If Boss Trump is headed for defeat, he's getting his revenge early. His revenge upon his deluded supporters and the people they love, that is. Trump's reelection campaign now consists mainly of what epidemiologists call "super-spreader" events: large-scale rallies of unmasked, non-socially distanced Trumpists yelling in each other's faces while the Big Man emits a nonstop barrage of falsehoods, exaggerations and barefaced lies.
Let me put it this way: If, say, the Rolling Stones decided to put on free concerts at airports around the country, they'd likely end up being taken into custody and deported as undesirable aliens. Of course, they'd also draw far bigger crowds than Trump, but that's not the point. The point is that Trump's actions are reckless and immoral, the peacetime equivalent of war crimes.
"COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID," he hollers. Trump claims that the United States is "turning the corner" on the pandemic, and that the accursed news media will quit reporting COVID-19 fatalities come Nov. 4. He claims that health officials are motivated by greed because "doctors get more money and hospitals get more money" if they report that the virus was the cause of death.
Surveys have shown that more than a thousand physicians and nurses have died fighting the disease nationwide.
As ever, what he accuses others of doing is an excellent guide to the question: What would Trump do? Answer: He'd steal the silver dollars off a COVID victim's eyelids and demand an investigation of Joe Biden.
According to The Washington Post, the Trump campaign organization signed an agreement with officials in Duluth, Minnesota, to limit attendance at a Sept. 30 fly-in rally in accordance with public health guidelines. Hours before the event, it became clear that no effort was being made to honor the agreement; some 2,500 Trump supporters without masks bunched up on the tarmac -- 10 times the agreed-upon limit.
Health department officials' protests were simply ignored. Three days later, Trump himself was taken to Walter Reed hospital by helicopter. Three weeks after that, the following headline appeared in the Duluth News-Tribune: "St. Louis County sees another record-breaking week of COVID-19 cases."
The Trump Traveling Circus subsequently performed in Janesville and Waukesha, Wisconsin, in the midst of a record-setting pandemic outbreak there. "It took us 7 and a half months to reach our first 100,000 cases, & only 36 days to reach our second," the Wisconsin Department of Health tweeted. "In just two short months, the 7-day average of new confirmed cases has risen 405%!"
But the show must go on. Trump regaled his Janesville audience with a veritable torrent of lies. The New York Times did a thorough fact-check of his Oct. 17 speech. Reporters documented 131 false statements during Trump's 87 minutes onstage. Nearly three-quarters of his claims were untrue. The most egregious concerned COVID-19, probably because the disease represents his single greatest failure and most damaging political liability.
Another question: Does Trump count upon his supporters' invincible ignorance or simply share it? I fear it's a little of both. In Janesville, Trump made this absurd claim two minutes into his harangue: "When you look at our numbers compared to what's going on in Europe and other places," he said, "we're doing well."
Any regular newspaper reader knows that this is just nonsense. As the Times reports, "America has more cases and deaths per capita than any major country in Europe but Spain and Belgium. The United States has just 4 percent of the world's population but accounts for almost a quarter of the global deaths from COVID-19."
Germany, to choose the most striking comparison, has suffered only 122 deaths per million of its population, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States has recorded more than five times as many: 686 per million. Neighboring Canada, meanwhile, is at 264 per million. Several Asian countries have handled the pandemic even better.
It's a matter of capable leadership and public cooperation.
No wonder Trump appears to have succumbed to a case of dictator envy. "COVID, COVID, COVID is being used by [the 'Fake News' media] in total coordination," he tweeted the other day, "in order to change our great early election numbers. Should be an election law violation!"
Yeah, well, they all report the same World Series scores, too. Furthermore, if Trump had good election numbers, he wouldn't whine so much. Has there ever been a bigger crybaby in the White House?
(In related news, Vladimir Putin has issued a mandatory mask mandate after a surge in Russian COVID infections. Go figure.)
Meanwhile, the rallies go on, a bizarre spectacle that people treat as if it's normal. Trump has become the Typhoid Mary of COVID-19.
But he should know better. If anybody should be locked up, as his rapt admirers chant, it's the Super-Spreader in Chief.
(Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of "The Hunting of the President" (St. Martin's Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at firstname.lastname@example.org.)