President Know Nothing

The absurdity of this presidency illustrated yet again.

All joking about demon sperm and alien DNA aside, it is profoundly disturbing that we have a president who would promote a clearly fringe individual because that individual agrees with one of Trump’s pet theories about Covid-19 treatment. Trump’s retweet of a video (now taken down by Twitter) of Stella Immanuel, a medical doctor and minister with dubious medical and theological positions (to engage in some understatement) is just another in a long list of his lack of concern with truth or facts.

All that mattered to Trump was that she purported to have successfully treat Covid-19 with hydroxychloroquine so he shared her video with his 84.3 million followers.

When asked about it yesterday:

Because, of course, the best way to assess how important someone’s voice might be is to know nothing about them.

This is, of course, ridiculous.

And irresponsible.

It is the kind of lazy work that would earn one a failing grade in school or get one fired from a job. And, yet, there are all too many people willing to make excuses because he is the leader of their team.

There is so much that Trump deserves criticism for, but at the end of the day this kind of gross laziness and lack of fealty to the basic assessment of evidence and truth is probably what frustrates me the most. We would not accept this behavior from our lawyer, accountant, teacher, doctor, dentist, or any number of other professionals we might rely on. This is truly “crazy uncle who forwards e-mail chains” level of discourse (and typically the only reason we tolerate said uncle is because we are related to him and even then we can only stand him on rare occasions).

It remains a travesty that he holds arguably the most powerful office in the world and, worse, that there are so many American citizens who think he should retain it (and I say that fully understanding what I have repeatedly written about partisan identification and the way it shapes choice). The man is manifestly not qualified for the office he holds and while bringing international attention to a woman who thinks endometriosis and other uterine ailments are caused by demon sex is the least of his sins, it is thoroughly indicative of his qualities as a thinker and leader.

(Really that I wrote the previous sentence underscores the asininity of this president).

It is both laughably absurd and profoundly disturbing that we are all making demon seed jokes because of the actions of the President of the United States and the fact that his only standard for promoting the opinions of others is that those opinions conform with his own. There is no consideration of the quality of the information nor any notion of responsibility in sharing it.

None of this is new and this is by no means the worse thing he has done, but it is such a clear illustration of the absurdity of this presidency and of any pretense that he should be entrusted with the office he holds.


And, BTW, lest anyone think that the Daily Beast‘s story detailing Immanuel’s beliefs was overwrought, I give you Dr. Immanuel:

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FILED UNDER: General
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Jc says:

    Crazy. His supporters would be like “ press would never treat Obama like that” and just totally gloss over the absurd, unprofessional, ridiculous and embarrassing display that just occurred right in front of them. Sad. Most of us prepare for a 30 minute work meeting with 4 people more than this guy prepares for anything, and he is the goddamn POTUS! I have been doing a four year eye roll… people, please don’t make it eight!

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  2. CSK says:

    A crackpot like Stella Immanuel is, at this point, probably the only sort of medical person who’ll give Trump an endorsement.

    In reading today at some pro-Trump websites, I’ve noticed that his devotees have two ways of dealing with this. Either they totally ignore it, or they insist that Immanuel doesn’t believe all this business about demons and alien DNA, but that Trump’s enemies are inventing these stories to discredit her.

    Yeah, I know.

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  3. An Interested Party says:

    But remember, Joe Biden is supposed to be the senile one, the person who is out of touch with reality…

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  4. Jim Brown 32 says:

    I guess there really is no bottom with this guy….

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  5. Monala says:

    @CSK: Some of her defenders say she’s being figurative, i.e., “Demon sex” is sex with someone other than your spouse, which can lead to STDs, which can lead to various reproductive system issues.

  6. CSK says:

    @Monala:
    Well, they’re an inventive lot, I’ll grant them that. What explanation do they have for the alien DNA in our pharmaceuticals and the reptile people who run our government?

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  7. Gustopher says:

    @CSK: alien DNA is clearly illegal aliens, from Mexico not Mars. And obviously the government is run by the lizard people… that’s just a fact.

