The plan is to have no plan

"There is no genius there, only a damaged human being playing havoc with our lives."

4 May 2020 11:02 pm 117 Comments

In this space I am parking my short description of the de facto plan the Trump government has for getting the United States out of the public health emergency caused by the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This is my read on what the government’s guidance and actions amount to. I will revise the text and add new links as more information flows in. My purpose in posting it is to challenge the American press to be a lot clearer in its descriptions. 

The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing, and then to create massive confusion about who is responsible— by telling the governors they’re in charge without doing what only the federal government can do, by fighting with the press when it shows up to be briefed, by fixing blame for the virus on China or some other foreign element, and by “flooding the zone with shit,” Steve Bannon’s phrase for overwhelming the system with disinformation, distraction, and denial, which boosts what economists call “search costs” for reliable intelligence.

Stated another way, the plan is to default on public problem solving, and then prevent the public from understanding the consequences of that default. To succeed this will require one of the biggest propaganda and freedom of information fights in U.S. history, the execution of which will, I think, consume the president’s re-election campaign. So much has already been made public that the standard script for a White House cover up (worse than the crime…) won’t apply. Instead, everything will ride on the manufacture of confusion. The press won’t be able to “expose” the plot because it will all happen in stark daylight. The facts will be known, and simultaneously they will be inconceivable

“The plan is to have no plan” is not a strategy, really. Nor would I call it a policy. It has a kind of logic to it, but this is different from saying it has a design— or a designer. Meaning: I do not want to be too conspiratorial about this. To wing it without a plan is merely the best this government can do, given who heads the table. The manufacture of confusion is just the ruins of Trump’s personality meeting the powers of the presidency. There is no genius there, only a damaged human being playing havoc with our lives.

UPDATE:  A few developments since then, as reported in the Washington Post and other news sites:

May 15, 2020: Trump’s continually strange comments on possibly ‘overrated’ coronavirus testing. (Link.)

The answer wouldn’t seem to be that testing isn’t necessary, but that more testing would be preferable to make sure people who are infected take precautions as soon as possible. The whole commentary is confusing and in many cases nonsensical.

June 27, 2020: With Trump leading the way, America’s coronavirus failures exposed by record surge in new infections. (Link.) 

While public health experts urge caution and preventive measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing, Trump, Pence and other top aides repeatedly flout their advice, leaving confused Americans struggling to determine who to believe. “They’re creating a cognitive dissonance in the country,” one former senior administration official said. “It’s more than them being asleep at the wheel. They’re confusing people at this point when we need to be united.”

July 6, 2020: Trump and Biden campaigns shift focus to coronavirus as pandemic surges. (Link.)

White House officials also hope Americans will grow numb to the escalating death toll and learn to accept tens of thousands of new cases a day, according to three people familiar with the White House’s thinking, who requested anonymity to reveal internal deliberations. Americans will “live with the virus being a threat,” in the words of one of those people, a senior administration official.

July 6, 2020: President Trump, coronavirus truther. (Link)

A review of Trump’s public commentary on the virus reveals precious little in the way of a reality check for a country confronting a surge in cases. He has instead again focused like a laser on downplaying the pandemic — suggesting the rise in cases is merely a symptom of increased testing (it’s not), questioning the efficacy of and need for wearing masks, and repeatedly suggesting the virus isn’t so bad after all. It all culminated Saturday in Trump declaring that “99 percent” of cases are “totally harmless” — a statement that bears no resemblance to what health officials have said.

July 13, 2020: Trump’s attacks on Fauci and other experts reinforce that he’d rather Americans be confused than concerned. (Link.)

Trump would rather have no one be trusted than that he stand out as unusually untrustworthy, even if the cost is confidence in his team and in experts trying to tamp down the pandemic.

July 15, 2020: As the coronavirus crisis spins out of control, Trump issues directives — but still no clear plan. (Link.)

There is no cohesive national strategy, apart from unenforced federal health guidelines. Instead, the administration is offering a patchwork of solutions, often in reaction to outbreaks after they occur. Although Trump and his team declare sweeping objectives, such as reopening schools, they have largely shirked responsibility for developing and executing plans to achieve them, putting the onus instead on state and local authorities.

July 15, 2020: As the Trump disaster gets worse, a new political theory helps explain it. (Link.)

Law professors David Pozen and Kim Lane Scheppele present “executive underreach” as a species of leadership failure that’s as destructive as executive overreach, defining it as: “a national executive branch’s willful failure to address a significant public problem that the executive is legally and functionally equipped (though not necessarily legally required) to address.”

