursing homes and nurses and doctors and first responders.
There have been more evil people in the world but there has never been a more worthless human being. Never has one man expected so much from so many for doing so little.
Friday March 27, 2020
My Talks with Trump I
I suppose it really isn't Trump's fault. He's always been this way and it's always worked for him. Why should he change when the idiot way he's always acted has taken him to the White House?
The bigger fault lies with the people who support him. It's idiot Americans who aren't paying attention and give him a good grade for the way he's handled the COVID-19 pandemic: Dismissing it in January, constantly saying we have it under control in February, claiming it was a Democratic hoax in late February, then telling the world he always knew it was a pandemic and treated it accordingly in early March. Now, in late March, as our numbers leap past every other country (86k vs. 81k for China), he wants to end the social distancing by Easter, or two weeks from Sunday. Why? Just cuz. Cuz he needs it to get the economy going to get re-elected. Has he done anything throughout this crisis except spread misinformation while blaming others for his own ineptitude? Fox News is equally awful. They tout whatever he says. Whatever shift he makes, they make, and pretend they‘ve always made it. They’re 1984. Who can watch that crap? What idiot takes it seriously?
Thursday March 26, 2020
Quote of the Day
It is not possible for a grown-ass nation to make a more miserable human being its leader. https://t.co/9FTtjyS6sU— David Simon (@AoDespair) March 25, 2020
Monday March 23, 2020
My Top 10 Movies of 2019
I usually apologize for posting my top 10 list late—and this is by far the latest I’ve ever posted this thing—but screw it. If I’d rushed it, I couldn’t have added about half these movies (#s 1, 3 and 9 for starters). They would’ve slipped into the gap. Plus, as you know, it’s been kind of a fucked-up year. In January, I was down with a virus (not that one … I don’t think), then I was playing catch-up throughout February. And this month, yeah. This shit show.
In that regard, most of these movies are available for streaming on Amazon (“The Farewell” is free if you have Prime), while “The Irishman” and “Dolemite” are on Netflix. Stay safe.
10. A Family Tour
At a hotel in Taichung, Taiwan, a film director who’s been exiled from Mainland China and now lives in Hong Kong, is seeing her mother—traveling with a tour group—after five long years. The meeting is outside a hotel and includes her husband and 4-year-old son. It should be heartfelt. It isn’t. It’s stilted and slightly awkward, and then it’s interrupted by the tour director, who leads the mother away. The sense of violation is immediate—maybe particularly for me, since my own mother suffered a stroke three years ago. At that moment, I was really hating on the tour director. Turns out, she allowed this meeting, and others, to happen, despite risk to herself. What we’re witnessing is the long arm of authoritarian rule. Even in another country—ostensibly the same country—it can come between a parent and child.
9. 63 Up
It felt a bit like attending a class reunion; I kept getting reacquainted with forgotten friends. “Oh right, Tony, the wannabe jockey who becomes a cabby, who’s got a joie de vivre and is always on the run, always on the make. And Nick, the farmboy who doesn’t “want to answer those kinds of questions” (about girls), who becomes a scientist and moves to the states and marries one beautiful woman, then divorces, then he marries another beautiful woman. I guess it pays to not answer those kinds of questions. And of course Neil, unforgettable Neil, who at 7 was a cute Liverpudlian boy with Beatle bangs who skipped along sidewalks and wanted to be an astronaut, and who at 28 was homeless in the Scottish countryside, unable to answer questions without rocking back and forth, in the midst of a psychological breakdown.” I could never forget him. Not in a million years.
8. The Irishman
When introducing characters throughout the movie, Scorsese will often freeze-frame the shot and let us know when/how the character died—usually it’s brutally—and I assumed that’s where he was leading us during the extended denouement: to the death of Frank Sheeran. But that’s the one he doesn’t give us. He shows us Frank buying a coffin. He shows him estranged from his family—his four girls—and FBI guys showing up to try to get more info on the Hoffa case. But then this too goes away. Everything goes away. The nurse taking his blood pressure doesn’t know from Jimmy Hoffa, and Frank is more and more irrelevant, more and more alone, until he asks the departing nurse to leave the door open to let a little light in. And that’s where Scorsese leaves him. He doesn’t end him. He leaves him in purgatory.
7. Dolemite is My Name
This is the first Eddie Murphy movie I’ve loved since the 1980s. What’s fascinating is he’s playing someone the exact opposite of Eddie Murphy. Murphy was a hit on “SNL” at age 19, a hit in the movies at age 21, a standup phenomenon at 22, and the star of the biggest box office movie of the year, “Beverly Hills Cop,” at age 23. Not many actors were hotter, sooner. And in “Dolemite” he plays a dumpy, middle-aged man who missed his shot. But Murphy makes this credible. He has hurt in his eyes.
