Alan Zendell, April 3, 2020
At a time of crisis with Americans dying at an exponentially increasing rate, I’m torn between possibly worsening our country’s divisiveness and persisting in telling necessary truths. The Trump administration daily makes that choice easier by continuing to shirk its responsibility to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was the first national figure to say it, and yesterday, the Boston Globe editorial board echoed her: the President is going to have the blood of Americans on his hands. We don’t yet know how many, but if we trust the consensus of epidemiologists and other infectious disease experts, Trump’s deliberate refusal to act for three months may cause up to two million unnecessary deaths.
For three years, Trump’s missteps did not have immediate life and death consequences, although parents of children who died in captivity on our southern border might disagree, and farmers who saw their livelihoods wrecked by Trump’s trade war might feel the same. But as the number of pandemic-related deaths doubles every two or three days, we cannot tolerate lies, alternate facts, or political spin.
The ongoing disconnect between the President and every competent medical expert is unlike anything we’ve seen in a century. Each day wasted without a consistent national approach to mitigating the spread of the virus costs lives; yet, we continue to see Trump having to be dragged kicking and screaming to tell the truth. In an administration in which facts are variable commodities, it’s essential that we document everything, lest people forget in November.
More than half of us questioned Donald Trump’s fitness to lead the country, concerned that someone driven by lust for wealth and power who suffers from a serious narcissistic personality disorder couldn’t be trusted in a crisis. Trump has demonstrated how right we were to be concerned every day since COVID-19 erupted in Wuhan, China. Our intelligence services understood the severity of the problem in Wuhan in December. Trump was informed of the likely consequences more than three months ago. He even bragged last week that he knew there would be a pandemic before anyone else.
But Trump doesn’t like inconvenient truths. He has spent his life in business avoiding them, leaving a trail of lies, litigation, and financial devastation in his wake. His fraudulent populism masks a more important truth. Trump cares about working people, the poor, and the middle class only in terms of capturing their votes. His allegiance is to corporate America and those Americans among the most wealthy who will do anything to preserve their fortunes. When he was told that COVID-19 was likely to come to America and kill millions, his first and only consideration was preventing panic in the financial markets.
The likelihood that millions of Americans could die if he ignored the experts never stood a chance in Trump’s priorities. It was a bothersome abstraction at best for a man who consistently prefers his own uninformed opinions to well established science and experience. Trump hates being told he’s wrong, and the COVID-19 crisis has shown him at his worst. Concern for the lives of the people he swore to defend was never a consideration until the results of his criminal malfeasance started to be felt.
Doctors Fauci and Birx told Trump what we’d face. They explained that if cases doubled every two days there would a thousand times as many in twenty days and a million times as many after forty days. But most people think linearly. Concepts like exponential growth are not intuitive for them. Thus Trump remained focused only on being re-elected, and it was impossible to convince him that action was urgent, if preparing the country was likely to crash the economy.
He thinks of himself as a high-rolling gambler, but there was a lot more at stake this time than failing hotels in Atlantic City. A president who is totally lacking in compassion who considers everyone who disagrees with him an enemy cannot possibly lead in a crisis that requires him to choose between his own self-interest and the nation.
Donald Trump could have handed Dr. Fauci the podium. He could have told the truth and begun averting the worst case in January. According to all the mathematical models, that might have meant the difference between 100,000 and 2,000,000 American deaths. Choices are rarely as black and white as this one, yet he dragged his feet and completely failed to protect the country.
We won’t know how many lives will be lost as a result of Trump’s malfeasance for months. I intend to tell the truth every day, lest we forget when it’s time to hold him accountable on Election Day.