July 17, 2020: Rancor between scientists and Trump allies threatens pandemic response as cases surge. (Link.)

September 11, 2020: Fauci’s message to skeptics. (Link.)

Trump in recent weeks has been committing less of his time and energy to managing the pandemic, according to advisers, and has only occasionally spoken in detail about the topic in his public appearances. One of these advisers said the president is “not really working this anymore. He doesn’t want to be distracted by it. He’s not calling and asking about data. He’s not worried about cases.”

On Thursday, President Trump said “we’re rounding the corner” and “we’re rounding the final turn,” suggesting that the pandemic will soon be a thing of the past. This is exactly the sort of reckless rhetoric that folks like Dr. Anthony Fauci have to counter. “We are still in the middle of this,” Fauci told Wolf Blitzer on Friday.

In interviews with Blitzer and MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Fauci tried to correct Trump’s salesman-type happy-talk about an impending vaccine and a return to normalcy. When Mitchell brought up Trump’s fantastical talk, Fauci said “I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with that.” I’m sorry that he’s been put in this position, where he has to correct the president’s deeply misleading claims.

“I say look at the data; the data speak for themselves,” he said on CNN. “You don’t have to listen to any individual. And the data tells us that we’re still getting up to 40,000 new infections a day and 1,000 deaths.”

117 Comments

jeremiah horrigan says:

A perfect summary of the Trumpian dynamic at work: “The ruins of Trump’s personality meeting the powers of the presidency.”

Don Given says:

Perfectly sums it up. An absurd situation orchestrated by what can be concluded a totally incapable “human being “.

Tom O’Brien says:

Heller nailed it. “Let’s behave boastfully about something we should be ashamed of, that always works”.

Charles Faris says:

Catch-22?

Jeff Mooney says:

I’ve said this from the beginning, Trump has absolutely no game plan about anything. He just mails it in. He’s a boorish numbskull that passes himself off as some kind of saviour of business…and his people love him to no end.

David Hart says:

“his people love him to no end.” Look who he has to work with. I mean, no offense, but Americans are not the sharpest tool in the Earth’s shed anymore. We don’t know history, nor do we care. We don’t even know what happened five minutes ago, unless we can use that information to bludgeon our opponents. Trump is the logical result of the policies that have driven this country throughout most of my lifetime, and I personally don’t see it getting any better any time soon.

Dan DePrez says:

You can get away with anything when your base has an attention span of one sentence.

Michael Stopczynski says:

Especially when it’s a “big, big, tremendous sentence. An amazing sentence like no one in the world has ever seen.”

Mary Anne Kale says:

Trump has managed to cultivate & catch the projection of a powerful & successful person who, by virtue of his alleged business acumen & ability to negotiate, is able to make things happen for his own betterment-though rarely for the betterment of others. He equates his own self-aggrandizing goals with those of the US. He is the very embodiment of everything bad about America; self promoting arrogant bully, gross insensitivity to others’ needs, entitlement in good fortune which we have come to believe is our natural due.

Abstract Threats says:

When the sentence is a meaningless four-word slogan.

Charles Faris says:

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

M. Makuye says:

They voted out of hate and rage. Seeking revenge on all who they do not regard as peer or worthy of consideration, they will remain, though he be removed, executed, or retire.

R Skurat says:

Also: revenge on all who they secretly/subconsciously know to be their superiors, i.e. eggheads & experts.

Andrew Deane says:

As an Australian, I am just bewildered, flabbergasted and utterly saddened by whats happening in your once great country.

Without blowing our own trumpet, after some initial hiccups we have done extremely well here, more than half of our states have no new infections and things are looking good for relaxing restrictions.

This has happened because we have let the health experts take control and drive the narrative.

Enough said about Trump, a 12 y.o could have done a better job.

I gravely fear for what will come, particularly in the red states where it appears the governors are in denial and/or don’t care to listen to the people that have expertise in this epidemic.

Agreed the MSM must smash the hell out of this gross and epic incompetence by your current administration.

J Rossi says:

If you’re bewildered, flabbergasted, and utterly saddened, how do you think we feel about it?

Carol Leake says:

That’s almost true, but too glib and embraces the kind of cynicism that has already given up because the enemy is just disgusting. There are republican plans behind all this, long-standing plans, hatched by the Koch brothers & Mitch McConnell and beginning with the great dumbing down of the Reagan administration. Republicans know that they do best with an uninformed electorate and have defunded education relentlessly for years, then fomenting conflict over ‘social issues’ none of which they remotely care about. The cynicism and ruthlessness have found Trump’s floundering distractedness to be useful. He tweets, they relentlessly pack the judiciary with unqualified right wing judges and give more money to the wealthiest. Don’t be a jerk, pay attention.

