National Party stalwart Michelle Boag said on radio last week that maybe we shouldn't be too concerned about Covid-19 because there have been 18 other covids before it. The line came straight from the American radio shock-jock Rush Limbaugh.
For the record, Covid-19 is named for 2019, the year in which it was first identified.
This week, National leader Simon Bridges attempted to quote US president Donald Trump, who had said "the cure shouldn't be worse than the disease". Unfortunately for Bridges, he didn't get it quite right, and said instead, "My worry is that the medicine is worse than the cure".
But we'll let that pass.
This isn't the first time talking points from the White House and Trump sycophants in the media have turned up in the mouths of National Party people here. What's going on? Do they sit around in Zoom, watching Fox News and chortling at the ignorant bluster and reckless disregard for public safety, while they divvy up the soundbites?
Please let it not be true.
So why is National doing this? Bridges has chaired the important Epidemic Response Committee pretty well, so why throw away the advantages that gives him?
When he channels his inner Trump, he's not just inviting a pile-on by the PM's fans. He's asking all of us to wonder if he has either the temperament or talent to lead in a crisis. Panic and populism are not the traits we're looking for.
And when he dismisses out of hand the Government plan for how we move out of lockdown, as he did in that same speech this week, he's telling us he doesn't know how to read the public mood.
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He has spotted most New Zealanders probably now think the end of the lockdown can't come fast enough. Business failure, unemployment, the social damage wrought by isolation, the disruption of other kinds of healthcare – these things are real and important.
But it doesn't follow that because we want it to end, we think it's safe to suddenly do it. Believing something is true just because you want it to be is called magical thinking. Trump is quite good at it.
When I wrote about the tragedy in America on April 1, the country had recorded more than 3000 deaths, third in the world behind Italy and Spain.
A mere three weeks later, according to John Hopkins University, that figure has risen to more than 45,000. As many as Italy and Spain combined.
What makes the American catastrophe especially upsetting is that public confidence in the institutions of Government and in science-based health advice has been badly undermined, to a large degree at the behest of the president himself.
Gallup reports 40 per cent of Americans believe Covid-19 is less dangerous than the flu. Breast milk is touted as a vaccine and a cure. Crowds of people demand, in effect, the right to become infected – and, therefore, to infect healthcare workers and others.
Some Americans appear to have less sense than the peasants of medieval Europe.
And now, with an election looming, Trump has had his own name printed on welfare cheques. Apparently that's legal.
Is it clear enough yet? When public confidence in civic institutions is gone and corruption rises in its place, your capacity to overcome a crisis is at risk of going too. Who wants that?
Our institutions are serving us well. We have a strong health-focused strategy, with built-in review structures to keep it improving. There is strong public buy-in to the strategy. But the Government has adopted extraordinary powers, and that means we need an Opposition able to hold it to account.
That can't be done when their inspiration comes from Trump.