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  8. Scott F. says:

    (Really that I wrote the previous sentence underscores the asininity of this president)

    It is a thankless job chronicling the asinine acts of this president, Steven. One notices the tone of exasperation and exhaustion that has come into your writing on the subject and you have my sympathy.

    So, please take it as a recommendation and not a criticism when I say that this post, and other recent ones, on Trump has a glaring omission that I hope you will correct for in the future. You haven’t noted that Republican elected officials still support the travesty that is this presidency in lockstep. That remains the most important story through November 3rd.

    I propose you append these Trump posts with a section called GOP Senators and Representatives who Acknowledge the Unfitness of Trump. Include a bullet list of those Republicans who have gone on record stating they won’t be voting for Trump. It will be a very short list, so it won’t take up much room. But Country over Party used to matter in the US and it is so very important to make clear where the GOP has decided to stand.

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  9. James Joyner says:

    What’s even more bizarre is that there’s at least one completely credible doctor peddling the same thing. I came across this on my Facebook feed over the weekend:

    HARVEY A. RISCH, MD, PHD , PROFESSOR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, YALE SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, “The Key to Defeating COVID-19 Already Exists. We Need to Start Using It,” Newsweek, July 27.

    As professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, I have authored over 300 peer-reviewed publications and currently hold senior positions on the editorial boards of several leading journals. I am usually accustomed to advocating for positions within the mainstream of medicine, so have been flummoxed to find that, in the midst of a crisis, I am fighting for a treatment that the data fully support but which, for reasons having nothing to do with a correct understanding of the science, has been pushed to the sidelines. As a result, tens of thousands of patients with COVID-19 are dying unnecessarily. Fortunately, the situation can be reversed easily and quickly.

    I am referring, of course, to the medication hydroxychloroquine. When this inexpensive oral medication is given very early in the course of illness, before the virus has had time to multiply beyond control, it has shown to be highly effective, especially when given in combination with the antibiotics azithromycin or doxycycline and the nutritional supplement zinc.

    On May 27, I published an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology (AJE) entitled, “Early Outpatient Treatment of Symptomatic, High-Risk COVID-19 Patients that Should be Ramped-Up Immediately as Key to the Pandemic Crisis.” That article, published in the world’s leading epidemiology journal, analyzed five studies, demonstrating clear-cut and significant benefits to treated patients, plus other very large studies that showed the medication safety.

    Now, my obvious retort is that almost none of his fellow epidemiologists agree with him and the WHO and CDC have banned this off-book use. (He addresses those in the piece, unconvincingly.)

    Looking for the piece, I see that his institution has responded.

    Sten H. Vermund, YSPH Statement Regarding Hydroxychloroquine, July 29.

    Dr. Harvey Risch is a distinguished cancer epidemiologist who has opined on the topic of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and COVID-19 out-patient therapy. He has written a review article in the American Journal of Epidemiology that cites evidence that he believes supports HCQ use for out-patient infection with SARS-CoV-2. Studies that indicate no effect or harmful effects, Dr. Risch believes, enrolled patients too sick to benefit from HCQ.

    Yale-affiliated physicians used HCQ early in the response to COVID-19, but it is only used rarely at present due to evidence that it is ineffective and potentially risky. The Food and Drug Administration of the U.S. Public Health Service issued the following statement (in part):

    June 15, 2020 Update: Based on ongoing analysis and emerging scientific data, FDA has revoked the emergency use authorization (EUA) to use hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat COVID-19 in certain hospitalized patients when a clinical trial is unavailable or participation is not feasible. We made this determination based on recent results from a large, randomized clinical trial in hospitalized patients that found these medicines showed no benefit for decreasing the likelihood of death or speeding recovery. This outcome was consistent with other new data, including those showing the suggested dosing for these medicines are unlikely to kill or inhibit the virus that causes COVID-19. As a result, we determined that the legal criteria for the EUA are no longer met.