Angela Zito says:

Well, all that said, and all of it being things I imagine the author would agree with since he is no slouch at history, what else have you got to offer as we face this massive fantastic horror show of calculated incompetence? I see nothing of ‘giving up’ here, just a continuation of the cry for the MSM to change its modus operandi–and for it to simply realize that old rules do not apply. Your comments would be better aimed at the Democrats in the House or at governors, or frankly, anyone who might get in the way of the indeed brilliant way that ALEC and the Kochs and etc have played the legislative field for decades. But right now, we gotta get through the upcoming deadly months ahead.

Thank you. I’ve now had 43,00 glasses of wine, but I’m the morning I shall be sober, and I will read this again if you remind me.

This is priceless, not just because you made me laugh, but for being real. Good deal

YES, THAT’S IT!

For the 1,000 time I beg reporters to be real.
There is no trump, “ADMINISTRATION.”

trump only has spineless sycophants with titles.
“Administration” is from a BY-GONE era.

Television and Radio reporters must speak and and reporters writing for the page must write in a way that reflects our joint, current reality.
There is no “Administration.”

Use appropriate descriptions. Or kindly remove yourself from the business of “news.” Our current time with trump is much too dangerous to be anything but rigorous with reality. The county is too fragile for less.

Rich Scillia says:

This won’t happen. The billionaires who own all the media want Trump reelected. He’s good for business, just like Les Moonves said. They don’t care that he’s a cancer to the country, their only loyalty is to their shareholders.

And, those “titles” are all prepended with “Acting”.

M. Makuye says:

The man is NOT unique in his malignant psychopathy.

Arsenio Velasco says:

Plainly and perfectly said..

The word “Administration” is to administer something to someone at sometime.
There is “no plan”, thus there is no ADMINISTRATION to talk about.

QED.

DrGeneva Harris , PhD says:

Perfect! That is Trump! He is doing nothing for our country! However he is doing a lot for himself! Just think of the business he can corner, now and once he leaves office!

Ron Stevens says:

Simple, obvious and in broad daylight: a camouflage that, even if not intentional, is brilliant. And the proof of its brilliance is that it’s working so well. For anyone to stop it, many more must see it.

Debbie Kallam says:

Right on the money! That says it all.

Maureen O'Brien says:

This is a cogent summary of the current dynamic. The last two sentences are worth memorizing and recording for history. “The manufacture of confusion is …the ruins of Trump’s personality meeting the powers of the presidency. There is no genius here, only a damaged human being playing havoc with our lives.” It’s an awesome realization.

Ron Johnson says:

This

Andrew March says:

Accurate, but you left out the looting and sadism.

All of which is already underway, and already being documented as well.

Billy L. Hill says:

This is what I said after he acceded to the governors, this is what I said after he threw his support behind the “liberate” the states protesters. I said he has no plan on election night. I say this everytime he opens his mouth.

I think you are underestimating these people. They sow chaos and death, keep their faithful in check with relentless propaganda and continue to accrue money and power for themselves and their cronies. They will do everything they can to stay in power, voter suppression, inciting armed insurrection, weakening the country to the point that resisting all of it will not be possible. It is most definitely a plan. The sooner we accept and deal with it the better.

“It is most definitely a plan.”

No, it’s worse than that.

scarshapedstar says:

It’s more like a kitchen full of ants. They didn’t need a plan. Nobody had to decide which crack to carry the food through.

Timster says:

Wait till he gets his own Katrina!

Tammy Murphy says:

Puerto Rico

Same Puerto Rico that has recieved 0 dollars of the federal stimulus they were allocated.

What can we do??

So, yeah, it’s already happened. And he’s moved on from that, believing that no one was able to stop him. Because those who tried have been obstructed and/or ignored.

Chris Meinke says:

When he says “We’ll have to see what happens” clearly indicates no clue and no plan for a solution.

How can that possibly be described as “leadership?

It can’t.

Estajo K. says:

It has already started. He and his acolytes are going question the death toll. The numbers will be “fake news”, “inflated by Trump haters to make him look bad” it is ALL about HIM. More to desensitize us to the enormity of the costs in lives lost. 100,000 or 200,000 deaths are “fake news” therefore MEANINGLESS.

Angela Zito says:

Folks are truly desperate to see a plan. It’s more like a looting mob.

**start a war**

Gene Martinez says:

The media let him get away with his crimes against the people of Puerto Rico.