6. Avengers: Endgame
There’s a need for the MCU to move on, so I guess this is the right call. But some part of me feels we didn’t get enough Iron Man vs. Captain America. It’s not just the clash of personalities. They represent the two halves of America: its ideal (democracy/Cap) and its messy reality (capitalism/Iron Man). It felt like more could be said with this dichotomy—things that might help explain us to us. But pause a moment to consider the triumph of this series.
5. JoJo Rabbit
I don’t know if it’s the funniest movie of the year, but it’s certainly the most original. Playing the Beatles’ German-language version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” over the exuberant opening credits? And associating this happy 1964 music with the mania Hitler caused among Germans who adored him? Wow. There’s a scene where a Gestapo agent tells JoJo to ignore the rumors that Hitler has only one ball because it’s not true—he has four of them. I’d say that’s actually writer-director Taika Waititi. He’s certainly got some big ones. He even plays Hitler in this, to comic perfection.
4. The Farewell
The Chinese title is more direct, “Don’t Tell Her,” which is a little ironic since the point of the movie is a particularly Chinese lack of directness; keeping an unpleasant truth from a beloved family member. The cultural absurdities here may be specifically Chinese but the family absurdities are universal. I love the final scene in China: Billi in the cab with her parents being taken to the airport, and watching her Nai Nai through the rear window waving and getting smaller and smaller and smaller. That’s all of us, eventually, saying good-bye to loved ones. Or being the loved one.
3. Corpus Christi
Is Bartosz Bielenia a shapeshifter? In Jan Komasa’s “Corpus Christi,” he plays Daniel, a 20-year-old criminal who pretends to be a priest in rural Poland, and throughout the character seems both immoral and holy, male and female, child and man. He’s a not-good person who becomes one. He repairs a community. I think he enjoys what he does—he’s good at it—but don’t be fooled into thinking he’s a good kid. He’s not. Maybe that’s why he makes such a good priest.
2. Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood
It’s not until we see the title at the end that we realize we didn’t see it at the beginning. We also realize why. At the end, it’s an admission. The author is basically saying he did his best but he can’t change history like he did with “Inglourious Basterds.” He’s breaking the fourth wall. He saying this is just a wish-fulfillment fantasy, a fairy tale, a once up on a time… I’d argue it’s the most poignant moment in any Quentin Tarantino movie but I’m not sure what else would rank. Poignant isn’t a word we normally associate with the man.
1. Pain and Glory
This is my favorite Almodóvar. He’s usually too quirky or pungently sexual or something for me, but this one hits home. Because it’s a portrait of the artist in winter and I’m a writer in autumn? Because the artist, director Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas), has a sense of failing his dying mother, and I’ve been probing that wound since my own mother died last August? The movie is Almodóvar’s, specifically his, but it doesn’t feel narrow. It’s as wide as life. It forgives everything but bad art.
Saturday March 21, 2020
Walking Seattle During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Message left on Capitol Hill, Seattle, Washington, USA, Earth
Last Sunday—just last Sunday—I was talking to my brother in Minneapolis and told him that we in Seattle we pretty fairly locked down now. For several weeks, it was “Should we ... or shouldn't we?” and now we'd definitely landed on the shouldn‘t side. We were trying to socially distance ourselves and be vaguely responsible. I still went to Trader Joe’s that morning, and had taken a walk the day before to Volunteer Park. But even the latter instance, I told my brother, made me worried. I was like: Should I be walking? is this safe for me and others?
“Now you‘re really overthinking it,” he said.
The New York Times recently raised the same point: Is it OK to take a walk? Their quick answer: Sure, just stay six feet away from everyone you don’t know, everyone not in your family. All of which makes sense. To be honest, I was already practicing it. Last Monday, I did the same walk out to Volunteer Park but veered off before I got there because it became too crowded. it was like everyone was going to Volunteer Park, which shouldn't be the game plan. Tuesday, to avoid the crowds, I walked down to the International District and over by the waterfront. That was less crowded but more depressing: a lot of homeless, Chinese in masks, and shuttered businesses. Thursday, I went for a run; Friday, a bikeride. Today, instead of heading north toward Volulnteer Park, I walked east toward Lake Washington. It was good. I like walking the less-populated neighborhoods, where, if you need to, you can just step into the street if someone is coming toward you. I try to do this with a smile but sometimes forget. We‘re all in the same boat, and should be banding together, but ... Yeah. You might kill me and I might kill you. It’s the weirdest of vibes. But I try to smile.
I did run into a friend of my wife, and we had a good conversation from 10 feeet apart. She complained about the social isolation but she's an extrovert. To me, that's the easiest part of all of this. The hardest part is anticipating where we‘re going. Right now, the world is basically divided between those who understand exponential math and those who don’t, and the latter group is ruining us. Six days ago, despite (at best) spotty testing, the U.S. had the sixth-most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world: 3,774. As I write, we have the third-most confirmed cases in the world: 25,493. Our curve ain't flattening at all. And we still have spotty testing.
Stay safe, everyone.