GOP convention speeches: Lies, damned lies and (no) statistics
When Trump Jr. spoke at the RNC last night he lied about the administration's response to the coronavirus and couldn't even get straight the name of the protective equipment that was in fatally short supply all over the country. He bragged that Trump delivered the "PP and E" to the states when in reality governors were flying the things in from overseas, under cover of night, to prevent Trump's agents from stealing the shipments. | Paul Sancya/AP

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Mark Twain once said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Well, speakers at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., engaged in something worse: Lies, damned lies and no statistics—especially about the coronavirus pandemic.

As of 8:30 a.m. on August 25, 5.742 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic was declared on March 13, and 177, 312 have died. You wouldn’t know that if you listened to the GOP’s parade of praise for its nominee for a second presidential term, Donald Trump.

The leading liar? Trump’s son, Donald Jr. He said that as the virus “began to spread, the president acted quickly and ensured ventilators got to hospitals that needed them most.”

Trump Jr. also claimed Trump “delivered PP and E”—he didn’t even get the name right—”to our brave front-line workers” and that Trump “rallied the mighty American private sector to tackle this new challenge.”

Somebody tell that to Gov. Larry Hogan, R-Md., who’s not at the convention. Hogan found his state so short of protective personal equipment (PPE) that he secretly sent his Korean-born wife to negotiate successfully with Korean manufacturers for 500,000 coronavirus testing kits.

And then, to prevent Trump’s agents from seizing the kits, Hogan had them flown in at dead of night and surrounded the van sent to pick them up with state troopers to prevent a potential federal raid to grab the kits. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, D-Ill., did much the same thing for N95 masks, but had to charter two cargo planes to get the Land of Lincoln’s masks from China.

Hogan wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in July that waiting for the president to act “was hopeless.”

“If we delayed any longer, we’d be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death.”

And somebody tell that “rallied the private sector” phrase to National Nurses United. It was one of a wide range of health care provider groups demanding on July 28 that Trump invoke the Defense Production Act to force U.S. factories to convert to manufacturing masks, ventilators, and other PPE.

“We need President Trump to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to order the mass production of PPE now,” NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, said. The only time Trump used the act for that reason was to force GM to make ventilators. And that didn’t last long.

The real story, of course, is that Trump wasted several crucial months, downplaying the pandemic, predicting it would “go away,” and then touting miracle cures, including advising infected people to drink bleach. He wears a mask only when he visits a hospital. “Masks cause problems, too,” he said.

But Trump did invoke the DPA another time, one that went unmentioned by Trump Jr. or anyone else: Forcing meatpacking plant workers back on the job despite their bosses’ refusal to protect them from the virus via social distancing, partitions, slowing down production lines, allowing time for handwashing and providing the masks and ventilators.

That upsets United Food and Commercial Workers President Marc Perrone, who has seen tens of thousands of his union’s plant worker members test positive and more than 100 die.

And now the harm continues, Perrone said. He slammed an August 14 Trump Agriculture Department deal with the meatpackers lobby to let the industry police itself on coronavirus health and safety. Needless to say, that agreement went unmentioned at the Republican Convention.

“This deal is an outrage, and it makes it clear the Trump administration does not care at all about protecting the brave meatpacking workers helping feed families,” Perrone said. “Throughout the pandemic, employers have continued to keep workers and the general public in the dark about illness in the plants while trying to shield themselves from any liability for the role they played in the loss of life.”

Speakers, especially Trump Jr., also bragged Trump slapped a travel quarantine on China after the coronavirus outbreak there. Trump did, but not until 39 other nations had done so and not until after U.S. airlines had shut down their China routes.

“AFA is calling for clear direction from our government to U.S. airlines to pull down all travel to China until the spread of coronavirus is contained,” Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson said on January 31, before Trump’s China travel ban and before the pandemic was declared.

“The government must work with our airlines to discontinue all service, with consideration for evacuation of flight crew, and with consideration to service that facilitates efforts by public health officials to contain spread of the virus….We need responsible leadership from our government, and we need it now.”

Trump later imposed a travel ban on Europe, too, which also went unmentioned at the convention. But Europe has curbed the coronavirus—and has since imposed a travel ban on the U.S. Guess why.

And left unmentioned in the GOP speeches: Trump’s prior praise of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s response to the virus, which Trump now, racially, terms “the China virus.” That slander drew a rebuke from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“The way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from, is absolutely sickening,” Biden said in July when asked about “the China virus” phrase.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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