Ben Heideveld says:

Start the second civil war…

Linda Hewett says:

I predicted this when he stole the office. He is no different than Hussein or any other terrorist leader. My question, since our military was always sent to fight against those terrorists, who is going to come to our aid?

John Hasselberg says:

Precisely. The plan is what has been in place since at least 1971 (Powell Memo) or earlier after 1965 (Civil Rights Act) followed by Nixon’s Southern Strategy. The TACTIC is to look like you don’t have a plan (plausible deniability, anyone?), but the plan is to neuter democracy based on avarice coupled with fear of and utter disdain for the hoi polloi, seeing democracy in their minds merely as mob rule.

Joseph Trepel says:

Testing leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to facts and evidence. Nothing there for Trump.

Testing may have been originally messed up by CDC but Trump could see the downside to pushing to fix the problem. In the areas of testing and tracing, no plan means many extra deaths, while having the benefit of not leaving incriminatory evidence.

And this tactic was telegraphed from the earliest stage of this pandemic in America.

Remember the cruise ship he vehemently objected to making port because he didn’t want the likely sick to increase the confirmed covid cases in the US. Despite them being majority American citizens.

How about the odd stories of federal agents and FEMA seizing PPE and test kits shipments from states.

Fuck what do we do?

7910 dead in NJ. 10300 cases.
Everyone’s on their own to
get food, pay bills, medical care.
The more dead or incapacitated
in blue states he thinks improves
chances he will get re-elected.
Suppress the vote.

S. Mills says:

It’s already started with De Santiago ordering ME’s to not list Covid-19 as a cause of death or produce their normal summary reports. You can’t be held accountable for Covid-19 deaths if you don’t count them. You already have 45% of the country believing in “alternative facts” thanks to Fox and Trump, does it surprise you they would use further Orwellian tactics? Propaganda works.

Don Elliot says:

Flooding the zone with shit. Is the exact imagery I’ve been using to summarize their tactics. Taking any time to refute obvious lies and trying to interpret them according to any cogent framework is pointless and makes cover for whatever scam is really the intent. Then the sluice is open again before you can take a breath. “Everyone who wants a test can get a test” was obviously bullshit and he knew it, but still is used to compare his latest bullshit to the evolving reality. The punditocracy really has to step back clear of the flow and get a clue.

Profesorar says:

A couple of things mystify me perpetually, since the Obama administration and the miserable press coverage of what clearly was the bad faith conduct of house and senate business on the part of chaos actors such as Mitch McConnell or the astroturfed “Tea Party.” One mystery is that the press/media cannot seem to recognize or clearly report on the facts of what over decades has been a moral voiding of obligation to the public interest in civic life; one party in our two-party system seems to have committed fully to using the state and government, laws, tribunals, communications, infrastructure, as machinery for protecting capital, corporate profiteering, and select ideologies from any controls and regulatory mechanisms the people might determine necessary so as to advance civic interests, but “both sides” reporting has no way to handle the assault on civic morals beyond banalization.

Corporate media cannot recognize those things, no, because corporations cannot understand them and are not genuinely interested in them. The current order works just fine for growing capital.

Ben Heideveld says:

It is a pity you cannot write plane English, your ideas are interesting but you cannot express them in plain English…

Charles Faris says:

Read twice, it helps.

Sheila Warner says:

OMG, you are so correct. Now I’m really depressed. After living through the hell of Watergate, I thought reckless presidents would be stopped cold. Man oh man, was I wrong. Since W & the war in Iraq, which I vigorously opposed, the path was paved for a power-hungry politician like Trump. He was inevitable. I’m 65, but now I really have seen it all.

We can blame this on Trump’s many shortcomings. But we also need ot blame this on the elephant in the room that no one is talking about, that Trump is a Russian asset. Putin owns him for the billions he’s given Trump over the last two decades.

What plan Trump has is given to him by Putin, and that plan is to destroy America.

The fact that every article about Trump does not start off with, “President Trump, the Russian asset…” is the greatest failure of the press in this era, and one reason we are in the mess we are in.

GenuinelyScared says:

Does it make a difference at this point if its Trump acting in his own agency or a putin!trump if the end result is the same destruction of America?

You sum it up well. The trumpaganda works sadly. The question is how well, and the answer is to be determined by the voters who are influenced by the news as they perceived it and receive it. As Charles M. Blow pointed out in The New York Times, lying is Trump’s superpower. Only by confronting him with his lying as relentlessly as he lies can the news media do its job properly in this frightening moment.

