One year ago, on the same day that the CDC announced a test for COVID-19 and a day after Wuhan had gone into lockdown, Donald Trump tweeted the following:
China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!
The relevant context for this tweet isn’t just the disease that would soon become a pandemic. Trump had struck a trade deal with China just days before, and this tweet was part of the political effort to maintain an air of sunny relations with a country that only four months earlier he’d called “threat to the world,” a country he would be demonizing again by spring.
It will all work out well. The English language is not yet evolved enough to accurately describe what Trump managed to do on Twitter during his presidency. He loved walking the line between lying and misleading, between sincerity and insincerity, the bullshitter-in-chief who sometimes seemed to bullshit himself most of all. This case was no different. His optimism was unfounded, unrealistic, and ultimately self-serving, and that was clear even then, when we had no idea how the coronavirus would unfold. Can optimism be a lie? Trump had derailed at least one early call on the topic by asking about vapes, making it wholly obvious that he had not dedicated enough thought to the issue of COVID-19 to even guess about the ultimate state of things. A year and more than 420,000 U.S. deaths later, it is clear that he was blind, confident, and remorseless about leading America straight to hell.