BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 04/06/2020

Thiel: Trump puts return of sports in crucible

When Trump called sports commissioners, it wasn’t out of concern. He wants something. My guess: He wants them on his side when he says, “Go.” Don’t — listen to the pros.

WWE boss Vince McMahon was on a conference call Saturday with President Trump. / Wrestleview.com

After the abnormal response to an abnormal disaster by an abnormal president, what do we crave? Normalcy.

Even President Trump, who has handled the U.S.’s coronavirus response as deftly as a knitter in boxing gloves, recognizes that. He knows the return of the national hobby, sports viewing and gambling, would be the most credible signal that the end to the dreariness of ceaseless Chris Berman-narrated old video highlights is at hand.

So Saturday Trump held a private conference call with the commissioners of the major entertainments, including the clown-master of WWE, Vince McMahon, to inform them he believes the NFL season should start on time in September, with other sports firing up as well.

“They want to get back; they have to get back,” Trump said in a White House briefing hours later, referring to the call. “As soon as we can, obviously. I can’t tell you a date, but I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”

It would have been easier to believe McMahon.

The resumption of the sports calendar, particularly by September, is not impossible. But it grows increasingly unlikely with each passing day because of Trump’s leadership failures that delayed the initial response to the pandemic and now get in the way of help and solutions.

The teleconference with the commissioners of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, WNBA, and the chiefs of the golf tours, and auto and horse racing, was partly another attempt to cheer-lead his way out of a global health crisis.

Nothing he said publicly later about the return of sports was backed by data or science, just an impulse to get sports leaders on his side by saying encouraging things that were as baseless as they were wistful.

“I want fans back in the arenas,” Trump said at the briefing. “I think it’s  . . . whenever we’re ready. As soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air.”

No kidding, Captain Obvious.

But by marginalizing the voices of health-care professionals and amplifying his own rhetoric of dreck, piffle and balderdash — for example, it is completely untrue what he said Saturday, that public-health officials are doing tests on “airlines, very strong tests, for getting on, getting off. They’re doing tests on trains, getting on, getting off” — he is devaluing his already minuscule credibility.

Credibility will be essential as COVID-19 deaths begin to wane in parts of the country this spring and summer.

While we don’t know what he told the sports leaders because the ground rules for the call required no public disclosure, the Associated Press reported a source briefed on part of the conversation said that commissioners told Trump they are working on multiple season-resumption plans, but cautioned nothing can move forward without clearance from public health officials.

That certainly sounds like a reasonable, bedrock position. But will the health officials’ opinions be allowed to prevail over Trump’s itchy impulse to re-start the economy?

Trump doesn’t mandate conference calls with any industry’s leaders merely out of curiosity or concern. His track record is clear: He wants something for himself. Just ask Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky.

This is my speculation: Trump wants big-time spectator sports unified and on his side when he says, “go.”

Whether that green light happens with the approval of those who know best about relentlessness of pandemics will be the political apex of the crisis.

Among the world’s health-care organizations imploring Trump to maintain the restrictions that help flatten the curve, the fear is that he will say — as he often has since Fox News tipped him to the old medical saying — the cure is worse than the disease. And mean it.

Trump does not care nearly as much about the welfare of citizens and their beleaguered medical workers as he does about the economy. He believes the restoration of high stock-market values is the single greatest enhancer for his re-election chances in November.

If you’ve followed his rhetoric the past week (and I have, so you didn’t have to; you’re welcome), Trump used as a benchmark the estimate offered by the credible Dr. Andrew Fauci of a national death toll of 100,000 to 240,000 from COVID-19 if the stay-at-home restrictions of the CDC and more than 40 governors are followed closely.

Fauci also warned Trump that if restrictions were abruptly dropped and everyone returned to work and play by the Easter weekend, as Trump wanted, the number of deaths would inflate to an estimated 1.6 million to 2.2 million.

Trump seized upon 2.2 million as his doomsday figure.

He repeated the figure 16 times in one daily briefing, deploying a tactic used during earlier scandals with simple terms like “witch hunt” and “hoax” to manipulate the minds of the uncertain.

In Trump’s narrative arc, if and when COVID-19 deaths slow to any number significantly fewer than 2.2 million, he wins. To him, it’s a number, not people. As he said in a briefing a week ago, “if we have between 100,000 and 200,000, we altogether have done a very good job.”

If the numbers go higher, he will claim that the result is the fault of Fauci, the medical professionals, the governors, the media, China, windmills or the people who talked him out of buying Greenland.

But the number, even at its minimum projection, is not a “very good job.” Not at all.

Particularly when a sorrowful chunk of the dead will be the doctors, nurses and first responders who put their lives on the line daily to save the rest of the 240,000 and their families, and to spare the rest of America.

For those of us old enough to remember the Vietnam War, the tactic is mindful of how the political leaders (mostly Democrats) and military generals manipulated numbers and moved goalposts to make it seem as if the U.S. strategies and operations were succeeding, when the opposite was true. The press briefings in Saigon became known as The Five O’Clock Follies.

The war cost nearly 60,000 American lives. No one called it “a very good job.”

It’s worthy to note that Trump didn’t make the call to shut down sports.