What people in the news business seem to fear is standing up to him because it will infuriate some in the audience. I was long ago taught in a seminar on “evidence” that journalism’s original sin was failing to declare bias. There’s nothing more human. In the money chase, journalism can become inhuman. Nonetheless, our humanity will not be denied in this case because of the production tools we have.

Never before in human history have so many human beings been able to publish and produce with such sophistication and impact. Bias is inevitable. Healthy even. Time to declare a bias against lying and liars. Expose the lying relentlessly. Invite people to express their feelings about what is going on in the public square.

Charles Faris says:

There is no victory in taking on someone’s superpower. His lies distract, the “manufacture confusion.” The way to beat Trump is to cut off his energy source—public attention. Ignore him and ignore his lies. Focus on what’s really happening. Otherwise everyone is caught in the flood of shit. Deliver good intelligence and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Unfortunately—click-bait! Trump makes a good read. Readers drive advertising. Trump is great for the business of journalism, which is selling clicks.

Tim Shea says:

This tiny fragment “telling the governors they’re in charge without doing what only the federal government can do” sows confusion while at a minimum shares blame, has its efficiency compounded when mayors disagree with governors and institute a cities own rules and restrictions . Well done no plan is the plan .

Tanya Lolonis says:

Distraction works.

Vvictor says:

I predict why somebody died and how many people have died will become an issue with major partisan divide (has become already really) and therefore the accountability associated with people dying will not really take hold. All part of the strategy of flooding the zone with confusion.

It will take dead bodies piling up on 5th Avenue for anything to really matter, and even then of course it will be the fault of governors who allowed dead bodies to pile.

Nick Starz says:

In Seinfeld’s world, it’s a show about nothing.

Don in Pennsyltucky says:

Deny, Destract, and Dissemble. It’s what he has always done and the media has been complicit for at least 25 years.

The number of cases and deaths in the country, and then in my state slipped into the uncanny territory. I am uncertain when it happened.

I remember feeling physically ill when, during the span of 7 days in march, 90 confirmed cases exploded to 850. Plus 20 deaths.

Today we are at 29,673 cases and 1,991 deaths in Louisiana. This is framed as a plateau.

Julie Linden says:

Could you add a link to a good source for the concept of “search costs”? Thanks for considering, and thanks for this important piece.

Charles Faris says:

It’s simple: Trump can lie faster than you can research his lies. It’s worse than wack-a-mole. For every lie you search and reveal he spins ten more. He’s a tar baby. Engaging with his lies just gets you stuck in a shit-swamp. Clear?

Norman Kelley says:

Sounds like a plan.

Joe Peyronnin says:

Brilliant explanation of Trump’s tactics

Manqueman says:

Never to be overlooked is the press and media’s complicity in even now choosing not or failing to call Trump out for the unfit, unqualified POTUS he is — now deadly unfit and incompetent (not that the GOP has ever been pro-life).
Trump is serving the powers that be — which includes media owners —well. The media also sees him as something that attracts an audience so criticism must be hedged to avoid alienating any member of the audience. That that greed has resulted in actual harm to the nation — like essentially accepting murderous policies — is apparently acceptable.
The right way to handle a Trump is to call his BS out in headlines or ledes or lead-ins. The media should dictate the story, not Trump’s lies, incompetence and refusal to act responsibly. They don’t. Again, this has risen from nonfeasance to malfeasance.
And here we are.

I am so glad for your comment. The media is hugely responsible for everything we see today, and they need to own it — or we need to broadcast their ownership at every point. Why should CNN & MSNBC say they are making an effort to present “both sides”? Like life & death? Give us the rationale for death? Fox, Breitbart & all the outliers are not presenting two sides. So I tend to agree that the corporate owners are looking at profitability only & that they are immoral & soulless.

Charles Faris says:

Calling him out is engaging with his superpower. The real trick is ignoring him. Completely. He thrives on attention. Unfortunately so does the media. It’s a marriage made in hell.

People underestimate just how well not having a plan works functionally. Trump believes it knows he can’t be blamed for that which he didn’t propose. Ensuing chaos sort of a Trumpian Marxism ” the more chaos the better!” People won’t be ABLE to know who to hold accountable. Press will still be covering briefing as if it weren’t Kabuki theater. Those who wanted govt broken will keep fighting tooth and nail to keep it broken.
Follow the chaos to the money.
No plans is so much more simple than vast conspiratorial plots and Trump isn’t known for his attention span. There is a certain beauty in it’s simplicity albeit a terrible one.
To paraphrase, when someone tells you they will do nothing to save you, believe them.

