Visually, rhetorically, and thematically, this week’s Republican National Convention treated the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as an economic and health problem President Trump had conquered through strong leadership.
There were very few masks in any of the live audiences, including among the 1,500 guests invited to watch Trump’s speech. The White House said “those in close proximity to Trump will be tested,” CNN’s Jim Acosta reported. “But many will not be tested.” And a senior White House official, when asked about the lack of masks and social distancing, told Acosta, “Everybody is going to catch this thing eventually.”
Lots of Americans, of course, have already caught the coronavirus, and one statistic illustrated for many the ongoing toll of COVID-19. “As of tonight, coronavirus has infected nearly six million Americans, with more than 180,000 souls lost,” MSNBC’s Brian Williams noted Thursday night. “It’s worth repeating, more Americans have died from COVID-19 during the four days of this Republican convention than the number of Americans killed on 9/11.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper made the same point, with numbers to back it up.
A stunning reminder from @jaketapper just now on CNN: “Just since the Republican convention began, we have had more losses due to this virus than were lost due to 9/11.”
Between the RNC opening on Monday and 5pm today, 3,688 Americans have lost their lives to coronavirus.
— Gabe Fleisher (@WakeUp2Politics) August 28, 2020
The death toll from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was 2,977. It may seem finicky to use that number as the metric to highlight this week’s COVID-19 deaths, but 9/11 was the Republican Party’s emotional and foreign policy lodestar for most of this century. Joe Biden, when he was running for the Democratic nomination in 2007, memorably said of Rudy Giuliani, then seeking the GOP nomination: “There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, and a verb, and 9/11.” Giuliani, now Trump’s personal lawyer, was a featured speaker at Thursday’s RNC. Peter Weber