He didn’t declare a national emergency until March 13. The NBA on its own abruptly suspended its season March 11, and nearly all the other sports leagues and tours followed suit over the next 48 hours. The commissioners and leaders made the call based on information from public health officials. It was seen as a national pivot point in defending against the spread of the virus.

The sports organizations must adhere to that standard when the pressure comes this summer in another call from the White House, this one to help lead an alleged return to normalcy by resuming play.

Difficult and shocking as were the decisions in March to shut down play instantly, even more excruciating will be the decision to start up.

If recent history holds, Trump by then will have fired all his advisors who were restraining him. My sincere hope is that Roger Goodell, Adam Silver, Gary Bettman, Rob Manfred, Don Garber and their colleagues on that call Saturday will unite beyond self-interest to make the safety of fans, players, coaches and staffers an unshakeable first priority.

They would share the role of national arbiter of safe social behavior in public.

It would be a terrible position, standing against a president so ruthlessly vindictive who takes disagreement personally. But there is no other humane choice, except to hope for a vaccine. That job is already being done by everyone else.

Rationalizing his desire for an early return of sports, Trump said Saturday, “Their sports weren’t designed for it. The whole concept of our nation wasn’t designed for it.”

Critics can debate how obtuse and irrelevant the remark was, but the statements do offer up a clear counterpoint: America wasn’t designed for a president who put himself ahead of country in a 100-year global crisis.


YourThoughts

  • ReebHerb

    Sigh. If only Hillary, the Queen of Thieves or Hunter (Joe’s not home) with their many connections and grafting sources in China had sounded an early alarm. So many of them were yelling racism at stopping sick people from China from flying to the US.

    • Husky73

      “It’s one person coming in from China…we’re in great shape….we have it very well under control……we are really prepared.”

      • ReebHerb

        No Husky. I’m speaking of Hillary.

        • Husky73

          Well, Trump didn’t say that, and you don’t understand what he was saying, but it’s not important, it’s just more anti-Trumpism, and er, umm, ahh….HILLARY!!!!!

          • Bruce McDermott

            And e-mails!! And Benghazi!! Whataboutism has been raised to High Art in this administration…

    • busterbluth

      Well at least it’s now April Herb. So the warmer weather is just going to make the virus disappear, according to Trump.

    • art thiel

      Reeb, you’re a seventh-degree black belt in whatabout-ism.

      • PD

        “Whataboutism” = How dare you point out hypocricy.

  • Quackhead

    The worst possible president in charge during the nation’s worst possible moment.
    God help us.
    Good column, Art.

    • rosetta_stoned

      Get some perspective or continue to be a hyper-partisan simpleton.

      Your choice.

      • Larry StoneB

        Pardon me, sir, are you calling someone a simpleton?

      • art thiel

        Glad to see you’re still reading.

        Hi.

      • Bruce McDermott

        The truth hurts some people, to be sure, and that is unfortunate.

        But it is nonetheless the truth.

    • art thiel

      Thanks.

  • Robert Rhodes

    The bu

    • art thiel

      After decades of following sports and politics, I have developed two benchmarks for detection of quality leadership.

      Command of self
      Command of subject

      Apply them to any coach, elected or CEO, and see how they do.

      • Robert Rhodes

        I would add — Respect for those you lead. Perhaps, that isn’t a universal but it is bottom line for any leader I respect.

        • art thiel

          Fair point, Robert. I assumed that as a fundamental at any level of basic human interaction.

    • Kirkland

      The skill set required to succeed in New York real estate (cutthroat aggression, supreme — almost pathological — self-belief, vindictiveness, smashing your enemies) is not the same required to succeed in heading a democracy (assembling strong advisers, communicating with — not at — the opposition party and branches, aiming to help as much of the country as possible instead of just a segment).

      The only forms of government where “my way or the highway” fits? Autocracies and military juntas.

      • art thiel

        Well said. I might add that the president and all electeds are public servants who commit to an oath of office. Trump has no concept of the difference.

  • Mark Stratton

    Given the disinformation coming out of WHO and China at the beginning of the outbreak, Trump has done a great job marshalling resources and being sure the US government does all it can. He needs to shut up and let the medical pros speak; can’t argue that. But I’m very glad he’s in charge vs. any of the Dem possibilities, especially Hillary who would be looking to turn a buck via the Clinton foundation. Your TDS is showing Art; stick to sports.

    • Joe_Fan

      Your ignorance is showing if you truly believe that Trump didn’t act quickly and decisively because of China and the WHO. Trump cares only of himself. I cant think of a worse person to be leading our country at this moment.

      • Mark Stratton

        I just gave you an example of someone worse. Trump cares only of himself? Do you think he’s giving daily press briefings because he prefers that to golf? He shut off flights from China 1 day after the virus was properly identified while your heroes on the left vilified him as xenophobic and racist. How many more cases would we have if he hadn’t acted quickly and decisively? Other than the grandstanding idiot Jay Inslee, Dem and Rep governors give him high marks. Now go finish your Kool-Aid.

        • Robert Kershner

          I’m just curious, what is your source for the governors high marks for Trump? Was Cuomo included in that vote? Every article I have read says the governors felt the federal response was lacking. Source for your information?

