Satire is dead. It’s a common refrain heard across social media and echoed by journalists in the Trump era.
In the same vein, truth is everywhere and always stranger than fiction these days.
Although the public is by now numb to it all — forcibly anesthetized by the daily barrage of bombast and balderdash — scarcely a day passes without some new set of headlines forcing another recalibration of the axes on our reality plane.
Monday was no exception.
For whatever reason, the president decided to let the media listen in on a call with campaign staff, some of whom are reportedly concerned as polls and betting odds continue to show Trump trailing with time running short to make up lost ground.
Obviously, voters are concerned about the president’s handling of the pandemic, and it didn’t exactly inspire much confidence when Trump himself contracted the virus, along with a handful of others who attended last month’s ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett at The White House.
Trump attempted to spin his own diagnosis (and subsequent recovery) as evidence of epidemic leadership bonafides, but the Coney Barrett super-spreader event was characterized by critics as the culmination of a strategic debacle — the quintessential example of The White House’s unscientific “plan” gone awry.
On Monday, while speaking to his campaign, Trump called Anthony Fauci an “idiot.” “People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” the president declared. “Anytime he goes on television” it’s a “bomb,” he added, before seemingly lamenting that he can’t simply get rid of the nation’s top infectious disease expert. “But there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. This guy’s a disaster,” Trump complained.
He wasn’t done. The president also said that if he had followed Fauci’s advice from the beginning, US deaths from COVID-19 would be 700,000-800,000 as opposed to the 220,000 casualties the nation has suffered thus far.
On Sunday, during an interview with “60 Minutes”, Fauci was asked if he was surprised when the president contracted the virus. “Absolutely not,” he responded, adding that,
I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask. When I saw that on TV, I said, “Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come outta that, that’s gotta be a problem.” And then sure enough, it turned out to be a super-spreader event.
“People are tired of COVID. I have these huge rallies,” Trump said. He was calling in from his own hotel in Las Vegas, naturally. “People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They’re tired of it.”
Trump did admit that Fauci is “a nice guy” and said “he’s been here for 500 years.”
This, on a day when the US is experiencing a surge in caseloads. Headed into the new week, the nation recorded at least 50,000 new infections for five consecutive days.
Earlier this month, Fauci was aghast when the Trump campaign featured him in an ad without his permission. He explicitly disavowed the move, telling the nation that he was taken out of context. He even asked Trump to take it off the air. He told “60 Minutes” the following about the ad, during the same weekend interview:
Dr. Anthony Fauci: I do not and nor will I ever, publicly endorse any political candidate. And here I am, they’re sticking me right in the middle of a campaign ad. Which I thought was outrageous. I was referring to something entirely different. I was referring to the grueling work of the task force that, “God, we were knocking ourselves out seven days a week. I don’t think we could have possibly have done any more than that.”
Dr. Jon LaPook: Did the steam start to come out of your ears?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: No, it did, quite frankly. I got really ticked off.
On Monday’s call with staff, Trump claimed that he’s on top of his game. “This is the single best I have ever been in any campaign,” the president declared, proudly. “We are going to win,” he added, noting that “I wouldn’t have said that three weeks ago.”
It’s not clear what’s changed since three weeks ago, and it’s also worth noting that Trump has only participated in two campaigns, this one and the last one. Going forward, Trump said he plans to do three rallies per day.
In case you’re wondering whether he was fully aware that the press was listening to his comments about Fauci, Trump said this into the telephone: “If there’s a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn’t care less.”
Later, Trump took to Twitter. “Tony Fauci says we don’t allow him to do television, and yet I saw him last night on ’60 Minutes,’ and he seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bob Hope,” the president mused, adding,
P.S. Tony should stop wearing the Washington Nationals’ Mask for two reasons. Number one, it is not up to the high standards that he should be exposing. Number two, it keeps reminding me that Tony threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!
Again, satire is dead. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.