You have all the characteristics of a popular politician: a horrible voice, bad breeding, and a vulgar manner.
–Aristophanes, Knights (424 B.C.)
The coronavirus affects people differently, even when they have no direct contact with it. Some people come up with new insights, others see historic parallels, and yet others hallucinate. It is, of course, impossible to comment on all the responses that have been evoked by the entry of the coronavirus into our lives. The reactions of three politicians, however, were striking not only for their substance, but for their sources. The first came from the Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick.
Mr. Patrick spoke on Fox News in April, several months before the coronavirus began feeling its oats and demonstrated that, left alone, it could ,in a relatively few months, kill more than 200,000 people in the United States. In the April interview Mr. Patrick justified comments he had made in March. He said the country should not have been locked down in response to the initial attacks by the virus because: “There are more important things than living, and that’s saving this country for my children and grandchildren and saving this country for all of us.” He expressed gratitude that Texas was beginning to open up because “it’s long overdue.”
At the time Mr. Patrick spoke, approximately 466 Texans had “avoided worse things than dying” by dying, assisted by the coronavirus. As of September 19th, 15,840 Texans had, by dying, escaped the worse things to which the Mr. Patrick was referring in his April interview. In addition, 771,000 Texans had cases of the virus. (The families of those who died would probably like an explanation of what worse things were in store for them as survivors, that their family members had prudently escaped by dying.)
In the case of the Attorney General of the United States, the effect of the virus and its consequences triggered an historical reference that some found bizarre. In mid-September, Attorney General William Barr did not suggest, as Mr. Patrick had, that dying was preferable to other undefined events that might afflict the living. Instead, he put the attempts that had been made by many states to control the spread of the virus in an historical perspective and one that only a man with the keen intellect of William Barr might have conjured up to give perspective to governmental actions in connection with the virus’s, activities.
In the question and answer session that followed an address he gave at Hillsdale College during its “Constitution Day Celebration,” he gave vent to his frustration with attempts made by some governments and entities to control the spread of the virus. He said that the idea of imposing “national lockdown” or “stay at home” orders on the nation in order to halt the spread of the virus was, “other than slavery the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.” But for Mr. Barr and his followers, few would have thought orders restricting activities in order to protect lives was the equivalent of treating an entire race of people living in the United States like property and keeping them in servitude for reasons having nothing to do with protecting their health.
Mr. Barr was not the only administration official to react in a bizarre way to efforts to control and ultimately defeat the coronavirus. Another was Michael Caputo.
Mr. Caputo, now on indefinite leave, is assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS.) He was described by HHS as “a critical, integral part of the president’s coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic.” On September 13, 2020, Mr. Caputo produced a live video talk on his Facebook page in which he said that “deep state” scientists were dealing with publicity about the coronavirus in such a way as to insure that America would not “get well until after Joe Biden is president.” He further stated that government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in how they were handling the pandemic. Offering insights into his own thinking he said his physical health was in question and his “mental health has definitely failed.” As if to prove the point, he said: “I don’t like being alone in Washington.” He described “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.”
We can all relate to Mr. Caputo’s feelings albeit for different reasons. So long as the trump is in the White House, there will be shadows on the ceilings of all our houses and the shadows will indeed be long. The trump’s continued presence there is a greater threat to the health of the nation than the coronavirus in its wildest dreams, could ever hope to be. There is, however, one bright spot. Unlike the coronavirus, the trump threat to the nation’s health can be cured on one day in November.