          • Mark Stratton

            Gavin Newsom and Andrew Cuomo have both given the feds high marks. Jake Tapper even tried to goad Newsom during an interview into retracting his praise and Newsom doubled down.

            The Federal response has been lacking because there was no stockpile. Whose fault is that? Every President since Clinton.

          • art thiel

            C’mon Mark. The man had more than three years of advice from his own administration about pandemic preparation, and he chose to ignore it, then lie about the seriousness of the outbreak. Even Navarro, a bigger Trump cheerleader than you, knew the president was in over his head.

          • Husky73

            “We’re a back-up.”

          • DB

            From the NY Times: ‘One notable flash of peace came on Sunday from Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a Democrat and one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal critics. At a news conference, Mr. Newsom praised Mr. Trump, saying the president had said “everything we could have hoped for” during a phone call.’ Etc.

            Many folks in Government (on both sides) have talked about not using the crisis to take political shots. Apparently, Art either missed that or doesn’t subscribe. The eagerness to negatively speculate about the content of a phone call that there is no real info about, and the multiple opinions stated as facts tell you all you need to know about this piece. Understand; My comments are not about defending an opposing viewpoint. At this point in time it’s about pulling together vs adding to the mountain of daily media that divides us.

          • art thiel

            Some portion of needed supplies have reached the states, and those governors were properly appreciative at the time. But there’s no doubt that that federal supply chain was ill-prepared and spasmodic in its response. Read about the inspector general’s report:

            https://news.yahoo.com/government-watchdog-hospitals-face-severe-102006588.html

            My commentary was an attempt to alert readers about Trump’s obvious urgency to re-start business ahead of the advice of public health experts. No ambition to “pull people together” can come at the expense of their safety.

          • art thiel

            It’s Trump’s own anecdotal conclusion that govs were complimentary. Obviously, some were R’s currying favor, others knew that sucking up to Trump was the necessary workaround to get federal help urgently.

          • Mark Stratton

            I don’t believe Cuomo or Newsom are sucking up.

        • Laguna

          After dismissing the virus as a Democratic hoax for two months, he’s now giving daily press briefings, one of the main purposes of which seem to be boasting about the number of viewers he’s drawing and his #1 status on Facebook.

          • Mark Stratton

            Trump never said the virus was a hoax. When he stopped flights from China and the Dems called him a racist for doing so, he responded that they were working on yet another hoax.

          • Archangelo Spumoni

            After he “stopped” flights from China, about 430,000 have come from there on about 1,300 flights from 17 cities.
            The concept of changing airplanes exists in the world.

            And the other conveniently forgotten part is he included several African countries just for fun. Must do easy research before posting.

          • Husky73

            “This is their new hoax.” (Donald Trump, February 28, 2020)

          • art thiel

            The ban on flights from China did not include travelers who changed planes en route to the U.S. It was a lame first response to a complex public-health issue against a virus that doesn’t respect borders or politics.

          • Bruce McDermott

            It is by now utterly clear where you are getting your “facts” from.

        • tor5

          I would give any leader a few benefits of the doubt in dealing with this crisis, but Trump exhausted that long ago. He’s simply been factually wrong and repeated mistruths at every turn. Your criticism of Art and defense of Trump are just vapid. You say Art should stick to sports, but it was Trump who jumped into sports. You say that Trump has sacrificed by giving up golf to do press briefings… But Inslee’s pressers are “grandstanding.” You say Trump was vilified “on the left” for limiting flights from China… That’s a good Fox talking point, but Dem leadership made no such criticism. And, of course, you blame Hillary.

          • Mark Stratton

            Not sure where you get your news, but Pelosi, Clyburn, and Schumer all accused Trump of being xenopohobic when he canceled travel from China. Where I went to school an argument using facts can’t be vapid, by definition.

            Trump is President (like it or not) and recognizes that once the economy opens back up the sports world could supply not only tangible evidence of normalcy, but would also be a huge morale boost. Why is that a terrible thing? Oh, because Trump said it.

            I never said Inslee’s pressers were grandstanding. He was grandstanding during a conference call between Trump, Pence, and all governors. Said Trump needed to lead instead of being a ‘backup’ to state’s efforts. Does Inslee really want Trump telling him what to do for Washington state? I think not.

            I never blamed Hillary for anything.

          • tor5

            You (and Fox and Trump himself) have now repeated several times that Dem leaders attacked Trump for China travel restrictions. I would only suggest that you check FactCheck.org, which states: “the Democratic
            leaders in Congress have simply not mentioned Trump’s travel restrictions.” Your claim just didn’t happen, and repetition doesn’t make it fact.

            You’ll have to better explain your other points. Why is it that you think Art should not write about Trump when Trump gets involved with sports? How is it that a Trump supporter accuses other politicians of grandstanding? And Hillary, well, I’m still not clear why you keep bringing her up.

          • art thiel

            The China travel ban was the easiest card for Trump to play because border bans, however ineffective, fool people into thinking he’s decisive and in control. What Trump needed to act on was what his own top guy, Peter Navarro, recommend he do.

            https://news.yahoo.com/trump-trade-adviser-peter-navarro-130113803.html

          • Bruce McDermott

            It’s a terrible thing because of the very real risk that the momentary “huge boost in morale” could be replaced by a second wave of this shit if re-opening happens too soon. Trump needs to follow the science, period. And to tout Trump as an exemplar of allegiance to “facts” is willfully ignorant of the last 3+ years, when he has repeatedly, at every turn, sought to create his own, and then stuffed them into the ears of his base, until they can hear nothing else.

