In 1952, a movie about the Korean War was released with the riveting name, Retreat, Hell! Or, more properly, “Retreat? Hell…” The rest of the line in “We’re just attacking in another direction.”
For a military force that is entirely surrounded, the distinction between “attacking” and “defending” is largely a matter of attitude, but in war, it is probably a very useful attitude. It seems that President Trump feels that he is at war.
Here is a paragraph from Heather Cox Richardson’s blog, “Letters from an American” on August 3.
Yesterday, Dr. Deborah Birx, the advisor to the White House on the coronavirus pandemic, warned we are entering a “new phase” of the disease as it is “extraordinarily widespread.” Today, Trump accused Birx of crumbling under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s criticism of her usually upbeat presentations about the crisis. “So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!”
Dr. Birx begins by noting what everyone who has been paying attention already knows. In the U. S., the pandemic is bad and getting worse. Her boss, unfortunately, does not fall into the category of those who are paying attention.
I have just one small point to make today and then I think I will feel better. The point is that Dr. Birx is talking about an event in the world that causes her concern. President Trump is talking, with a single exception, about only conflict and enemies and his weapon is only disparagement.
And the stable genius of the President’s tactic is that his allegations are so offensive and so mistaken that it is very tempting to turn our attention to them. Saying that he is right about, say, Nancy Pelosi, and saying that he is wrong about her or even that he shouldn’t be using language like that about the Speaker of the House, all play the game the President has offered. None of them are about the virus.
Here is what the President said.
Dr. Birx is “crumbling under criticism.” It is hard to say anything good about “crumbling under criticism.” Dr. Birx should have stayed strong under criticism, I guess, by refusing to acknowledge what the rest of the world knows to be true.
Dr. Birx was criticized by Crazy Nancy Pelosi.” Speaker Pelosi is one of the least crazy people on the American political scene. She is inconvenient at times and she is quite forceful. She would be crazy not to be.
The basis of Speaker Pelosi’s criticism is, according to the President, that Dr.Birx “was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics.”
The China Virus? Really? “Very good job?” Really?
And Dr. Birx’ final collapse: “In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!”
“Taking the bait” here must refer to Dr. Birx’ acknowledgement of the mortality numbers of the virus in the U. S. It must mean that she did not refute them. But the President’s criticism has nothing to do with the virus or the deaths. It has to do with whether “Deborah” fell for the trick “Nancy” was playing on her.
All this works with some people, I guess. Imagine how angry and alienated you would have to be to read a paragraph like that and feel that something true and important had been said.