    As Dean of the Yale School of Public Health where Dr. Risch is employed, I have championed maintaining open academic discourse, including what some may view as unpopular voices. The tradition of academia is that faculty may do research, interpret their work, and disseminate their findings. If persons disagree with Dr. Risch’s review of the literature, it would be advisable to disseminate the alternative scientific interpretations, perhaps through letters or other publications with alternative viewpoints to the American Journal of Epidemiology, Newsweek, or other outlets. My role as Dean is not to suppress the work of the faculty, but rather, to support the academic freedom of our faculty, whether it is in the mainstream of thinking or is contrarian.

    – Sten H. Vermund, MD, PhD
    Dean and Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health; Professor of Pediatrics, Yale School of Medicine

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  10. Cheryl Rofer says:

    @James Joyner: If he’s a cancer epidemiologist pushing a fake cure for a communicable disease, he’s not “completely credible.”

    Credentials do not credibility make. We have no end of Silicon Valley data nerds, economists, and others with credentials pushing misinformation (I’m being kind) on social media and sometimes “credible” media.

    His department is being excessively kind, but this is a typical first response to having a member of the department go off the farm. Watch for further developments.

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  11. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:
    To stay on topic, the point is Trump didn’t choose to retweet the narrow findings of an epidemiologist with credentials and, if he ever does, he won’t include the caveats you’ve shared from his institution. Trump chose to retweet Dr. Demon Sperm pushing a miracle cure. Because only one of those storylines supports the narrative that COVID-19 can be turned around quickly in order to restore a powerful economy and reverse Trump’s political fortunes. Steven’s illustration of absurdity holds.

    And, still no Republicans will turn their backs on him…

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  12. Kathy says:

    Remember when Nancy Reagan was soundly mocked for utilizing the services of an astrologer?

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  13. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    Yes. Looking back, it seems quite benign, doesn’t it?

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  14. DrDaveT says:

    @Monala:

    Some of her defenders say she’s being figurative

    Some of her defenders are succubi. Many people are saying that.

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  15. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    President “Know Nothing” today suggested delaying the election.
    Discuss…

  16. Kingdaddy says:

    I cringe more than a little at the “Listen to the doctors” meme. Doctors are not scientists. They’re mechanics. An auto mechanic might be very good at his or her job, able to diagnose and fix problems, based on their type of knowledge. In the process of doing this work, the mechanic might have no idea how internal combustion or electricity work. Nor would they know, if someone were to publish an article challenging our consensus understanding of internal combustion, whether that article was worth giving any credence. That’s how you get Dr. Ben Carson, Dr. Oz, and now Dr. Stella Immanuel.

    All doctors should have an interest in science, and many do. They are, after all, supposed to keep up on the current state of the medical art. That doesn’t prevent the existence of doctors who are bad at their jobs, don’t follow the research, don’t really understand it, or don’t care.

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  17. @Monala:

    Some of her defenders say she’s being figurative, i.e., “Demon sex” is sex with someone other than your spouse, which can lead to STDs, which can lead to various reproductive system issues.

    I watched part of one of her “sermons” and she is dead serious about it being in one’s dreams.

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  18. @Scott F.:

    You haven’t noted that Republican elected officials still support the travesty that is this presidency in lockstep.

    This is a fair point.

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  19. @James Joyner: Since I have not expertise in this area, I am open to the possibility that hydroxychloroquine may yet have a use. But, I do know that the odds that Immanuel is expert enough to make claims is nil and that Trump is only retweeting her because she said what he wanted to hear. I do not believe she treated 350 people with the drug successfully (or whatever the claim is).

    To me, this really has very little to do with hydroxychloroquine and everything to do with Trump’s utter irresponsibility.

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  20. @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I just saw that and has posted on it.

  21. @Kingdaddy:

    Doctors are not scientists. They’re mechanics

    Indeed.

    This point is one everyone should keep in mind.

  22. steve says:

    James- The world is a big place so you will always find someone taking contrarian positions on issues. However, there are several things to look for with these people to let you know they are probably not worth taking too seriously. First, these are almost always older, over 65 (as am I) and they are seldom doing clinical work in the area where they express contrarian views. Next, they nearly always cite weak studies. The Detroit paper, just to use and example, is seriously flawed. No serious clinician would use that as definitive evidence. Next, since they dont do clinical work in the area they say, unknowingly, incredibly stupid things. He cites receiving the med 24-48 hours after admission as being early. It’s a G-d dam* pill. Everyone who used it, we used it on all pts for the first 6 weeks or so. gave it soon after admission. Its easy, you just write an order. Not a complicated therapy.