        • Husky73

          Trump was notified on January 3rd….let that sink in….”It’s one person coming in from China.”…”It wil disappear.”

          • Mark Stratton

            False. He knew about the virus but the ‘official’ word from the WHO and China was that it would not spread from one human to the other. When he was notified of the actual scope of the virus on January 30 he acted immediately. Let that sink in.

          • Husky73

            False. According to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Trump was briefed on January 3rd. How did Trump respond? He held rallies on January 9, 14, 28, 30: February 10, 19, 20, 21 and 28. He golfed on January 18, 19,; February 1, 15; March 7 and 8. Let that sink in.

        • art thiel

          Mark, please read what one of his premier henchmen, Peter Navarro, tried to warn him about pending pandemic.

          https://news.yahoo.com/trump-trade-adviser-peter-navarro-130113803.html

          • Bruce McDermott

            He won’t read it, Art. A person can only stand so much cognitive dissonance before he has to retreat to the comfort of his selected echo chamber.

          • Mark Stratton

            Thanks for the ignorance Bruce. You certainly are a keen judge of people. I read the article when Art first suggested it, and it clearly states that the first memo from Navarro was on January 29. Trump acted on the 31st. Art seems to believe that he should have closed every airport in the world, which I don’t believe is a workable solution. Easy to look back ward and blame Trump, but he was acting on available information and I believe very effectively. Were there stumbles at the beginning? of course. No playbook for this type of thing.

            H1N1 occurred in 2009 and the national stockpiles of medical equipment were depleted and never replenished. Obama was informed and didn’t act. Trump was informed and didn’t act.

          • art thiel

            Navarro’s first warnings were in December.

            Trump closed only direct flights from China, allowing many others access from other airports. It was grandstanding that was futile, except as a fig leaf for gullible supporters.

      • rosetta_stoned

        I can. People such as you, for starters.

    • I’m still waiting for my opportunity to get tested for the virus. Back on March 6 — a month ago today — he said, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test.”

      • Mark Stratton

        Do you have symptoms? Did you go to a doctor or hospital? Or are you waiting at home for the test to be delivered by Amazon?

        • Bruce McDermott

          The only reason for the limitation of testing to those who have symptoms is because we don’t have enough tests, for Chrissakes! Read the science–pre-symptomatic testing was and remains an important part of combating the spread of this virus. But unlike other countries, like South Korea for example, we didn’t have enough tests when they could have done the most good for containment…or, really, any tests at all to speak of.

          • Mark Stratton

            You are the most obtuse person I’ve ever encountered. I thought my sarcasm was obvious, but I’ll try to be more clear for you next time. Eric was trying to blame Trump because he hasn’t been tested. I simply pointed out exactly the point you made.

    • Husky73

      Trump is like a third grader in a string theory seminar— completely lost and utterly hopeless…..It’s one person coming in from China…we have it totally under control…it’s going to be a good ending for us….we’re in great shape…..it’s their (Democrats and the media) new hoax….the stock market is starting to look very good to me…cases will be close to zero in late February……we’re really prepared…..anyone that wants a test can get a test…I’ve always known this was a pandemic….it will be better on Tuesday……we’re trying to make it much much less bad…..the governors have to treat me well…..I’m number one on Facebook!….I’m more popular than The Bachelor….and finally, when asked if Americans should be fearful, Trump replied, “You’re a terrible reporter.”…..But, Mr. Stratton, you played the hand like a stable genius— when Trump’s colossal ignorance cannot be defended, you cry HILLARY!!!!

      • Mark Stratton

        And you quote Democrat talking points like a good little liberal. All I said about Hillary is I’d rather have Trump. Maybe you should quit worrying about string theory and learn how to read critically.

        • Husky73

          They aren’t “Democrat talking points.” They are Trump’s own words. You know, like “I moved on her like a bitch.”

        • art thiel

          The 2016 election has nothing to do with the management of this crisis. The greatest asset Trump could bring now is to know what he doesn’t know, and defer to the specialists in medicine, logistics and government. He needs to appoint a non-political czar (not Pence) with the power and wisdom to act expeditiously and effectively in the face of disaster. Then sit back, shut up, and take credit when it’s over for appointing the person.

          • Bruce McDermott

            This is exactly right. Trump’s biggest and most dangerous failure as a politician, out of many, is that he does not know or admit what he doesn’t know. In a chief executive in charge of the welfare of hundreds of millions of people, that is more than a quirk of personality.

    • PD

      JFC. He didn’t call the virus a hoax. He called the dems’ response to his handling it their new hoax. But I’m guessing you know that, just like you know he didn’t call white supremacists “fine people”. If he’s as bad as some people think, you wouldn’t have to make this stuff up.

      • jafabian

        He did call it the Chinese Virus though. Which has resulted in some discriminating against Asians.

