Bob Rees and Clifton Jolley: Trump sometimes stumbles on the truth

“China could have stopped it.”

— President Donald J. Trump

It’s easy to dismiss the false things Donald Trump says as just more non-sequiturs, “alternate facts,” delusions, fantasies or intentional falsehoods.

He does, after all, add daily to the count of fictions being tabulated by The Washington Post. He has told 20,000-plus lies since the beginning of his catastrophic presidency — an average of 15 lies a day. But let’s be fair: The Post doesn’t keep track of “Trump Truths,” many of which are less true than his falsehoods.

And a good way to say you don’t give a damn whether something is true or false is to say what Trump said to Jonathan Swan in his Axios interview recently — ”It is what it is.”

What he was referring to is the escalating number of dead due to COVID-19, for which he blames China for failing to contain its “China Virus.”

We know that on his way to a lie, Trump occasionally stumbles over a fact, and the fact is that China did try to keep the infection a secret, punishing its own doctors and scientists for publicizing it, in the same way our president has savaged Dr. Anthony Fauci and tagged Dr. Deborah Birx “pathetic.”

We also know China’s president deflated the number of infections and the seriousness of the disease, the same way our president did — and continues to do.

But we have arrived at a point in terms of necessities not to quibble over what is true and what is false, except this truth: 165,000 Americans are dead from COVID-19 (and counting) and tens of thousands more will be dead by election day.

And while the president of China might have been responsible for the virus coming to our shores, once it got here our president was responsible for marshaling the forces of our nation to bring it under control.

Instead, he did exactly what he accuses the president of China of doing — not telling the truth to the citizens who are in danger of catching the virus. And, as opposed to the president of China, our president took an oath to uphold the Constitution, one of the clauses of which obligates him to “protect the general welfare” of our citizens.

But by the time the world had an opportunity to know what the Chinese did not initially know — the virulence of the disease — POTUS already had turned from that duty and had begun saying the virus simply would “just go away.”

By July he had promised us this remarkable disappearing act at least 23 times. When 15 people had it, he said the number would “go to zero,” on March 31 that it would go away “by the end of the month,” until on July 19, with the disease in its ascendancy, he again prophesied on Fox News: “I will be right, eventually….”

“Eventually” is a hard word for the families who believed him, especially if they are families of one of the 165,000 who have died since he began promising a sweet and simple retreat of what has become the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu (which was no more Spanish than COVID-19 is Chinese).

So, following the reasoning of our president—that the lack of truth or efficacy is evidence of ownership — why is it not now the Trump Virus? And if so, perhaps our next benchmark for getting rid of the disease is Nov. 3 — when we get rid of its namesake.

Robert A. Rees

Robert A. Rees, Ph.D., is a visiting professor and director of Mormon Studies at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, Calif.

Clifton Jolley

Clifton Jolley, Ph.D., is president of Advent Communications, Ogden.