Opinion: When incoherence trumps science, you get a farce

Incoherence: illogical; not making sense.

In the face of a global pandemic, the administration has willfully abandoned reason and descended into incoherence. The coronavirus debacle began in September of last year, when the president was warned by his Council of Economic Advisors in a 41-page report about an impending coronavirus pandemic that could kill up to half a million Americans and cause $3.8 trillion in economic damage. Had the president listened, we would not be standing today at 140,000 coronavirus deaths, 3.7 million cases and a $3 trillion coronavirus budget deficit.

He had other opportunities to listen to science, but didn’t. On Jan. 29 and Feb. 23, his trusted trade adviser Peter Navarro warned him in two memos of “the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic … that could infect as many as 100 million Americans with a loss of life of as many as 1-2 million souls.” The president later claimed with a straight face, “no one could have predicted this,” then assured us “it’s going to disappear, one day, like a miracle.” His hydrochloroquine miracle didn’t pan out. Neither did bleach “injection” or ultraviolet light “inside the body.”

Now, six months into the pandemic, the numbers of infections and deaths are soaring. Yet, incoherence and miracles continue to be the president’s chosen instruments in confronting the coronavirus. Also ego. On Sunday, July 19, he told Fox News, “I’ll be right eventually. I’ll be right eventually. ‘It’s going to disappear.’ I’ll say it again.” Memo to the president: It won’t disappear by denying medical science, epidemiology, mathematics and data. Or by muzzling the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, for telling the American people the hard scientific facts: Masks and social distancing will flatten the infection rates and save thousands of lives. Or by having Navarro smear Fauci in a USA Today op-ed as being “wrong about everything.” The smear continued when the president dutifully retweeted former game show host Chuck Woolery’s delusional Fauci-COVID hoax: “The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors.” Woolery abruptly deleted his Twitter account after his son contracted COVID-19.

The president has two current anti-COVID weapons. First, boredom: “The president got bored with it,” acknowledged an adviser to Greg Abbot, the Texas Republican governor. The second weapon is not to wear a mask, a position parroted by Republican governors despite the surging infection rates in their states. Why? Apparently, being forced to cover one’s nose and mouth with a piece of cloth is an infringement of civil liberties.

Let’s unmask this constitutional claptrap. At airports, 20 years after 9/11, we are still “forced” to take off our shoes, belts, jewelry, jackets and hats. We’re forced to be body-scanned. And we’re forced to be patted down if something looks awry. If protecting us during air travel doesn’t violate our rights, neither does wearing a mask to protect us from a killer pandemic. The science is indisputable. The simple act of wearing a face mask with social distancing would bring COVID-19 under control within four to six weeks, as it did in countries in Europe and Asia, where daily life and commerce has returned to normal. International flights have restarted, except from a country classified as too contaminated: the United States.

When incoherence trumps science, the result is farcical. The president blames the skyrocketing coronavirus cases on too much testing: “By having more tests, we have more cases. I said to my people, ‘slow the testing down, please.'” Memo No. 2: Fewer tests means deliberate ignorance — more stealth infections that could have been traced and treated, and more deaths that could have been avoided. Imagine the U.S. surgeon general advocating fewer mammograms, saying it would lower the incidence of breast cancer in the U.S.

Above all, the White House just wants to wish away the daily disquieting dose of coronavirus news. So, as with Fauci, it has summarily quarantined the CDC from giving expert congressional testimony on the risks of reopening schools. Worse, hospital data will now bypass the CDC and be routed directly to the administration for massaging into “alternative facts.” Or spinning into doublespeak.

It’s already begun. The president says that K-12 schools must reopen in August with in-person classes or he will withhold education funding. Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked how he can ignore the clear scientific evidence that in-person classes pose the highest risk for COVID-19 spread among students, teachers and parents. McEnany declared, “The science should not stand in the way.”

— Leonard Krishtalka is the director of the Biodiversity Institute and a professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas.


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