        • PD

          So what? It originated in China. People need to be reminded of that. Their actions kills thousands and crashed economies around the world. I’m astounded that so many people want to give them a pass for their cover-up. Do you blame Bernie Sanders for the guy who shot Steve Scalise? At least be consistent.

          • art thiel

            So you’re saying it’s OK that Asian-Americans have been physically assaulted by the ill-informed simply because of their looks?

          • PD

            Of course not. I’m saying that you can’t always hold people responsible for how idiots respond to their words. As has been pointed out repeatedly, lots of outbreaks are named for where they originated.

          • jafabian

            Not in the modern era.

          • art thiel

            Trump emphasized Chinese, a race, not China, a place. It wasn’t an accident.

          • jafabian

            Why do people need to reminded of that? What purpose does that serve? Tell me, where did influenza originate from? Small pox? Measles? Cancer? The common cold? Bet you can’t answer that without looking it up. Because it’s a non-issue that serves no purpose. Be consistent? I don’t understand what you mean there. Explain.

          • PD

            The difference between all of those and coronavirus, besides that they’re ancient history, is that a massive outbreak wasn’t caused by one country’s cover-up and lies. For some bizarre reasons that I can’t comprehend, the media seems uninterested in that. China punished early whistleblowers and allowed the outbreak to go worldwide within weeks. It could have been mostly contained had China behaved differently. The shrugs in response baffle me.

          • jafabian

            That doesn’t justify calling it a Chinese virus in the least. The only reason POTUS called it that, and he is on record for this, is because he believed it originated out of China. That’s on record. As a result there are Americans who have berated, threatened and assaulted because their president has put blame on their nationality. That’s on record. And those Americans who are following his lead don’t differentiate Chinese from Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino and other Asian nationalities. To some it’s all the same which is insulting. It’s wrong for someone in a position of power to flippantly use words without thinking of the consequences. All he’s doing is placing blame and blame is only used to hide truths. And the truth is he screwed up in his handling of COVID19 when it came here. Where it originated from is a complete non-issue. THAT is why the media doesn’t play it up. It isn’t bizarre at all.

          • PD

            A complete non-issue? So next time a new virus appears, you’re okay with keeping it under wraps and punishing anyone who reports on it, allowing it to spread world-wide in a matter of weeks? And, yes, the US media repeating China’s propaganda is bizarre.

          • jafabian

            You’re putting words in my mouth. Art very succinctly made my point in a short sentence. I am saying identifying a disease by the ethnicity of a race is a non-issue. To do so is racism.

          • art thiel

            Indeed, China’s govt is as duplicitous, mendacious and coercive now as Trump aspires to be. Your bewilderment may be better directed toward why this is so.

          • PD

            I don’t suffer from TDS, so I don’t see things through the same lens you do, Art. Like Scott Adams says, two movies on one screen. I didn’t vote for the guy, but I’m truly at a loss as to what it is about him that makes normally rational people go off the deep end. Or maybe I do. I have the same reaction to Kshama Sawant, so maybe the same side of different coins.

            I will say, however, political differences aside, I’ve enjoyed your work for years, Art. You’re the best sportswriter Seattle has had in my lifetime, and I hope you survive the Trump years and keep on writing!

          • art thiel

            Regarding Trump, let me offer quickly my issue that I believe prevails over all — his flagrant disregard for the rule of law. He made a career of it in real estate, and isn’t stopping now in his day job.

            Regarding me, thank you, PD. The fact that there are readers like you makes it a worthy endeavor.

      • tor5

        This is repetition of Trump’s revisionist history. Per FactCheck.org: “There’s no question that the president described the disease as the Democrats’ ‘new hoax’ at a political rally on Feb. 28 in South Carolina.” Maybe he just wasn’t being very careful with his words, but that’s the point. He’s been reckless with his words daily since this began.

      • art thiel

        He’s provided boatloads of material, daily.

        • PD

          Then why make stuff up? Because the demand for TDS fodder exceeds the supply.

          • Bruce McDermott

            It is impossible to exceed that supply. It comes at us in waves, daily.

    • jafabian

      What sports?

    • art thiel

      Would you tell Trump to stick to politics, or is it cool with you to have him intimidate the sports commissioners?

      • Mark Stratton

        The headline of your site is not PoliticspressNW and nobody elected you President. There are a number of ways you could have covered this material and criticized Trump. Your criticism would carry some weight if not for the over-the-top accusations and obvious blind hatred. How would you re-open the economy? Should we wait another six months when there might be nothing left? I object to your inference that Trump would sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives to get reelected, and your statement that he doesn’t care one whit about the citizens of the US. That is far beyond the pale. Unless you and the Donald are sharing pillow talk you have no way of knowing these things, yet you present them as bedrock fact. Shame on you.

        The irony is that I’m not a fan of Trump. He’s a vulgar, divisive lout who has a strained relationship with the truth. But no matter how low he goes there is always a lefty; Pelosi, Schumer, Schiff, Thiel, et al who is willing to go even lower. Congratulations Art, you did Trump one better.

        The good news is that 4-1/2 years from now Trump will be gone and college football players will be getting paid. What will you whine about then?

