Frederick Hall: Trump and COVID-19
As of July 1, America’s 127,681 deaths from the coronavirus furnished one quarter of the worldwide total. Yet Trump recently said that “we’ve done too good a job” dealing with it. Really?
I wonder what these numbers would be for a bad job. Countries that stepped up to the challenge — and even China that originally stonewalled the pandemic — have run their course. By contrast, cases are spiking in 37 states here.
Trump could have repented as Xi Jinping did; Xi reversed his field and clamped down hard to control the spread. Trump came out of the gate all wrong, too, with his dismissing alerts of the threat as “The New Hoax.” Xi later did right; Trump doubled down:
Disbanding the pandemic task force.
Contradicting the nation’s medical experts.
Making fun of wearing masks … and never wearing one (until recently).
Withholding supplies and protective equipment from states whose governors weren’t sufficiently grateful for his largesse.
Recommending injection of household disinfectants to kill the virus.
Passionately pleading for health officials to slow down testing.
Promoting rapid reopening.
Holding rallies that reject masks and social distancing.
A Texas mayor acknowledged that he took the reopening steps without assuring that the criteria set by health officials were met. Perfect! He did just what Trump wanted, and COVID-19 accepted the invitation. Houston is home to the largest medical complex in the world: ICU occupancy there is at 100%. Maricopa County in Arizona was hit by 33,000 of its 123,000 cases in just seven days. Florida is a full-scale medical disaster zone.
A pandemic is not a political creature; it doesn’t care who it kills. But Trump immediately made it a political issue calling it “The New Hoax.” Well, of course. He only evaluates things politically. He has repeatedly claimed that disagreement with him is reason enough for prison and goes to the Department of Justice to get help for his political ends.
After all of that, he dares to whine — without factual basis — that his political foes inflate the death count to hurt his reelection bid. Trump is relentless in his discrediting of truth.
His behavior gives us hindsight to understand a decades-ago TV interview. He called politics “dirty business … because the right people don’t run” and proclaimed that “One strong man can fix it all.” There is his Messianic vision: Politics can’t work because of weak politicians, but I am the strong man who will fix it. He said it again in the campaign: “Only I can fix it.” Hence his bullying approach to everything. Hence, also, his contempt for people who aren’t like him, people such as Astronaut Mark Kelly, whom he dismisses as “weak.” Just try to picture one as undisciplined as Trump in astronaut training.
But don’t let the absurdity of his Kelly critique obscure the deadly danger in his self-view. He correctly calls himself the chief enforcer of the law … but how horribly he distorts the meaning. Trump showed the total emptiness of his oath to “protect and defend the Constitution” by asking who needs this “phony Constitution” and declaring himself above the law. It is not the law that he believes is his right to enforce but his will.
And that is the overwhelmingly important break point: It is no longer just politics at stake. Politics is about gaining power in government. But Trump isn’t interested in government. Trump’s quest is for absolute power. His success as a wrecking crew attacking institutions and conventions of government that have protected us from rule by people like him for more than 200 years is truly frightening.
Do not make the mistake of believing that he is the only problem. Of course, not. He surrounds himself with people who agree with him … and disposes of any who turn out to be insufficiently loyal or pliable.
Pence showed his qualifications as a Trump team player when a journalist asked whether the Administration would feel responsibility if rallies of unprotected supporters spread infections. His reply? “The people have rights.” Ah, yes. Sterling political response. But people’s rights weren’t in question. The issue was Administration responsibility. Pence, like Trump months ago, accepted zero responsibility. It’s the best of both worlds for them: great power to provoke actions and freedom from responsibility for their outcomes.
That journalist presented Pence a first-rate opportunity to admit that the deaths of those 127,681 (and counting) Americans prove that Administration pronouncements about our safety have been patently dishonest. But that brings us back to politics.
Frederick Hall lives in Grass Valley.
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