Even Sean Hannity looked a bit defeated. And why wouldn't he? There he was Thursday night in a Fox News town hall with President Donald Trump as the United States was ticking up to more than 2.4 million cases of COVID-19 and 124,000-plus deaths and the president was rambling again about the "China plague."
After veering to China trade for several moments, he came back to the novel coronavirus, properly called COVID-19. "So, we have more cases because we do the greatest testing. If we did no testing, we'd have no cases."
Yikes, here we go again.
But then Trump added, "Sometimes I jokingly say or sarcastically say, if we didn't do tests, we'd look great, but you know what? It's not the right thing to do."
Was this a breakthrough? A glimpse of morality?
We can hope, but we've tried that before. You likely remember a few days ago when reporters asked Trump if he was kidding when he said something similar the night before in his failed Tulsa rally. His terse reply was, "I don't kid."
He doesn't think either. This is much too serious a matter to even hint joking about it.
* If we'd just stop breathing, we wouldn't have to worry about air pollution. Or eating.
* If we'd just stop driving, we wouldn't have car payments.
* If we'd just stop expecting kids to learn, then who needs teachers and expensive school buildings?
At least Thursday Trump added that to stop testing (at least we think that's what he meant, but who knows?) is not the right thing to do.
The really bizarre thing in Trump's week-long, previously unexplained moronic logic is that halting COVID-19 testing to see how fast and where the very contagious and dangerous novel coronavirus is spreading wouldn't accomplish even a sarcastic "look better."
It might, for some whose only goal is Trump's re-election, make Trump look better — if, and only if, no one else died and no one else got sick. And that would require hospitals and health departments to stop counting cases. And that would require hospitals' and physicians' doors to be boarded shut.
Trump, who has completely failed to lead as the virus began in our country early this year and then swelled to sweep the nation, desperately wants to look better. After all, we're just 128 days away from the 2020 election, and Trump is trailing challenger Joe Biden by double or near double digits in almost every new poll.
Trump's chances in swing states also are looking grim. A new New York Times/Siena College poll shows Trump trailing Biden by double digits in Michigan (Biden +11), Wisconsin (Biden +11) and Pennsylvania (Biden + 10) and by mid-single digits in North Carolina (Biden +9), Arizona (Biden +7) and Florida (Biden +6).
Trump won every one of those states in the 2016 election.
But that was before he failed to take coronavirus and foreign policy and American unity seriously. That was before he found it easier to joke and mislead and divide. Trump's unspoken motto is apparently quite simple:
America: What you don't know won't hurt your president. Never mind if it hurts you or your kid or your mom or your grandpa. Never mind if you can't get pork chops and toilet paper. Never mind if your job evaporates.
Sean Hannity, for his part, just threw softball questions at the president. Why would we expect more from the Trump propaganda machine?
The Fox host looked pale and defeated because his ticket into right-wing homes every night seemed to be self destructing right in front of him — and viewers.
To the president's newsiest but still-nonsense quotes about testing and looking better, Hannity made no challenge. His only follow-up was to ask, "Treatments and a vaccine, where are we?" It actually was just another softball for Trump. Just two days before the nation's chief infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, told Congress he was cautiously optimistic that science might have a breakthrough by the end of the year of early 2021. That gave Trump a ready reply:
"Vaccines [and therapeutics] are coming along great ... and I think, uh, it will be, uh, even come before the end of the year — we'll have vaccine," the president said.
We hope he's right. And not joking.
But the Trump administration's coronavirus response has been hampered by inconsistent testing data, supply shortages and other long-running problems like infection-control lapses in nursing homes, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday. Up next could be an even bigger challenge — vaccine distribution.
A new 403-page GAO report warns that we must remember "lessons learned" on vaccines.
Trump seemed ready for a how-will-it-be-distributed question, even if Hannity wasn't. He tucked it onto his vaccine-is-in-the-wings comment: "We're totally mobilized. You know, the military is doing it. We're ready to go. As soon as they have it we will be distributing that all over the country."
Oh dear. But — again — we hope he's right.