        • PD

          Art apparently believes, as he has said, that Trump should only listen to the health experts. I disagree. Anyone making decisions on how to proceed has to balance health issues with the economy. Some experts have said we need to remain on lockdown until there are no new cases. This is insanity. Just like we don’t have 5mph speed limits on freeways, we can’t ignore the economy to save every last life. A depression will cost an untold number of lives. Striking the right balance is key, as is coming up with ways to get things moving again without causing unnecessary risks. Mocking Trump because he mentions possible treatments that sound promising isn’t helping.

          • art thiel

            I never said “only” listen to health experts. My hope is that he continues to listen at all. Trump is acutely aware of the business consequences. I continue to believe that deaths are a number to Trump, not people.

            You’re exactly right about the risk/reward balance. Please don’t ask me the what/when/where of the tipping point. I can’t possibly know. But if I have to trust someone, I’m going to rely upon the career civil servants who have foregone huge salaries from big pharma to work for the public good at CDC, NIH and elsewhere. I’m not saying they’re perfect or always right, but their analyses are the best tools we have. As Trump said his week, “I’m not a doctor, I don’t know.”

        • art thiel

          Before I’m a journalist, I am a citizen, resident and taxpayer. As a longtime opinion journalist, I feel a professional obligation to tell truth to power, as best as I can determine it. Readers may not agree with my views, and I’m not always right, so I provide this free platform for people like you, Mark, to respond, and I respond back, unlike writers on many other platforms.

          The dialogue and the information it produces is essential to democracy, which, apparently to your disappointment, includes the world and people of sports. When Trump jumped back into sports for what I believe to be political self-aggrandizement, his motives and aspirations were fair grounds for commentary. In my world, there are no fences between sports and politics, only preferences. You, apparently, live in a tidier world than me.

          Regarding Trump, I have no insider information, only the public record over three years and eight months that establishes beyond question that his behaviors, motivations, words and policies stem from a reckless, narcissistic self-regard that prevails every time over the welfare of people, the rule of law and the value of normative customs.

          For you to be bewildered that there are “lefties” who disagree with him is surprising to me, since you are honest and smart enough to share publicly that you too, find him often repulsive and untruthful.

          His track record offers more than a reason for political disagreement, it shows unfaithfulness to the Constitution and a threat to national security. My hope for you, Mark, and me, is that we’re both still around in four years to find out what I write that pisses you off. Hell, I’m hoping we make it to the end of April.

          • Mark Stratton

            Trump gets well-deserved criticism for a lot of what he says, and my point is not that people on the left disagree with him. I’d be bewildered if they didn’t. But I’ve heard counter comments from politicians on the left that are more deranged than anything that ever came out of his mouth, especially from Pelosi. My opinion is that this particular column is so over the top that it falls into the category of ‘lower than Trump’. I don’t buy the bit about the Constitution or being a threat to national security. I’m a lot more worried about Adam Schiff than I am Trump. That all seems especially overwrought.

            Meantime I have temporarily succumbed to the ennui associated with sheltering at home. I’m done with this, but hope we can agree to disagree for years to come.

          • art thiel

            I share your desire. I will leave you with Trump’s Wednesday press conference remark after pimping a drug that remains unproven therapy for COVID-10: “I’m not a doctor. What do I know?”

  • coug73

    Spectator sports of the professional nature maybe the opium of the masses. Trump needs a distracted citizenry. Stay the course folks and follow health guidelines not Trump.

    • art thiel

      Karl Marx created the phrase for religion, although I’m not going there. I would, however, include college football and men’s basketball.

  • Husky73

    Art, a masterpiece.

    • art thiel

      Thanks.

      I will make a point here to the stick-to-sports crowd critical of my choice of subject in this column: Trump engaged the sports world and made his strategy a worthy subject for commentary.

      • DB

        You’re right Art. Folks should not be saying ‘stick to sports’. What they should be saying is; stick to topics where you are informed and objective. You are neither of those things here. You have no idea what was said on the call, or what anyone’s strategy, intent, or purpose was. We are simply reminded again that you are a Trump hater. It’s less a commentary than it is a diatribe. This lack of objectivity is why it is divisive, as the comments bear out.

        • art thiel

          As I wrote clearly, DB, I was speculating about the call contents. And while I agree that a bedrock of journalism is objectivity, I prefer the term impartiality, because objectivity in humans is nearly impossible.

          But as an opinion journalist, I deal in subjectivity. As I have whether it’s Pete Carroll, the Seahawks, Lou Piniella, the Mariners, George Karl, the Sonics, etc., I look at facts as I can know them and offer an opinion. Right or wrong, you’re free to disagree.

          In this case with this president, I felt it worthwhile on this subject to alert readers to the next call — the ask. Getting ahead on this president is important, because reacting after the fact gets lost in the next prevarication, misdirection or distraction, and the ones after that.

          More than ever, telling truth to power is essential in a democracy, particularly now when incompetence or malfeasance leads to death. The Trump administration has a huge advantage because it scoffs at the law and norms, while institutions such as Congress, the courts and journalism generally continue to color within the lines.

          I want the return of sports to be carefully considered for the sake of health of all, not for political gain. Since nearly every move Trump has made has been for politics and optics, I’d like readers to be alert to the pattern. So I risked wrath.

          I appreciate your well-considered thought.

