The Speech Trump Must but Cannot Give

Trump's Oval Office speech did the opposite of what it was ...

Some of my commentary about politics is presented in the form of “advice” to the ruling classes. Please understand: I don’t really expect them to take my advice. My advice is not really directed toward them. It is a theoretical exercise.

I am really speaking to you, the people. My goal is to set a standard of behavior and policy to which we ought to expect the ruling class to conform. I set a minimal bar. I know that the ruling classes will not meet the minimum standard to which we are entitled. I want our rulers’ failures to be placed in the sharpest possible relief so we can judge them accordingly and take the next logical step, getting rid of them.

If I were a speechwriter, I would advise President Trump to deliver something like the following from the Oval Office on national television. He will not. He cannot. The system won’t allow it.

But he has to. And he won’t. Which is why the regime is on the way out.

“My fellow Americans,

“I know you are scared. I’m scared too. Anyone who is paying attention is frightened.

“We will lose some of our sons, our daughters, our spouses, our parents and our friends. Even after the coronavirus has been eradicated, it will take years to recover from the economic shock. Pain, suffering and death are inevitable. We will lose many of our best people.

“But I want you to know that we will get through this. America survived the Civil War, which killed 2% of the population at the time, the Spanish Flu epidemic and the Great Depression. The COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered as a challenge on par with those horrors, but not greater.

“Today I want to assure you that no American will come out of this economically ruined. It will be tough. But no one will lose their home to eviction or foreclosure. No one will go hungry. The United States government has ample resources to meet the basic needs and necessities of every American. This assurance goes beyond the end date of the present crisis. No one will be asked in 6 or 12 or 18 months when we come out on the other side of this, to pay back rent or back mortgage or giant medical bills.

“This assurance extends to noncitizens. The COVID-19 virus does not care if you are a native-born citizen, naturalized, a permanent resident or an undocumented worker, so neither do I. We are all in this together. COVID-19 is a lowest-common-denominator problem; neglect of the physical and medical needs of the most disadvantaged among us will increase the rate of transmission throughout the entire population. For the time being there are no Americans, there are only people who happen to live in the United States.

“This and many other decisions I will be making in the coming days, weeks and months may be unpopular. I take full responsibility. If you disapprove of my policies, please vote against me in the coming election. Which I personally guarantee you will take place even if most votes are cast online.

“There are no Democrats or Republicans, only the people of the United States. This is not a time to promote conservative, moderate or liberal values—only intelligent, fact-based decision-making. I am open to any and all suggestions of how to address the healthcare and economic challenges that lie ahead of us. For that reason, I am setting up a special White House telephone hotline and website in order to encourage academics, experts and ordinary citizens among our extraordinarily talented people to contact us with any and all ideas that might help.

“Because this is a global pandemic, I am asking leaders along with top medical and economic experts from every country to join me via teleconference at the United Nations next week for an open-ended international discussion of what the world can do to slow and eventually stop the spread of COVID-19. To those countries with whom the United States does not have diplomatic relations like Iran, North Korea and Cuba, we wish to restore full diplomatic relations now.

“It never hurts to talk. Nations with whom we have fallen out should know that our attitude has changed, that we want to engage with them on every level and to help them as much as we can. I am personally reaching out to the leaders of countries that have been hit hardest by COVID-19 such as China, Iran and Italy. High-level liaisons will keep lines of communication open at all times.

“As you know, I have been personally criticized for failing to take the coronavirus threat seriously enough early enough and for failing to order the manufacturing of disease testing kits. Harry Truman, who sat at this desk 75 years ago, said that the buck stops here and he was right. I screwed up. I am sorry.

“As president I am powerful. But I can’t make the clock run backwards. All I can do now is learn from my mistakes, roll up my sleeves and give you my very best, as well as the very best leadership at all levels of government. Toward that end I will provide you with daily press briefings during which I will accept many questions from journalists from around the world, during which I will let you know what your government is doing on your behalf.

“My goal is to get every American tested for the novel coronavirus and for the antibodies that show whether you have ever had COVID-19. I will keep you informed about the development of the tests and their distribution and where and how you will be able to get them.

“No one should suffer or die because they cannot receive medical care, whether for coronavirus or other afflictions, due to an overwhelmed healthcare system. We will create a state-of-the-art referral system to transport everyone who needs care to a facility where they can get it.

“The $2 trillion stimulus package that I signed into law after a bipartisan vote in both the House and the Senate is merely a start. We are going to issue regular payments to citizens and businesses to make sure that they can meet their expenses as long as the crisis continues. Those payments will also be put into the hands of noncitizens including undocumented workers, despite my belief that Americans should always come first because leaving out the undocumented means endangering Americans too. Special outreach efforts will make sure that the homeless not only receive their payments but are provided with proper long-term shelter.

“We will get through this. We will defeat the coronavirus. Then we can mourn our dead and resume—as we must—the vibrant political debate that makes our country great.

“Good night.”

