Remember when I wrote earlier in the week about Donald Trump's performance at the daily coronavirus White House press briefings being almost presidential? Well, you can delete that from your newsfeeds.
I still hold to the theory that his temporary change to a somewhat serious demeanor was an alarm bell for a massive calamity that lies ahead of us; however, his U-turn back to being predictably petty, preposterous, and full of phony positivity holds true.
He started, again, on Wednesday referring to this disease as the "Chinese virus." This bigoted and dangerous mischaracterization has been called out by health professionals all around the world. His staff even knows this is wrong. Trump's black Sharpie was pulled out to black out "coronavirus" and insert the racially charged epithet on his talking points yesterday. Trump stews when anyone questions why it might be offensive. And Twitter and the social spheres have been going bananas every time he uses that incendiary phrase, including today. It's indefensible. But he doesn't care that it's grossly unreassuring.
It was reassuring to see Dr. Anthony Fauci back on the dais today. For the last three days, people have been clamoring for his return, questioning why he has been absent during this intensely serious time in our country when he is arguably the most serious voice we have on this infectious diseases, not only here in the U.S., but the world.
On Monday, Trump made a side comment that Fauci was a new TV star -- hardly new, since he's been visible and vocal going back to the AIDS crisis, but his shining and authoritative existence at times untangles Trump's preposterous claims, and that pisses off the real star from The Apprentice. Fauci speaks truth to power, defying the ominous presence of Trump who hovers over him. Fauci feels that looming shadow and simple plows ahead.
Dr. Fauci is not only more trusted than Trump. He's more honest, so the White House's attempt to keep him off the main stage was short-lived. "Bring him back! Bring him back!" America cried. The White House could hide him no more. Today, Fauci looked noticeably uncomfortable, particularly when Trump was trying to tout some miracle drug that would cure us all.
It took Fauci to take away Trump's pseudo-pharmacy license and explain that any drug including the one Trump was referencing needed to go through clinical trials to ensure that the treatment was successful -- even to a point -- and safe. A responsible answer and retort to an irresponsible claim.
Then, NBC's Peter Alexander had the audacity to push Trump about providing Americans with false hope with his effusive praise for a drug that treats malaria and that has not been proven effective for the COVID-19 virus. Trump was rankled because Trump is a "smart man," so he just knows that the drug will work. Why in the world would anyone question his pharmaceutical chops?
When Alexander followed up with how the president could calm Americans who were scared, Trump frightened them even more with a diatribe against Alexander, NBC, Comcast, and the media in general. Trump also demeaned his own State Department, prompting Fauci to commit the COVID no-no of covering his face in his hand.
Trump's response was alarming but not surprising. Trump is in way, way over his head, and the tide hasn't even hit yet, so the waves over Trump are still in shallow water. Trump is treading water that is two feet high. His defensive backlash is just a way for him to vent at anyone who dares question his questionable responses to the crisis at hand. He knows best, of course, because he's been through hell in his life. That's what he wants you to believe. A fairy tale then and a fairy tale now.
Trump was a child of privilege and a child-adult of privilege who has never suffered, never experienced any personal suffering, never lived paycheck to paycheck, never worried about how he was going to pay for his children's meals let alone their education, never worried about trying to keep a roof over his family's head, never had to deal with any illness within his immediate family that was life-threatening, and on and on and on. He cannot relate at all to the hardships that are just starting to infect and damage America.
He is misleading us now. He's misled us for three and half years, and he's misled the public all of this life. When he says Chinese virus, when he brags about closing our borders before anyone, that he inherited a bad system and he fixed it, that he had no idea that his was coming, that he's all over the testing and it's going great, that he is going to give us enough medical supplies and ventilators, that he knows all the jobs will come back, and on and on and on. He is not relating, not providing hope, not telling the truth. He's telling another fairy tale.
He only wants everything he says to be true, so that Donald Trump looks good, the prince on the white horse to the rescue. It's always been that way, through bankruptcies, failed businesses and real estate deals, shuttered casinos and a failed airline, thousands of lawsuits, independent counsels, impeachment -- Trump isn't to blame because Trump is always right. The knight in shining armor.
That armor is dented, rusting, and decaying. The press briefings are slowly starting to become the rotted, patented presidential press gaggles, where Trump stands in front of the media, spews lies, taunts reporters and tells everyone how great he is.
Case in point: Yesterday, he said that the Food and Drug Administration commissioner was working harder than anyone, and then like a reflex, he said "except Mike [Pence] and me." Of course he's working harder than anyone -- working harder to deceive us all and trying to make us believe in the unbelievably gilded, all-perfect, always right world of the hero that would be him.
As this crisis deteriorates, becomes unmanageable and inexplicably horrible, so will Trump's behavior. A perfect storm that will unravel an unprepared, unrelatable, and unsympathetic president. A fairy tale turned into the horror of all horror stories.
JohnCasey is a PR professional and an adjunct professor at Wagner College in New York City, and a frequent columnist for The Advocate. Follow John on Twitter @johntcaseyjr.