President Donald Trump isn’t the only one promoting paranoid conspiracy theories in Washington these days. The top communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Caputo, conducted a bizarre Facebook Live discussion Sunday in which he accused government scientists of promoting “sedition” for presenting pandemic statistics that disagreed with Trump’s overly rosy appraisal of his pandemic fight.
Caputo advised Republicans to gather weapons and ammunition while warning that Trump’s opponents were organizing hit squads in case he wins reelection in November. Although Caputo seems to have some special personal problems — including a stated fear of being alone in his apartment and strange references to “shadows on the ceiling” — chances are low that he’s the only administration official who believes that the “deep state” is out to get Trump and that it’s time to prepare for civil conflict.
He now plans to take a 60-day leave of absence. But the bigger question is: How do people with such distorted, extreme views reach positions of influence in the first place? Under Trump, notions of respect for the Constitution, political moderation and sound governance have disappeared. Whatever policy or scientific issue Trump addresses, if the results don’t serve his inflated ego, it’s the results that are wrong — but never Trump.
Caputo is part of a growing army surrounding Trump whose job apparently is to tell him what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear. Caputo took aim at scientists of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention whose independent statistical assessments have, for decades, provided policymakers with the unvarnished information they need to set budgets and allocate resources to fight the nation’s most pressing health problems.
Since the pandemic began, CDC statistics have documented the steep increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The only problem is that their numbers lay waste to Trump’s assertions that the coronavirus would soon disappear (it hasn’t) and that he is managing the crisis effectively (he’s not). Trump’s response is to blame the scientists and challenge their findings.
Caputo told viewers that CDC scientists gather in coffee shops to plot “how they’re going to attack Donald Trump next.” He added that “there are scientists who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president.”
He asserted that radicals on the left are preparing to wage war should Trump win reelection. “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get,” he warned. Caputo expressed fears of being personally targeted and also acknowledged the toll of various stresses on his own mental stability.
Under other circumstances, these could be dismissed as the ruminations of an unstable person (who reportedly apologized Tuesday for his remarks). Except that Caputo has 5,000 followers and is among a growing list conspiracy nuts inside Trump’s circle of trust — a circle where the president’s ego, not fact, science or reason, rules supreme.
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