    So my guess would be that the guy is either very politically motivated, happens to doctors just like everyone else, or he is one of those curmudgeonly contrarians. Also, please note that he didnt get canceled. I seriously doubt this claims about 2 people being prosecuted for using the drug. (Also note that he cites Zelenko and I read his early stuff and Rich is either lying or didnt read it closely.)

    Steve

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  23. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    While people group viruses with bacteria as pathogens, they are very different things.

    Skipping over the contentious question whether viruses are alive, we can say definitively they have no metabolic activity. That is, they don’t eat, and they don’t process nutrients. Bacteria have metabolic activity.

    What this means is that bacteria can be killed inside the body, by using a class of drugs, antibiotics, that kill bacteria but leave human cells largely unharmed.

    Viruses do reproduce, making use of human cells to do so (essentially hijacking the cell’s machinery to make copies of the virus). Preventing that is hard, and typically does harm to human cells. Why? Because the means to stop viral reproduction depend on messing with enzymes and other biological agents that aid in the viral reproduction cycle. Since the virus uses your cells to reproduce, this may mean harming your cells to keep it from doing so. Or the target enzyme(s) or agents may play a role in human metabolism.

    This is also why antiviral medications often are not a cure, but either a long-term treatment (see AIDS treatments), or adjuncts to the immune system.

    The difficulty of this approach is best illustrated by the fact that there exist natural antibiotics produced by other organisms to kill bacteria, but no natural antivirals. Just about all living beings attacked by a virus depend strictly on their immune system for protection.

    So, yes, maybe hydroxychloroquine can mess up the viral reproductive cycle. But studies don’t show this.

    Studies of diseases with a low(ish) mortality rate, moreover, are harder to pin down. Most people who get COVID-19 will recover (though for many it also seems to turn into a chronic condition). So what counts as an effective treatment means reductions in mortality rates and reductions in recovery time, perhaps also a full clearing of the virus without the chronic aspects we’re seeing.

    A vaccine might be easier to gauge effective. If it keeps you form falling ill, that’s clearly effective. But maybe a vaccine will only ensure mild symptoms and a short illness, or maybe just reduce or eliminate the odds of dying. That would also be good, compared to the current situation. this is a new virus, not much like others we know, and with widespread effects we don’t yet fully understand.

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  24. steve says:

    “Doctors are not scientists. They’re mechanics”

    Actually, many are scientists. We are trained with some passing acquaintance with scientific method and most of us retain some respect for that. Some dont. Kind of disappointing that some seem to develop a kind of disdain for science and the literature. The only thing that matters to them is their experience and they know best because they are a doctor. Gets worse with age in that group.

    “I am open to the possibility that hydroxychloroquine may yet have a use.”

    Two real possibilities I believe. First, it may have some effect if given truly early, ie right after exposure, not 1-2 days after admission. As far as I know there is no good study on this yet so we cant rule it out. Second, it is possible that it may have a very small positive effect if you choose the right pts and use it correctly. Screen out those with long QT or monitor pts when you start them on it or both. Regardless, it is unlikely at this point that it is a miracle drug that really cures people. Will need a large randomized study to ferret it out.

    Steve

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  25. @Kathy: @steve: Understand that I am simply stating that this is not my field, not my expertise, so it would be foolish of me to actually have a definitive opinion outside of whatever legitimate studies have determined.

  26. @steve:

    Actually, many are scientists.

    This is fair. I think the point is that likely your family doctor really isn’t nor is just anyone with “Dr.” as a title.

    Would that not be a fair thing to say?

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  27. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It’s not my field either (I don’t think I have a field). I just read a lot and have many interests. and no doubt my explanations are shallow and simplified. There is much I don’t know.

