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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Just in case, John Oliver gives us another literally life-or-death reason to vote Trump out

Illustration for article titled Just in case, John Oliver gives us another literally life-or-death reason to vote Trump out
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

Yes, literally. John Oliver started out his Sunday main story by playing a clip of Donald Trump calling the World Health Organization “literally a pipe organ for China.” Now, we’ve got more pressing issues for Last Week Tonight to cast its acerbically acute satirical lens upon than semantics, but, still, how is a worldwide organization tasked with fighting infectious disease outbreaks the literal pipe organ of a whole country? Does everyone in China play it at once? One at a time? That’d take forever—there’s a billion people there. How is a raven like a writing desk? How is the single stupidest human being in America not only the leader of the country, but capable of unilaterally withdrawing the United States from the organization that single-handedly eradicated smallpox from the face of the Earth?


There are simply no fucking good answers, is Oliver’s point, as he ran down all of the ways that Trump’s vendetta against this as-necessary-as-ever humanitarian organization during a deadly global pandemic is a literal death sentence not just for people fighting COVID-19, but for the billions who rely of the WHO’s efforts around the globe. For example, those still getting killed by polio. The WHO was on track to simply eradicate that pernicious child-killer from existence, smallpox-style, by 2023, one lofty goal among many that Trump’s pique-prompted choice to pull the U.S. out has put in serious, literally life-threatening jeopardy.

As ever, Oliver went on to examine the complex, nuanced relationship between the United States and the WHO by showing how Donald Trump is utterly incapable of understanding such concepts. “You’re either fucking someone or getting fucked,” is how Oliver encapsulated the Trump philosophy, which, he posited, isn’t even a sophisticated enough world view at an orgy, never mind in making global healthcare policy. (What about the guy making lube runs? And who’s going to disinfect all those surfaces?)

There’s Trump’s whining about the U.S. paying a large portion of the WHO’s operating budget (which, in toto, represents less that the annual operating budget of a single U.S. hospital). Except, as Oliver notes, it was the U.S. (Reagan specifically) that put the mandatory dues freeze in place originally, meaning that our annual voluntary payments to fight disease are what Trump’s objecting to. Then there’s Trump’s assertion that the WHO is China’s “literal” instrument, a statement that—wait for it—Oliver plainly shows is another instance of Donald Trump not knowing what the hell he’s talking about.

Are there problems with a global humanitarian aid organization that has to play politics to gain the unfettered access needed to enter every single country in the world in order to save a couple million lives every year? Sure thing—as Oliver notes, it wasn’t easy to nudge Cold War dick-measurers the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to allow them to wipe smallpox out by 1979, but they managed it. Oliver also notes that Trump lackey and similarly subtlety-averse Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s boast that the U.S. can just go ahead an assume all WHO duties after we financially cripple it is hampered just slightly by the fact that we’ve sort of invaded, undermined, and coup-abetted the very countries from whom we’d be asking permission. (It should be noted both that the CIA used a fake vaccination cover story to finally catch Osama Bin Laden, and that Mike Pompeo was once head of the CIA.)

In the end, the WHO isn’t perfect, as Oliver concedes. But it also didn’t disband a pandemic task force right before an outbreak that’s killed over 210,000 Americans, or suggest injecting bleach to cure the ensuing disease, or propagate ass-covering lies that COVID-19 isn’t so bad, or (after catching the disease himself) barnstorm the country without a mask spraying spittle over teeming crowds of the cultists persuaded to downplay the single greatest health crisis in recent American history. As Oliver said, offering up not just one ray of hope but one more reason to vote Donald Trump and his cabal of enablers, hucksters, and short-sighted liars out of office in 15 days, the U.S.’s pullout from the WHO wouldn’t take place until July of 2021, something that a non-insane president would no doubt reverse. Saying of the devastating consequences of Trump’s plan, Oliver concluded that Trump, “doesn’t understand it, doesn’t care, or both,” (it’s both), and signed off with one more swipe saying that abandoning our role in fighting worldwide infectious outbreaks through the WHO “is one of the most ill-advised, dumbest things we could possibly do—and I mean that fucking literally.”

Vote like your life literally depends on it. 15 days.


Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.