The Antidote to Trump’s Orwellian Lies

Adam Schiff wants a 9/11-style commission to study this administration’s failures during the coronavirus crisis.

As a writer, it can be difficult to come up with words to describe what it’s like to live through a crisis with someone like Trump in the Oval Office. Words like “Orwellian” seem totally inadequate when I want to rage at how crazy-making it feels to be constantly barraged with lies.

For example, on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence told Wolf Blitzer that the president has never belittled the threat of the coronavirus. What?! We all heard Trump belittle the threat over and over and over again—with our own ears. It is on tape for heaven’s sake.

How can someone go on national television and say something that is so blatantly refuted by the evidence? But the fact is that these folks do it all the time—which is where a word like “gaslighting” comes in because it is absolutely crazy-making.

The example that is most disturbing, however, is the fact that Trump is preparing to congratulate himself if this pandemic results in the death of 200,000 Americans. It’s coming. We all know it because he’s already teed it up.

To step away from the crazy for a moment, it is impossible to know how many Americans would have died if this country had a competent president. But on the issue of initial testing as a means of containment, we can already see the vast difference between what happened in South Korea and this country.

Trump belittled the threat, ignored multiple warnings, and avoided testing because the numbers would make him look bad. By the time the administration got serious about this pandemic, it was too late for containment and we were left with mitigation strategies like social distancing. While it is impossible to quantify the number of lives that were sacrificed due to that particular failure, it is clear that this president is responsible for the deaths of thousands on that issue alone.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve often thought of Representative Adam Schiff’s warning about “midnight in Washington” at the end of the Senate impeachment trial—especially when he said, “You can’t trust this president to do the right thing. Not for one minute. Not for one election. Not for the sake of our country. You just can’t. He will not change and you know it…Truth matters little to him. What’s right matters even less. And decency matters not at all.” With those words, Schiff demonstrated that he doesn’t underestimate Donald Trump’s depravity. The congressman cut through the bullshit and grounded us all in the reality we are facing.

That is why I find some reassurance from this announcement.

When America has recovered from the coronavirus crisis and people are back to work, Rep. Adam B. Schiff thinks Congress should consider a 9/11-style independent commission to examine why the nation was so unprepared for the pandemic.

Schiff, a California Democrat, told me in an interview Monday that his staff has already started working on a discussion draft modeled after the 9/11 Commission, and that he would be talking about the possibility with others in Congress…

“We will need to delay the work of the commission until the crisis has abated to ensure that it does not interfere with the agencies that are leading the response,” Schiff explained in an email. “But that should not prevent us from beginning to identify where we got it wrong and how we can be prepared for the next pandemic.”

The antidote to the constant stream of Orwellian propaganda coming from Trump and his enablers is a grounding in the truth provided by people who have demonstrated that they recognize the depths to which this president has already gone. I can think of no one who would perform that task better than Representative Adam Schiff.

Support the Washington Monthly and get a FREE subscription

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.