Charles Faris says:

You hit the nail with your point on “Kabuki Theatre.” That would be the ultimate way to cover Trump. Send in the theater critics! Preferably someone who appreciates Nicholas Cage! Give him credit where it is due. Ignore what he says, and focus on how he says it. Sometimes you have to put beeswax in your ears to avoid crashing into the rocks!

forthedishwasher says:

One point you fail to acknowledge:

Americans, for the most part, are extremely stupid people.

And no… it’s not a George Costanza line. It’s simply a sad truth.

The Taoism of Trump: The plan is there is no plan.

Bernard Welt says:

You know, this is a good description of Trump, but the disinformation campaign will not be handled by him personally, nor by his inner circle, but by the Republican party. He has power because it suits the aims of the Republican party. Openly lying even when the facts are not in dispute is not the strategy of the White House only, but of the Republican party. Squawking about states’ rights and then disenfranchising and freezing out the states is the method of the Republican party. It serves the Republican party well to pretend that they can do nothing about the lunatic in the White House. He thinks they serve him, but he serves them.

Good description of the problem, but yes, I think no plan is a plan to shift responsibility to others in the name of states’ rights and then blame them and others for the resulting destruction.

There are two questions: What should the media do?; and what should we, the news consumer, do to pressure the media to do what it should?

Even the best news outlets must have resources to do their job, so we can’t blame them for considering the economic consequences of how they cover the news. How do we counter that or adopt it as our strategy? Boycotts? Cancelled subscriptions?

Jay, you’ve made great suggestions over the years, only a few of which I think have been adopted to some extent by the media. (To be fair, news outlets regularly report that Trump’s pronouncements are wrong, misinformed or lies. Not long ago, that would never happen.)

For me, the top suggestion is to not amplify the bullshit. In the age of Trump, what the president says can no longer be considered news of such import that it must be amplified by the media. Second, more voice needs to be given to people affected by Trump’s actions. Still, too much of news is what the elites have to say–the politicians, academicians, professional class, the organizations/lobbyists, etc. A poll saying confidence in him is down isn’t enough. Report what people are saying. Listen to what they want and be specific. It would like reporting on a focus group. Again and again. People want to see their views in stories, not just those of the elites.

And specific pressure must be put on the electronic media. After all, most people don’t get their news from the New York Times or Washington Post. They get it, first and foremost, from the network nightly news programs. Second is cable news. They are structurally hidebound and beholden to sponsors: number of eyeballs is paramount; focus on conflict; short discussions; regular commercial interruptions, etc. It’s also the cheapest way to “cover” the news. How do we get them to change?

How do we, the news consumer, strike back?

Charles Faris says:

1. Ignore the spectacle.
2. Pay attention to relevant and actionable intelligence.

This is war. Media and public figures are all propagandists. If you want good intelligence you have to put your ear to the ground. Remember, the only free press in Europe during WWII was in occupied France.

Most younger people (under 55) get their news Facebook. Include FB in your intelligent questioning.

Rosella Melanson says:

Agreed. I suggest it is a form of gaslighting, seat-of-the-pants gaslighting.

Ray Kaplan says:

Priceless. Really the very best piece I have read, not only during the cover thing, but – in fact – anywhere in my entire 70 years of probing into things as best as I can. You are, simply, our hero and, as you can see from the comments, we all really owe you a deal.

Thanks

RayK

Right — it is left to the press (and counter-propaganda) because there are not enough decent people in the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, or in the Senate to impeach, so all we can do is make do until November.

Andre Sobolewski says:

This works as long as other examples cannot be provided for contrast. It stops once you ask: how come Canada did so much better than us?

David rowe says:

If the federal government spent as much time trying to solve the coronavirus issues as they do on PR, we would be in a significantly better position now.

The Resistance is alive and well . The Chumpster in Chief is fueling its growth everytime he opens that lying mouth of his . He speaks with wooden teeth .Just remember that everything that this Chump touches dies . Vlad and all of the world’s growing autocratic class are collectively gloating at the failing USA under the trump regimes gross mismanagement and criminality .

The “Plan is no plan” is far too benign, and fails to recognize the essence of Trump’s marketing strategy. Every issue and decision is viewed through the single lens of how it fits in his campaign marketing strategy, within the context of his general hostility to any form of government regulation or planning. For example, Trump has consistently refused to invoke the defense production act to manage or control production of personal protective equipment, until he found a company (3M– https://on.mktw.net/2L3NoWx) that he could hit with an export control threat, a story to make him look like he’s acting, while he refuses to address the larger issue. The larger the death totals, the more attention he gets for his press show. The covid crisis is useful to Trump because it give him a bigger platform. He’s choreographed the covid show like a circus ringmaster. Its part of a consistent pattern that started before he took office, with the Carrier sham in IN.