        • Bruce McDermott

          Calling Trump a mendacious, incompetent, narcissistic fool is not hating him. It’s simply labeling him correctly. “Objectivity” is not inconsistent with such labeling. The facts are very clear, and the adjectives apply….objectively.

    • GlennR

      I agree completely! I LOVE seeing you take your frequently eloquent command of the English language and apply it to these painful and dispiriting Trumpian times!

  • rosetta_stoned

    I got one graph in and quit.
    It’s just so damn tedious, Art.

    • art thiel

      Do you find tedious Trump’s mendacity, recklessness and ignorance?

  • woofer

    “He believes the restoration of high stock-market values is the single greatest enhancer for his re-election chances in November.”

    This is the key. Trump clearly believes that he is likely to lose the election in November if the economy has not returned to normal before then, and he is willing to risk your health and mine to make it happen.

    Actually, he will start getting really antsy in mid-August, about two weeks before the Republican national convention. The idea of a virtual convention with no adoring crowds in attendance, him reduced to reading his acceptance speech in a droning voice from a teleprompter in an empty room, will completely drive him up the wall. He will go to extreme lengths to avoid a media flop of this magnitude.

    Meanwhile, as Vince McMahon can surely confirm, the return to sports entertainment normalcy is likely to be led by the creative minds at the US Tee-Shirt Mud Wrestling Federation (USTSMWF). They are in the final stages of testing a new pandemic-proof mud wrestling medium. It will consist of a hygienic slurry made from a sterilized Peruvian clay baked at 2000 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes, then mixed with enough Purell to obtain the desired consistency. They are still trying to determine whether goggles should be required to keep the mixture out of the eyes. The first authorized event is scheduled to be announced at an upcoming White House coronavirus briefing. Watch for it.

    • Kirkland

      Re: those daily briefings, I’ve heard suggestions that networks tape-delay or simply not televise them, and that the media should send their *science* (not political) reporters to them, as they can call out Trump on his dubious science claims. Fauci would appreciate that, I’m sure.

    • art thiel

      An outcome that includes mud wrestling. I’m glad that the down time has had no adverse impact on your imagination, woofer.

  • Kirkland

    Another item about this conference call. Soccer isn’t one of our “big four” sports, but MLS’ Garber was included, and Trump mentioned how much his young son enjoys playing the sport. However, he did not include the commissioner of the women’s NWSL league (the Reign, Portland Thorns, et al.), and that did not sit well with her and the league’s players. However, was this less an ignoring of women’s sports, and more of a payback for Megan Rapinoe’s dissing of him at the Women’s World Cup last year? It wouldn’t surprise me.

    • jafabian

      Both.

    • art thiel

      Possible, but a fair number of players in many sports have been dismissive of Trump, or worse.

  • jafabian

    I noticed the WNBA wasn’t included in the roundtable discussion. That’s okay. I’m sure they aren’t crying about it. This conference had all the logic in it as when POTUS called Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, and complained how his number of followers was decreasing and had to be told it was because of the bots and spam accounts being deleted. Why sports? What about retail? Companies like Macy’s and JC Penney’s have had to furlough employees. Or cinemas? Restaurants? How about relief for healthcare workers? Bankrupt private businesses? Private citizens? Better yet, before focusing on tomorrow what about today? PEOPLE ARE DYING DAMMIT! And for some reason there are acceptable numbers for people to die. POTUS only looks at the owners making money again. He hasn’t acknowledged the efforts teams and players have done and donated to help others. I’m amazed that he thanked Inslee for donating ventilators after calling him a snake.

    The leadership just isn’t there. If it was people wouldn’t be hoarding. If anything there is an opportunity for POTUS to be a positive force. To be an example and leader to the world community. But he’s had opportunity in the past and never took it, indulging in petty battles and agendas instead. We don’t need sports. We need a damn cure.

    • art thiel

      The WNBA commish was there. Overlooked was the women’s soccer league.

      Trump picked sports to muscle first because of the high-profile hold they have on us. He’ll get around to other industries. His tactics this time are less about helping owners and more about resuming distractions for voters. He believes that most people will value a return to normalcy over the death of tens of thousands. I fear he might be right.

      • jafabian

        Okay. A few media outlets didn’t mention the WNBA so they must have been only mentioning the leagues they considered important. Wonderful.

        Maybe POTUS is right but again this is where leadership comes in. There’s two ways to approach leadership: you can manipulate it or inspire it. The growth of COVID19 has grown exponentially. Returning to business as usual too soon only ensures a continuation of that growth. That’s all his presidency will be remembered for unless he changes his ways.

        • art thiel

          He’ll never change. The only change he makes are the targets for off-loading responsibility.

