Friday night, at precisely seven o’clock, people in our neighborhood opened their doors and, as did others across the world, clapped, cheered, used noisemakers, even honked the horns of their underutilized cars to cheer for first responders and providers of health care, some of whom live in our midst. The communal outpouring was deeply touching, a reminder of our common humanity. Then everyone went back indoors, some of us to spend time figuring out our online grocery orders, others to amuse their children or tend to their own emotional needs. The number of coronavirus cases is multiplying exponentially, coming closer and closer, and virtually everyone will be affected in some way.
The next day I went for a walk and heard the returning birds sing, their songs easily audible absent any traffic sound. My hyacinths, azaleas and even a cherry tree are in bloom. Spring is happening, undeterred by any governmental edict or unseen lethal virus. Again, the signs of rebirth offer a shimmer of hope.
I struggle to isolate these moments from the unspeakable rage I feel in contemplating the criminal negligence of the President of the United States in his failure to deal early and forcefully enough with this terrible pandemic. Trump is trying to gaslight the American people, blaming everyone else but not his administration for the inadequacy of the response. I’m shocked by people, including some Democrats and Independents, who believe the President is demonstrating any admirable leadership. Some polls do have his favorability rating up five points, but one must remember the initial gargantuan leaps made by other Presidents in crises:George H. W. Bush rose by 30 points after the Persian Gulf War (Desert Storm); George W’s after 9/11 rose by nearly 40 points; even Jimmy Carter’s support jumped after the Iran hostage taking.
Trump continues to assert that the coronavirus “came out of nowhere.” Lies, damn lies, and more damn lies. Listen to just some of them. I would never have expected him to have listened to Bill Gates’ 2015 TED talk, warning of a pandemic, but it is outrageous to learn how Trump, his transition team and administration ignored Obama administration briefings and playbook scenarios. For more than three years, the Trump administration has ignored the flashing danger alerts provided to him by the intelligence community and our public health professionals.
Worse, Trump spent the last two years slashing many of the government agencies responsible for handling such an outbreak and removing key officials. As a result of this ignorant and dangerous action, we are coming up short on multiple fronts, from lack of testing equipment, speed of processing tests, personal protective equipment – including face masks – for health care professionals, hospital bed capacity and ventilators for the stricken, slowness to mandate social distancing and close down non-essential businesses.
If he is Commander-in-Chief, he should be court martialed for his AWOL indifference to the pandemic. This is not a Pearl Harbor or 9/11 moment. Those were sneak attacks. We have been warned for years about the threat of a pandemic. He had time act when we were first warned about the problem in China in December and definitely after WHO was alerted in early January. For two months, he squandered valuable time to act to put a military quartermaster in charge of an assertive strategy to utilize the Defense Production Act and take other important steps to nationalize our response. In his failure to anticipate the disaster, he is almost as bad as President Buchanan, and, in his failure to respond, he is at least as bad as President Hoover. Over 10,000 have died here to date from the coronavirus, only 186 in South Korea. Both countries got their first positive case on the same date. This is not the American exceptionalism that Trump promised.
Trump loves to praise himself (“best response ever”) in his over-exposed, under-informed press conferences. He continues making a big deal of his January 31 order restricting most Chinese travelers from entering the United States. Just one example of his attempt to rewrite the facts: on February 24, China’s deadliest day from COVID-19, 149 people died. That afternoon, an Air China 777 arrived at JFK Airport from Beijing. The next day, Los Angeles International Airport admitted flights from Beijing and Shanghai. At no time during this awful period have flights been totally halted either between the United States and China, or even Europe, including Italy. The reason? the restricted travel regulations had huge loopholes. The airport screening done of Americans returning to the United States is ludicrously weak, and exhortations to self-quarantine amount to little more than a feel-good honor system.
It makes one ill to hear Trump and his sycophants touting his “wartime leadership,” claiming that, if the President had done nothing, two million Americans might be dead by November. Therefore, his analysis goes, if just 100,000 die, he would have done “a very good job.” This “good job” metric would still be greater than all the Americans dead in the Vietnam and Korean Wars combined. For his wanton and gross negligence, if not worse, he has blood on his hands.
To Donald Trump, people are just numbers. They are votes cast, audiences at his rallies, and ratings points. Remember when Trump denied a cruise ship to land, denying them immediate care because he didn’t want to increase our number of cases? When he shows personal concern, it is always focused on himself. Singularly unempathetic, he has been more interested in saving face than saving lives. He was not responsible for the coronavirus. But he bears huge responsibility for the actions and inactions that have brought us to this horrific time and place. It is now too late to remedy much of Trump’s misfeasance and malfeasance. Lives have been lost, people hurt and businesses destroyed. But we must continue to use every tool the federal government possesses to care for those in need. And we must not let up on holding Trump accountable, now, with a full investigatory commission later and in November.
George Orwell wrote in his book 1984, ” who controls the past controls the future.” We must not let Trump’s weaponized lies and attempts at revisionist history succeed. Stay safe.