Christopher Neimeth says:

Idiocracy

Yes Theres Gas in the Car says:

Mayors and governors are to increase business and tourism in their cities and states. The President oversees a complete bureaucracy complete with intelligence, health and human services, and centers for disease control who are tasked with looking out for just these sorts of situations. Maybe is the current president was actually interested in the job and was not ignoring all the incoming intelligence and recommendations that covid was a clear and present danger and took action quickly and decisively, those mayors and governors may not have gotten the wrong idea that it is OK to do business as usual? And once they did realize that, they took action. Unlike the president who still can count his fingers and get the same number twice.

I think the plan was not really a plan, but merely an intense devotion to get more money and attention for himself. To get that, he perfected a narrative that has been working for him for decades: “Only I, Donald Trump, will fight the DC snobs and the media elites on behalf of you, my best people, the beautiful forgotten white people who’ve been the establishment’s main victim all these years.” And in that narrative, whenever the media and the real politicians are provoked to use a “fact” to combat his lies, that fact becomes just one more example to illustrate that, “I, Donald Trump, am fighting the DC snobs….. “ And so on. So the problem is that fighting his narrative on its terms is a feedback loop that strengthen his narrative. We need an entirely new story—a truthful one—to win this.

Judy Shatkin says:

brilliant

For the 15 years and more that I’ve been reading Jay, I’ve made it a policy not to disagree with him, for the simple reason that he’s pretty much always right. But I think the situation here is even worse than he says, with implications not just for public health but also the future of our constitutional republic.

For starters, I think Jay is right as far as he goes about TRUMP not having any sort of plan. That’s true. Trump is an empty vessel who frequently acts on what the last person to talk to him said.

But I also think that there really is a plan — not Trump’s, but a plan nonetheless.

Go back and look. Since December, every time Trump has had the opportunity to do something stupid w/r/t the pandemic, he has done it. Every time he has had the opportunity to do something helpful, he has chosen not to do so and in many cases has done the opposite. That’s not random. That’s deliberate. It has to be.

I believe, and I believe the facts will show, that Trump’s response to the pandemic has been a deliberate assault on the American people. Several weeks ago I called it slow-motion genocide, but we’re to the point where the motion isn’t too slow anymore. Look at the allocation of funding. Look at the allocation of PPE. The administration and its Republican allies are waging genocide against the elderly, prisoners, and people in blue states and cities.

Why? The people who’ve read the Nazi playbook know the answer to this one.

Heading into 2020, absent massive GOP vote suppression, Trump — or his supporters — knew he couldn’t get elected without his own Reichstag fire. And now, in this crisis he has worked so hard to make as awful as possible, he has one.

We’re likely still to be needing social distancing come November, which will make in-person voting very difficult. And in the Wisconsin voting case, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority decided that “Your vote or your life” is a perfectly constitutional poll tax. The only shot in hell we have of a fair election is via universal vote-by-mail, which is why Republicans are fighting it so hard (and trying to kill the Postal Service to boot).

Now, Jay’s right: Trump didn’t come up with this plan. But this plan reeks of Bannon and/or Stephen Miller. It’s right up their alley. And it’s right in line with what Putin wants: to weaken this country even further.

To paraphrase Avedon Carol, I deeply resent being made to seem like some paranoid wackadoo. And I know that’s how I seem. But give me a simpler explanation that comports fully with the known facts. That’s one thing Jay hasn’t done here.

Oh, you’re the guy who makes pronouncements about what goes on in college classrooms without having spent any time in one. Sit down, son.

Spoken like someone who hasn’t spent a moment in an actual college classroom.

Jan Kennard says:

Trump has brought us End Stage American Hegemony.

Nicolas Granatino says:

I wrote a twitter thread in reply.

The thread starts with:

“Interesting post by @jayrosen_nyu falling in writing it in the trap which he exposes. Rather than looking at Trump as a root of the problem, we should look at Trump as being a symptom of a much deeper problem which preceded his election 1/n”

https://twitter.com/ngranati/status/1257671179994832897?s=20

If you stop thinking this is a presidency involving a real nation of real people, and instead regard it as a piece of tRump TV in which we are blessed to watch the prestidigitator as he slams from chaos to death to rallies and bragging rights, etc., etc., you will see that there is always no plan, but always a PR release that heralds a plan, with great showmanship, about snake oil of one variety or another, all named TGodot.

Well, you’ve got some harrassment to carry out, apparently.

Jon D Rudd says:

Complete with the obligatory grammatical error: “my dissenting voices was silenced”.