  • Scott McBride

    So the president commits the unforgivable crime of saying we should plan to get back to some state of normalcy. For many reasons, including our psyche and emotional well-being, a key element of normalcy is the resumption of professional sports. Sure, the President is sometimes a bit too optimistic and obfuscates the reality of the situation, but I would take a glass-is-half-full leader any day over a technocrat.
    Criticizing Trump for all his foibles is like taking a penalty kick with no goalie. C’mon Art, you’re better than that. I guess when there’s no sports, you gotta write about something! We all know the President’s personality and we can agree on that. Where we disagree is whether we’re headed toward the abyss. If the country were to remain shuttered like “smart” people such as Bill Gates suggest, I guarantee we would be headed toward a state of economic ruin that may be irreversible. Some (of course not you, Art) are actually cheering for massive failure by the government that can be pinned on Trump and lead to the election of … Joe Biden.
    You credit the NBA for being the first sports league to call off their season. You know, I don’t recall you taking the NBA to task when notables such as Adam Silver, Steve Kerr or LeBron James who chose to defend China over the Hong Kong protesters (they know who butters their bread). Must have missed that column. And I don’t recall you devoting an entire column to the withholding of information about the virus by the Chinese – specifically human-to-human transmission, their persecution of the physician who first identified the pathogen, their claim that the US Army brought the virus to China, and their (obvious to everyone) dissembling regarding current infections and deaths. Must have missed that column too, dammit.
    I am all for health authorities influencing public policy. But health authoritarians, not so much.

    • Kirkland

      Technocrats every day over pathological narcissists. Biden will be far better for the country, Things will get done. Also, as someone related to medical professionals, health authoritarians over health authorities every day. That would stop stupid people from exacerbating this crisis.

      • Scott McBride

        @Kirkland, I think we have defined the point of disagreement (which is the beginning of understanding). For me, I would much rather have someone who is flawed, but who is accountable to the people through the political process than unelected technocrats. China can quarantine an entire city the size of Manhattan overnight and even weld the doors of people’s homes shut. Now there’s technocrats and health authoritarians using the unlimited power of the state. Efficient, yes, but brutally so. Accountable, not in the least.

        • tor5

          Seems like you’re trying to be reasonable, but that you see only a choice between a deeply flawed elected official or brutal authoritarianism. How about a less flawed elected official? Like one who doesn’t, on a daily basis, state things polar opposite of the facts, engage in dangerous speculation, never admits to being wrong, berates reporters who merely quote his past words, and is solely fixated on self-aggrandizement. These flaws are not “a bit too optimistic” or “foibles.”

          • Scott McBride

            To be honest @disqus_aZAmABt0wR:disqus , I cringe at those moments. I would much rather see a collegial back-and-forth between the president and the press that doesn’t descend into pettiness and that goes for reporters too.

          • tor5

            It’s nice to agree with you on that! I’d only note that I’ve never heard a reporter say to the president, “You’re a terrible president!” But I have heard it go the other way several times.

          • Bruce McDermott

            Trumps’s problems at bottom are simply NOT a “cringe”-worthy lack of “collegiality.” They are much deeper. He is fundamentally uneducated (despite his college degree), he is both deeply insecure and vainglorious in the extreme, he creates and then lives in his own universe of “alternative facts,” the list goes on. And all to one end: the advancement of his personal interests. When that sort of personality is brought to bear on a problem like Covid-19, the results are sadly and utterly predictable. And when, in particular, the issue of re-opening major league sports to audiences packed in huge numbers in the sardine cans that are modern stadiums, Art is fully in his lane to both predict and warn against Trump’s instincts on the question of re-commencement of sports seasons.

          • art thiel

            To take just one aspect of the disaster, supply chain, that’s something the federal apparatus is created to do almost seamlessly. All Trump needed to do was appoint an experienced czar/coordinator, and let him/her go. Instead, he gave some of the federal supply to private companies to sell to the highest state bidder. A scandal that in any other time would rock Congress to its core.

        • art thiel

          Scott, first, thanks for using name and photo. +1 from me.

          To excuse Trump’s many dysfunctions merely as “flawed” or “foibles” is like describing what Hurricane Katrina did as littering.

          At minimum in the virus case, he was oblivious to or ignorant of warnings issued by his own admin, including Peter Navarro, of the potentially catastrophic consequences of slow or absent response. Then his China-travel “ban” did little because it didn’t account for travelers arriving on non-direct flights from China.

          Subsequently, his ignorance of the disaster-relief levers of government caused delays and mistakes, some of which remain unresolved. The admins he has put in charge typically have little or no experience in their agencies.

          And to use China’s govt as the comparison standard, that’s like saying Trump is better than Nurse Ratched.

          Your use of the phrase “unelected technocrats” tells me you’re a Deep Stater. The public-health officials in this episode are almost always civil servants who passed on more lucrative gigs with big pharma to spend careers attempting to help the public prepare for this kind of disaster.

          I believe their expertise should drive the decision-making, but not make the decision. It is indeed up to the president.

          But every president who has managed a disaster has relied on a coterie of career specialists for information that no civilian politician could hoped to have mastered. Yet Trump is at the podium recommending drugs that he knows nothing about to fearful listeners, hoping one will get better so he can put him or her at the podium as proof of his genius. Remember what we used to call this, Scott? Quackery.

          Trump is the authoritarian here, not the civil servants.

          • Kirkland

            Anecdote: Some time ago Mike Holmgren spoke on KJR about how head coaches should assemble the strongest possible staff of assistants, how the coach could rely on them for expertise where he himself was lacking, and compared it to a President assembling a strong Cabinet. At which point the host said, “I don’t think that’s happening under this President!” Holmgren quickly qualified, “Under normal circumstances.”