Alan Zendell, March 27, 2020
The most remarkable aspect of the coronavirus crisis is President Trump’s refusal to accept the reality of the pandemic. We’ve seen his character and leadership flaws since the day he took office. We’ve shaken our heads over his narcissism and lack of compassion, his self-absorption to the detriment of the welfare of the American people.
We probably shouldn’t be surprised. This is the president who twisted the arms of senators in his own party to pass a health care bill that would have deprived twenty-five million low income Americans of insurance coverage. He is the president who labeled poverty-stricken central American refugees seeking a safe haven for their families murders and drug dealers, and then directed his Border Patrol Agents to incarcerate their children in cages.
When good things happen, Trump is the first to claim credit, even when he had little or nothing to do with them. When something terrible happens, rather than showing compassion and support for those who are negatively impacted he deflects responsibility and looks for others to blame, lest his image be tarnished. He disdains science and ignores the expert advice of people in his administration, preferring is own ignorant opinions, on every subject from climate change to environmental health to foreign policy.
All that was disturbing and potentially dangerous each time it happened, but until now it hasn’t represented an imminent existential threat to millions of people. When Trump was elected, we all hoped and many prayed that he would grow into the job. He hasn’t. He is as petty and vicious, as ego driven and lustful for power, as lacking in decency and morality as those of us who followed his career for decades knew he was.
For three years, we sucked it up and counted the days until the Trump nightmare was over. But now, the unthinkable has happened. The world and our nation face a crisis that could kill millions and forever change the fabric of our society. For the first time since he was elected the physical and economic health of the entire nation require Trump to show leadership and put aside his self-interest. To date he has failed utterly at both.
On virtually every important issue, we’ve seen Trump misrepresent and lie about everything that displeases him. He goes back and forth, bending with whichever wind batters him most strongly, contradicting himself and changing positions daily. Thus it has been since the first day of the coronavirus pandemic.
For months, he refused to take it seriously. First it was China’s problem. Regardless of the fact that people like Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx recognized the threat immediately, Trump simply couldn’t tolerate the universe daring to upset his plans for re-election. Rather than accept the reality that bombarded him from every knowledgeable, competent adviser, he gambled on his hunch that it would all blow over.
Most of us now know that measures like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing could have slowed the virus to a manageable level if they had been initiated in time. The fact that China dropped the ball initially enabled the virus to spread beyond its borders, but there was still time. Epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists knew in January that a full court press was needed to avoid death and suffering for millions; every day wasted getting started would cost lives. But declaring an emergency might have panicked both the general population and the financial markets, and either might have doomed Trump’s re-election.
Instead of acting, Trump and his minions fostered the notion that the pandemic was a media hoax. The American media must be damn powerful to influence the World Health Organization and the overwhelming mass of medical professionals throughout the world. Even with evidence from China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Italy before him, Trump failed to act, and now there are more confirmed cases in the United States than anywhere else in the world.
Trump accepts no responsibility for that. He tells us every day that his administration is doing a perfect job. As death counts rise in Washington State and New York, and the exponential growth curve of infection and death follow the same pattern in New Jersey, California, Florida, Louisiana, and Michigan, Trump now blames their governors for failing to prepare.
Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jay Inslee of Washington, and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan relied on health professionals and proven mathematical models to anticipate the need for masks, protective gear, ventilators, and hospital beds. But the Great Oracle Trump knows better. Today he accused them of grossly exaggerating their needs, because the numbers he pulls out of his ass say they’re wrong.
I wonder who he’ll blame when our death toll reaches one million.