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)


12 thoughts on “The Speech Trump Must but Cannot Give

  1. The best sentence is in the preamble: “My goal is to set a standard of behavior and policy to which we ought to expect the ruling class to conform.”

    Maybe next time we can have a discussion of who, exactly, IS “the ruling class”?

  2. To complement the speech that they should give, let me outline the speech that they actually give – if one reads between the lines

    My fellow Americans,

    when we first heard about the Chinese virus we thought win-win: we get to gloat about dead Chinese, and it will again stay in Asia like SERS and MARS and whatnot. Them orientals do get their shit together, which is why we moved most of our manufacturing there.

    Then we were briefed that the virus is here. Immediately we lost our shit and scrambled to contain the crisis. Churchill and Ike would be proud: we successfully re-invested all our holdings in video-conferencing and shotguns within hours.

    Now that we have had time to look into the data from China and breathe easily again. It turns out (mainly) the old and sick will die. It just so happens that the bulk of those pesky social security handouts accrue to these two baskets of deplorable freeloaders! Never let a serious crisis go to waste – especially when it’s a wasting disease.

    Hold on, you might say, we – the ruling elite – are ourselves mostly ancient and visibly sick. Thank you for your concern, not to worry: as members of the jet-set, we either get infected in the first wave – who still get comfy hospital beds – or will long have relocated to our yachts by the time the shit hits the commoners.

    In closing, let us pretend to care about God, country, and apple pie. Let us call upon the Evangelicals to celebrate Easter in packed megachurches. Remember, what does not kill you makes you re-elect the president more bigly! (Not that we really care whether you vote for him or for the other Biden.)

    • OMG, Andreas, please, say you haven’t done a Vulcan mind-meld with His Hairness … just for our benefit!!!

      • Clearly I should get myself checked out, but am wary of hospitals right now for fear of infection.

        Especially since in the meantime even His Hairness has apparently realized that hundreds of thousands of dead relatives do not a re-election campaign make.

        Tomorrow of course is another day, another headline to dominate. May you live in interesting times?

    • Not to worry, Andreas, Schadenfreude ist – und immer sein wird – die schönste Freude. Nothing beats watching people in other countries – in particular China – or of other economic classes, no matter where they live, dying….


      • Hi Henri,

        Tsk, tsk I believe you are referring to one of the major national, non-athletic, sports of the fabled and proud “culture of life”!!!

  3. This is one of those times I’m disagreeing with Ted. He mentions the Civil War, the Spanish Flu, and the Great Depression.
    None of those occurred in a time of a massively interconnected global economy linked by a highly technological communications network with a 24/7 system of news and information exchange with no editorial filter on much of it. Know why it’s called Spanish Flu?
    The Spanish press had far less censorship on it at the time. As a result, they were the first to report on outbreaks of the disease, which was already running roughshod through other countries. So everyone concluded that it must have started in Spain because they were the first to mention it.
    This Covid-19? I think the people who run the economy need to figure out exactly what to do, and they need to implement it within the next two weeks. I think the dnc needs to accept defeat and endorse Bernie Sanders. Medicare for All, zero-cost college tuition, student loan forgiveness, federal jobs program. The credit card companies? They’re gonna have to cut the maximum rate of interest. Also, social security needs to be increased. I say by at least 50%. No. I’m not kidding.

    • At the time of the War of Northern Aggression, people were complaining about globalisation: the world was far better connected with the new steam ships than it had ever been before, and this was causing massive disruptions.
      Ditto at the time of the Spanish Flu and the Great Depression and WWII and Clinton’s efforts at furthering Globalisation and the Globalisation that happened under Bush, Jr and Obama and now Trump. It always seems new, too much too soon, we had just adjusted to the previous level when the interconnections got more and cheaper and more disruptive.
      The answer, of course, will be more protection for the Powers that Be and the return of the rest of us to our proper condition, that of Helots and slaves, just as we deserve.
      The Powers that Be have learned, they know much better how to handle any attempts at insurrection, so none of us will get nearly as far as Spartacus but those who try will end up just as he did.

    • None of those occurred in a time of a massively interconnected global economy

      I recommend John Barry’s The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History for a detailed comparison.

      (While there are more up-to-date treatments in terms of virology, it lays out the socio-politics especially in the US. The Wilson admin is shown to be essentially proto-fascist).

      Barry concludes by saying that while molecular biology may be ahead by leaps and bounds, they had like tens of thousands of hospital beds with iron lungs 100 years ago. Now they have hundreds due to the magic of just-in-time logistics. This section gave me goosebumps even when I read this book well before the outbreak of the current pandemic.

      Another anecdote: back in 1918 they held victory parades in the US against the advice of public health officials which incurred a horrible cost in lives. Florida primary, anyone?

      plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

      • «Now they have hundreds [of hospital beds with ventilators] due to the magic of just-in-time logistics.» Ain’t neoliberalism grand ?!!…


  4. My goal is to set a standard of behavior and policy to which we ought to expect the ruling class to conform.

    Isn’t that precisely what Mr Trump has done, Ted ?…