On February 7th of this year, President Donald Trump, having been fully briefed on the danger posed by COVID-19, stepped to the podium in the White House briefing room and warned the American public that the virus was both airborne and lethal.
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” he told the citizens he had sworn to protect. “It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus. This is deadly stuff.”
While striving to impress upon the public the seriousness with which they needed to take this threat, the president also reassured the country that, with their cooperation, and with the help of his medical experts, he would do everything he could to safely guide us through this crisis.
The briefing represented a critical moment for a country poised on the brink of a what could have been a catastrophic outbreak that, without Trump’s calm, competent, honest leadership, may very well have spiraled out of control.
In the weeks and months that followed, the president continued to save countless lives and avert an economic collapse by using both the power and the visibility uniquely available to the president of the United States.
His decision to quickly leverage the Defense Production Act in order to provide frontline healthcare workers with critical PPE, and to employ a robust, nationwide strategy of testing and contact tracing, was pivotal in quickly containing the spread of the virus.
Additionally, Mr. Trump’s implementation of a national mask mandate — which he reinforced with a lead-by-example approach that included wearing a mask himself during all public appearances — is credited with saving countless lives and all but snuffing out the virus in most states by late spring.
Worth noting also is that Mr. Trump — a man whose outsized appetite for the attention and adulation of his raucous supporters is well documented — did not hesitate to cancel all of his planned campaign rallies pending successful containment of the virus, an act that both surprised and silenced many critics who, in the past, had often accused the president of putting his own personal interests ahead of the nation’s welfare.
No, I’m just kidding.
Donald Trump could easily have done all of those things. He most certainly should have done all of those things. Any minimally competent, moderately responsible president would have done all of those things. Unfortunately, this disaster struck at a moment when, for perhaps the first time in our nation’s history, the man occupying the Oval Office is neither minimally competent nor moderately responsible; he is a monster.
As we now know, the February 7th quote at the top of this piece was one Donald Trump uttered not to the American public in order to save lives, but privately to a reporter — a reporter to whom, on March 19th, Trump went on to say of his ill-advised and incompetent handling of the virus: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Yes, if there’s one thing Donald Trump doesn’t want to create, it’s a panic — as evidenced by the following tweet he issued today, just hours after recordings of his aforementioned statements to journalist Bob Woodward had surfaced:
The Democrats never even mentioned the words LAW & ORDER at their National Convention. That’s where they are coming from. If I don’t win, America’s Suburbs will be OVERRUN with Low Income Projects, Anarchists, Agitators, Looters and, of course, “Friendly Protesters”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 10, 2020
Clearly the words of a man whose leadership style is guided by his overwhelming desire to instill in the American public a sense of peace and calm.
Of course, the most damning part of Trump’s admission to Woodward is the revelation that, despite knowing all along just how dangerous and virulent is COVID-19, Trump continued for months to dismiss concerns about the virus as part of a politically motivated “hoax,” characterized it as something that would just “go away,” repeatedly held large gatherings where social distancing was not practiced and masks were not worn, and not only ridiculed the use of masks, but turned their use into a political issue that has spurred many of his supporters to not only refuse to wear them, but to verbally — and, sometimes, physically — assault fellow citizens who choose to do so, or who attempt to enforce mask mandates as part of their jobs.
Roughly 200,000 Americans are dead, millions are unemployed, and our economy has been ravaged because Donald Trump — a man who somehow got elected to the highest office on earth with a resume primarily comprised of bankrupting multiple businesses and pretending to be a successful tycoon on a reality-TV show — is a dangerously incompetent child who is neither equipped to do, nor interested in doing, the hard work of keeping America safe.
Late last month, just hours before Trump gathered hundreds of closely seated, unmasked supporters on the White House grounds where he proceeded to use the historic structure as a backdrop for a divisive, partisan campaign event, Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris accurately described the sitting president’s handling of the virus thusly:
“Donald Trump stood idly by and, folks, it was a deadly decision. All we needed was a competent president. One who was willing to listen, willing to lead, take responsibility, have a plan, do their job. [But] Donald Trump has failed at the most basic and important job of a president of the United States. It’s his obligation to protect us. Yet, he has failed miserably.”
No lies detected.
Meanwhile, on the same day that Donald Trump was admitting to Bob Woodward that he had and would continue to downplay the danger of the virus, the man running to take Trump’s job tweeted this:
The words of a president matter, and Donald Trump has used his to downplay COVID-19 and mislead the American people. He is unfit to lead us through this crisis. https://t.co/s7tnaR4G7p
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 20, 2020
Again: no lies detected.
Of course, it’s easy to take shots at Trump in the midst of the pandemic — which is why this October 2019 tweet from Vice President Biden is particularly noteworthy for its prescience:
We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores. https://t.co/1qqpgayUEX
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 25, 2019
Imagine how different things would be right now if Joe Biden had been in a position to guide the country through this crisis.
Imagine how different things will be if we elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to do just that.
I do not know what, if anything, it will take for Donald Trump’s supporters to finally abandon him. It seems he was not wrong when he said during his 2016 campaign that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not lose any voters. Is it possible that he could also carry out the negligent homicide of some 200,000 American citizens and not lose any voters as well? I hope not. I hope those who comprise the thus far unshakeable 40-plus percent of Americans who have been willing to metaphorically ride or quite literally die with a man who could not care less about their safety or well being will at last do the right thing.
We can not count on them to do so, however, and therefore must outnumber at the ballot box anyone who foolishly chooses to stick with a man whom they now know can not be trusted to tell them the truth, even when the life of every American citizen hangs in the balance.