March 8, 2020

Historian Michael Beschloss warned on Sunday on AM Joy that lying to the public in order to keep morale and confidence up will not end well at all, just like it did not end well 100 years ago when Donald Trump's grandfather died during a similar pandemic -- the Spanish flu.

Joy Reid opened the segment with a brief history lesson on the Spanish flu, including the introduction of the Sedition Act (!!!) which feels strangely like what we are experiencing now. Woodrow Wilson was in the midst of World War I, and didn't want anyone to panic or morale to fail among the troops.

Beschloss picked it up from there.

Woodrow Wilson is probably the great negative historical example of how a president should manage a pandemic. People got sick at a military installation in Kansas and Wilson was told by his medical people don't ship them to Europe because this pandemic will spread. Wilson said it is much more important to proceed with the war effort. He was worried that the president or the government would become unpopular.

And the result was that they were put on ships and in very close quarters. They were later called coffin ships because they were so close together that the disease spread, a lot of people died. Got to Europe and the illness spread through Europe.

Under strict censorship and there wasn't much known about it and the reason it was called the Spanish flu was because Spain was a neutral country and reported on cases as some of these other countries did not and so it took on this misnomer of Spanish flu.

But Wilson was just a terrible manager of this. I mean, for instance there was a nursing shortage because a lot of the nurses were working on soldiers who were at the front and there were many trained African-American nurses available. Under the aegis of Wilson's terrible racism there were African-American nurses that were not called on.

But wait, there's more. As Joy explains, there's a story about how the soldiers then come back to Kansas:

And there is even a story in the Smithsonian about just as you are talking about the soldiers then come back to Kansas and spread it in Kansas because they wouldn't tell people this idea of not reporting because you don't want the numbers to be high. That is something that Wilson did and that Donald Trump is doing now. The idea of trying to keep the numbers falsely low is in itself poor management because we just don't know how far it is spreading. I think that is what scares a lot of people.

Why yes, yes it is what scares people. When Trump says he wants to strand 3500 passengers in a cruise ship in international waters rather than allow them back onto shore so he can keep the numbers down, that's scary. And infuriating. And deadly.

"That is it," Beschloss agreed. "And Wilson was recommended by his advisers, the medical ones, to say there should be quarantines, Wilson said no quarantines. They said give a speech and tell Americans who is going on so that they can prepare and protect themselves. Wilson said no, it is more time, I think that that would be bad for morale."

"And he even said in private it is a bad thing that so many people are dying of influenza, but maybe it will hasten the end of the the world war and save a few lives," he added.

We can all imagine Trump saying something like that, can't we? Only it would be a wish for Democrats to get the virus at a rally or something and die quickly.

Joy Reid played a clip of Trump before shouting out to him in the event he was hate-watching her show to heed Beschloss warning that transparency is best right now, not lies and more lies.

Heed the warning, Trump. If you thought Katrina was bad for Bush, you've got no idea how it will be for you when your lies destroy the country and cause millions of people to die.

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