Tim Dobbyn says:

and digital hubris will lead the way – #digitalhubris

D. C. Wilson says:

Trump’s plan from day one has been to do nothing and demand praise for what a great job he’s doing.

Iradg Aleahmad says:

My only hope is that people who did not know this Evil, now after almost 4 year of Prove and show of Evidence of Trumps Contagious Wickedness, Forsake of your children Do not Vote for Trump. Their Life Depends on You.

Jed Ahern says:

Please stop. If this comment list was an orchestra, everyone would be playing the same instrument. It’s obvious that there is an abundance of talent and intelligence here. Just please put down your drum and pick up another instrument.

I have some neighbors who use to refuse to pick up after their dogs. “It’s just a park. It’ll dissolve.”, It’s just an alley. Who cares about an alley?” I never yelled at them. I was polite and persistent. My children play in that park. Would you want your child playing in dog poop?” or “We use that alley and might track it into our house.” I always won. Sometimes it would need two or three times of shaming but there is no more poop in my alley or park.

Shaming works well. Not yelling or name calling, just calm polite comments. You may need multiple times. “You still voting for that a**hole?” is not a calm polite comment.

Trump is especially vulnerable to shaming but it is his supporters that need to be politely shamed. Playing your drum on this comment list may feel good, but you are reaching the same type of people that you are.

Jerry Sena says:

Eternal thanks, Jay. I’ve been trying to say or write something very like this for months now and haven’t been able to disengage from the rage and sadness that consumes me when I think of what Trump and his Republicans are doing.

Feels good to see it in writing. I think you can take it a step closer to conspiracy though, given the cast of characters has all spoken more or less with one voice from the beginning. That doesn’t happen without a plan, does it?

I find great agreement with this article. We need to have coherent analysis as we are surrounded by this administration’s “Plan of No Plan.”

My question is what can, and should we do in terms of physical action. I am living in a rural area and am finding that simply being in touch with others of similar mindsets in urban centers of reason is not enough. Us regular folks have time and energy to do positive actions if we can only coordinate.

Thanks for the description of the no plan …plan. What guidance might you, or your readers have for us folks to do our part to rise up to assist the USA in this time of presidential absentia.

ALAN D GRUND says:

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

H. L. Mencken. (1920).

JoAnne Layton says:

Best chuckle out of Comments section so far, and I really need one!
– Comments are 98% GREAT, Article Excellent.
– It is so reassuring to see people more erudite than I, put into words what I have been witnessing, feeling, and – vaguely – thinking.
– It gives me heart that SANE Americans exist & are increasing in strength, resolve, insight & numbers … don’t tell me I’m dreaming, please!
– Currently My thoughts alternate between G. Orwell & the Book of Revelation!

Wilbur Conlin says:

All of you have to hope Dementia Joe is the beneficiary of an all-consuming hatred for Donald Trump that, however so slight the edge it may orovide, will propel him into the White House. Subsequently, the real President will be whomever he is told will be hia Vice President. Even if he wins, he won’t last two years before his brain completely ceases to work.

Jeannette Smyth says:

Just leaving these links here.

The definition of genocide by attrition by a founding scholar of genocide studies.
https://cdn1.sph.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/2469/2014/03/4-Fein.pdf

And here is famine crimes as crimes against humanity — that is, withholding available commodities including medical treatment and supplies.
https://www.uio.no/studier/emner/hf/iakh/HIS4319/h16/famine-crimes-in-international-law.pdf

Steve Jones says:

Trump is not smart enough to make a plan!

Dave Wilcox says:

A couple thoughts:

Regarding Trump’s inaction for the first few months of the virus: He intentionally did nothing until after April 1, hoping for as many deaths as possible in the Red states prior to the Census count, to reduce their impact for the next ten years.

All the descriptions by others of Trump’s abhorrent behavior and his followers’ responses to it are completely understandable when viewed in the light of Cultist actions. Unfortunately, we may need another Waco to resolve this problem.

Arguably, this IS our president’s Katrina – bigger and more destructive than any hurricane could ever hope to be.

Ladies and gentlemen: The Destroyer in Chief!

Jim McG says:

I must have missed something here. Does the Author (ore most of the commenters here) not understand Federalism?

Also, can anyone please explain why almost 50% of the “Covid-19” deaths are in only 3 states (New York, New Jersey, & Massachusetts)?

I live in Las Vegas, NV, we had 10,000s coming here from China (just love those tourist junkets) while they were lying to the rest of the world last December & January…Close quarters on the Strip, Downtown & Conventions…How exactly is Las Vegas not a Covid hot spot?