    I meant to add, too, that if some patients given hydroxychloroquine survive COVID-19, they must do so in numbers well above those who survive with prior treatments, or no treatments, in order to prove it makes a positive difference.

    In some ways, the low(ish) mortality rate makes determining what helps and what doesn’t more difficult.

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  28. steve says:

    Steven- Absolutely! Was rushing to get something done and should have expanded. Most docs are not scientists including specialists, not just family doctors. I think that a good doctor will always have some respect for scientific method, but what we mostly do is try to apply the science learned from lab and large scale studies to individual people. Fortunately most people are like most people. When they arent then you engage in the art of trying to use unconnected bits of science and data to have a good outcome. Maybe we should just say good practice is science based even if most docs are not scientists.

    Steve

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  29. steve says:

    Forgot. Just to cement my science bona fides, I have instructed all of our ICUs and ORs to stock Holy Water so that we will be prepared to combat the effects of demons. Highly respected sources like Buffy the Vampire Slayer have advocated for this treatment so now our patients will have access to the latest therapy.

    Steve

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  30. @steve: It is best to be prepared. 😉

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  31. CSK says:

    @steve:
    You know, if you hang garlic necklaces around the patients’ necks, that should repel The Undead nicely. And a crucifix over each bed wouldn’t hurt.

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  32. JohnMcC says:

    @Kathy: Just a small addition to your wonderful comment: The organism for which HCQ is effective is neither virus nor bacteria. It is a parasite.

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  33. Monala says:

    @Kathy: According to all the HCQ fans, the anti-viral element is zinc, and HCQ is the vector that allows zinc to enter your cells to do its work. And therefore, the problem with all the studies that say that HCQ doesn’t work or is harmful, is either 1) given too soon or too late in the disease progression; or 2) they didn’t include zinc!

    As to the validity of this theory, I have no idea.

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  34. Kathy says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Right.

    But it’s also effective in autoimmune disorders like lupus and arthritis. When I first heard of it to treat COVID-19, I assumed it helped tame an excessive immune response, which sometimes can be more dangerous than the underlying disease.

    I don’t know if that was the reason it was first used. Perhaps there is some other reason. I am sure I’ve never heard of any natural substance that is specifically antiviral (as there are many with antibacterial properties).

    In any case, studies show no benefits to speak of.

  35. JohnMcC says:

    @Kathy: We are in agreement. (An internet FIRST! for commenters on the same blog.) The multi-system inflammatory syndrome that follows the overly active immune response seems to be a major cause of death for those who do not survive the infection and I also have heard that zinc has been considered a prophylactic treatment. Have thought that Doxycycline probably works that same way.

    And the Ohio Board of Pharmacy has just removed HCQ from the treatments for Covid infection. Over the objections of Gov DeWine.

  36. Kathy says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Zinc is a needed substance. pretty much all elements and compounds that exist in relative abundance in plants, have made their way up the food chain. Plants and animals either adapt to use them, or adapt to get rid of them (this is related to poison being a question of dose rather than substance). Therefore we and other species have adapted to require several metals, like iron, magnesium, sodium, zinc, etc. usually bunched up nutritionally as minerals.

    So taking a zinc supplement or consuming foods rich in zinc, whatever those are, should be harmless at worst.

  37. Kathy says:

    @Monala:

    Someone should explain to them first you observe an effect, then you find the mechanism responsible.

    Of course, it’s perfectly valid to think of a mechanism to get X to do Y first, but only if you test it and then 1) it gets X to do Y, and 2) that has a beneficial effect (in the case of medicine).

  38. An Interested Party says:

    You know, if you hang garlic necklaces around the patients’ necks, that should repel The Undead nicely. And a crucifix over each bed wouldn’t hurt.

    Hey now, we were told by this president that sunlight might cure people of COVID-19…maybe Dr. Van Helsing will be next among Trump’s “experts”…

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  39. PJ says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Hey now, we were told by this president that sunlight might cure people of COVID-19…maybe Dr. Van Helsing will be next among Trump’s “experts”…

    Well, he stared into the sun and that cured at least some of his sight.