Donald Trump's murder math: Any death toll under 2 million is a "very good job"

Trump's gruesome new pandemic pivot would be ludicrous — if his followers weren't so ready to swallow the poison

Published March 31, 2020 8:30AM (EDT)

Donald Trump (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Donald Trump (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The only thing more stunningly dumb than the willingness of Donald Trump's disciples to die for the sake of their cult leader's approval poll numbers is the fact that Trump, this past weekend, established a new and terrifying benchmark for "success" in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak. 

During a presidency that's beyond satire, no one really anticipated that Trump's Red Hat militia would end up being a death cult, but here we are. The cult's warped calculus is basically this: Trump will only be re-elected with a prospering economy, but if COVID-19 decimates the economy, Trump could lose. So we have to save the economy, literally at any cost, even if it means we have to sacrifice older Americans (who typically vote Republican). 

That was the starting point — the first idea floated by several of Trump's propaganda flacks, including Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Glenn Beck and Fox News' Brit Hume

However, during the Sunday edition of the Trump Show, the president swerved into Mad King territory once again with a remarkably desperate and perhaps psychotic attempt to rescue his chances for re-election. As the U.S. death toll nears 9/11 territory, Trump blurted out that forecasts suggested the death toll could have been as high as 2.2 million Americans had nothing been done to mitigate the spread of the virus.

From there, he landed on a startling new range for acceptable pandemic deaths in America.

"So you're talking about 2.2 million deaths, 2.2 million people from this," the president began. "And so if we could hold that down, as we're saying, to 100,000 — it's a horrible number, maybe even less — but to 100,000. So we have between 100 and 200,000, and we all together have done a very good job." Cutting through his usual refrigerator-magnet sentence structure, Trump preemptively congratulated himself for presiding over the deaths of 100,000 to 200,000 Americans. 

To put that into perspective, we're talking about nearly a third of total military deaths during the Civil War. Trump's numbers will clearly dwarf the 2,996 deaths during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. His death toll would be around 16 times higher than that of the H1N1 outbreak of 2009, which, by the way, Trump blamed on Barack Obama's allegedly disastrous response. One last eye-opening number for you: an estimated 146,000 people were killed during the atomic bombing of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. That's roughly the same as Trump's estimate.

Yet our badly demented and criminally incompetent chief executive believes we should chalk up 100,000 to 200,000 deaths as being "a very good job." So in other words, if around 150,000 Americans die painful and lonely deaths, due in part to Trump's colossally irresponsible minimizing of the pandemic for weeks on end, then Trump will presumably get to declare victory and insist that the "fake news" should congratulate him for it. Either Trump doesn't understand the definition of the phrase "a very good job," or he genuinely believes he deserves a standing ovation if 150,000 of his fellow Americans succumb to a "hoax."

Let's rewind to the first number he mentioned. If we slash our way through his word salad, he was basically saying that any number under 2.2 million — "if we could hold that down" — will indicate that he and his team did "a very good job." He might not be saying that outright at this point, but give him time. 

Trump is compelled to frame his presidency as historically successful, no matter what, partly because he's wired to artificially inflate his otherwise frail, small-man stature, especially when the truth is far from praiseworthy. He also does it because he knows it will resonate with his fanboys as it gets repeated over and over throughout the conservative-entertainment complex, and could even push him over the top in the Electoral College in the wake of a potential Hiroshima-Nagasaki death toll. 

But now he's operating in BizarroWorld even more than usual, expecting his loyalists to keep up their greatest-president-ever delusion even after 150,000 or more Americans die on his watch of a pandemic he enabled — all while he brags about the ratings for his daily Chaturbate show and withholds medical supplies from states whose governors didn't express sufficient gratitude. Almost matching Trump on the BizarroWorld front, the usual Red Hat suspects are applauding him for signing a $2 trillion stimulus bill, even though Obama's comparatively modest $831 billion stimulus was tarred-and-feathered by Republicans as the new communism. If they're still cheering for Trump after embracing $2 trillion in "socialism," they'll certainly continue to embrace him when he brags about only 150,000 deaths.

In the most sinister way possible, Trump's attempting a Scotty-from-Star-Trek gambit here. You might recall how Mr. Scott, appearing on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" after a transporter mishap, once explained that a good engineer never gives a realistic estimate for how much time it'll take to repair a starship. The trick is to overestimate it, he said, so when you accomplish the task more quickly, you're seen by the captain and crew as a miracle worker. Trump's trying to pull the Scotty mind-screw here. If he says now that 2.2 million could die, and ends up with a body count of 150,000 or so, he'll insist he's a miracle worker. And let there be no doubt: this con-man trick will be sufficient to deceive his people into thinking he personally rescued everyone else from death. 

I wish I were more confident in the common sense of my fellow Americans, but when it comes to the Red Hats, specifically, I doubt they'll get why this is so ludicrous. It's especially ludicrous that the new metric for a successful presidency will be around 150,000 American dead, given that Republicans wanted to impeach Barack Obama and "lock up" Hillary Clinton for the tragedy in Benghazi, which involved exactly four American deaths.

To make matters worse, this petty excuse for a man, this out-of-his-depth psycho-fascist, urged reporters on Monday to investigate medical workers for hoarding masks, without any evidence that it's actually happening. It's almost as if he wants medical professionals to be disrupted by QAnon weirdos and Infowars goons. Similarly, the Washington Post reported that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar wanted to spend $2 billion to purchase masks, and Trump cut the appropriation by 75 percent. Remind me again: Who's stealing masks here? Who's endangering lives? Could it be the brittle, frightened president who wants a pat on the back for 150,000 deaths?

Nothing makes sense any more, not in an age when professional politicians and entertainers alike tell their own followers to die for the Trump economy and therefore the Trump presidency. It's screwy beyond recognition when the president himself says he'll feel satisfied with a job well done after hundreds of thousands of his own citizens die — a pledge, by the way, that's barely registering on the national outrage meter. Shame on him, and shame on the people who continue to endorse this sorry excuse for a president. He's willing to demonize heroes and celebrate death in order to prop up his failing and ignominious stewardship of the White House. 

Donald Trump needs to step down now, before we ever reach the catastrophic milestone he cited. My words may carry little weight, but this needs to be said by all of us who still have our wits about us. Deciding to resign is the only way Trump will ever be applauded by anyone outside his brainwashed death cult. A good leader understands his limitations, and Trump had no business in this post from the beginning — in fact, he's getting worse at it. For the sake of the Americans he's supposed to be leading, resignation is the best possible thing he can do, and he needs to do it now before his "leadership" makes things even worse.

By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.


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