I had an exchange of text messages with a friend from Maryland who went back home to Canada for a visit with family. He, his wife and their two children were in quarantine in Manitoba for two weeks.
After that, they visited a province that, according to the global coronavirus tracker at Johns Hopkins University, had only 394 cases and seven deaths from COVID-19.
I told him he might want to stay in Canada permanently.
“The U.S. is the only western country that politicized the pandemic,” he said.
Yes, and let’s be clear: That only happened because of Trump.
It certainly would not have happened had Hillary Clinton been elected president.
In fact, it would not have happened had any other Republican on the stage with Trump during the presidential debate of August 2015 (photo above), with the possible exception of the smug libertarian Rand Paul, been elected. Not even Ted Cruz would have downplayed the pandemic the way Trump did. All Republicans would have freaked out at what the pandemic did to the nation’s economy, but it’s hard to imagine any of them — Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, John Kasich — being so callous about the threat to human life.
Strange as he seems, Ben Carson would have heard the call as a physician first, a politician second.
Even Paul, who also has a medical degree, would have listened to Dr. Anthony Fauci; he might not have always agreed with him but he would not have marginalized him the way Trump did. Even Paul would have felt responsible for the public welfare. He would have seen the wisdom in shutting down parts of the economy for a time. Even Paul might have been able to rally the nation’s governors, Democrats and Republicans, to take the hit to slow community spread of the virus early so that the country could have a wider reopening of the economy by summer.
No Republican president faced with this crisis, and who wanted to be re-elected, would have been as derelict as Trump.
I’ve written about how President Obama successfully handled the Ebola threat in 2014-2015. Trump’s response to the coronavirus is so far from Obama’s to Ebola, it’s hard not to see it as negligent homicide. It’s as if, in his racist efforts to erase the first black president, Trump even trashed the pandemic playbook Obama left for the next administration. His hatred of Obama negated whatever regard Trump had, whatever responsibility he felt, for the public’s health.
Paul Krugman in the Times on Friday noted a key date — April 17th, the day the president of the United States expressed support for the anti-mask/anti-shutdown mobs and called for three states governed by Democrats to “LIBERATE.”
On the day Trump issued his LIBERATE demands, around 33,000 Americans had died from Covid-19. The total now is around 180,000. That is, the vast majority of Covid-19 deaths in the United States have occurred since Trump effectively tried to sound the all-clear. To be fair, some of those additional deaths would surely have happened even if Trump had done what he should have done: urged states to impose and maintain strict limits on indoor gatherings, called for social distancing, encouraged Americans to wear masks instead of ridiculing the practice and so on. But many, perhaps most, of those deaths could have been avoided.
Only Trump could have gotten us here.
The disregard for life, the eschewing of science and expertise, the grotesque pandering to mob rule, the lunacy about remedies, the politically divisive rhetoric in a time of national emergency, the lie that all is awesome despite the unnecessary loss of life and the collapse of the economy — only Trump.
And to what end? Why would a man holding the highest office in the land be this reckless? I find it difficult to describe his motivations. Owning the libs? Playing to his ignorant, racist base? I suppose it’s all of that. But I’ve seen and read enough to believe worse: That Trump is an empty man whose darkly cynical view of life approaches nihilism; and there being no meaning to anything, he offers nothing meaningful, and if the consequences be tragic, well, as he told an interviewer, “It is what it is.”