It’s exactly a month now since the whole country started turning upside-down with the impact of the coronavirus. A month in which so many citizens have died, so many businesses have closed, and so many Americans have sheltered in place. Of course that also means a month of White House briefings in which, as BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs argues in this Boomer Opinion piece, Donald Trump has proved, he’s not up to the job.
Watching Donald Trump deal with the coronavirus crisis, I’ve come to see that the man is like an onion. Not because tens of millions of us tear up, the closer we get to the mere mention of his name. But because, like an onion, this creature has many layers and as each day passes in this pandemic, yet another is peeled back to show what an inept, corrupt, petty, dishonest, mean-spirited, totally self-serving man he is.
I’ve heard and read a lot about what Trump has said in his White House briefings, although to be honest, not every word. With all his ego-feeding hogwash about what a “great job” he’s doing and how “everyone else thinks so” too, my stomach couldn’t take it. But the worst thing is, while governors and mayors across the country from both parties have sympathetically expressed their sadness at the human toll of this crisis, I haven’t heard a single word from Trump, not a single word, of sorrow. Sorrow for all who suffer from the virus. And from the economy. From anxiety. From isolation.
His absence of human empathy is best told in the five-word title of a Frank Bruni column in The New York Times: “Has anyone found Trump’s soul?” The appalling answer is, no.
But equally odious to what we haven’t heard, is what we have heard. And it is best told by a single word: “tromper.” It is French for “to deceive.” In a delicious serendipity of sound, its English translation is “trumpery.”
Trumpery is the president’s personal crest. In briefing after briefing, at best he errs. At worst he lies.
Neither comes any more as a surprise. But they do both come these days with consequences: deaths that didn’t have to happen, and likely wouldn’t have happened, if Trump hadn’t seen himself as smarter than the scientists, and due to his denials, delayed a more forceful fight against the virus.
I could give you examples from any day, any week. But let’s just boil it down to a single week, because it drips in irony: April Fools’ Week.
It was a week, by the way, when the U.S. death toll from the pandemic (what’s even reported, anyway) approached double the combined death tolls from the tragedy of 9/11 (2,977) and the two wars it triggered: Iraq (4,550), and Afghanistan (2,401). That’s almost 10,000 deaths, in more than 18 years. The coronavirus count has grown twice that high in just seven weeks. Seven weeks, and counting.
So how did this president spend some of his precious time in the public eye that awful week? For one thing, shamefully still making unsupported claims about an unproven cure called hydroxychloroquine. “You are not going to die from this pill,” he recklessly assured us. Forget that the president of the American Medical Association warned that if you take the pill, because of potential side effects, “You could lose your life.” But hey, what does she know, compared to Trump’s “natural ability” in science?
As a scary sidelight, several outlets made connections that week between Trump’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine, and his family’s financial interests in the company that makes it. I don’t know if there is one or not, but as the history of this corrupt presidency is our guide, I can’t reject the reports outright.
He also used the week to once again out-and-out lie to the American people. “We really inherited bad tests,” he dishonestly proclaimed, scapegoating the Obama Administration… ignoring the truth: the initial tests for the coronavirus were created early this year by Trump’s own agency. On the economic front he promised that the small business lending program has “really been performing well.” Of course it hasn’t, not even close. Just ask millions near the end of their rope. And toward the end of April Fools’ Week, Trump tweeted about “light at the end of the tunnel.” It would be fine to give people hope, but not when it merely means they might let up their guard and come out of self-isolation before it’s safe.
Which leads to another scary sidelight: by the end of April Fools’ Week, eight governors— inexplicably and idiotically in light of the evidence— still hadn’t locked down their states. Republicans all, if you must know. Mind you, even they don’t hold a candle to the GOP chairwoman of a suburban Denver county who posted to the party’s Facebook page, “Do you believe that the Coronavirus is a PSYOP (Psychological Operation)?” Nothing like reinforcing skepticism that this whole thing’s even real. To their credit, most GOP officeholders in her county demanded her resignation.
And oh, speaking of scary, it was during April Fools’ Week that the president’s son-in-law comforted us all with the petty proclamation that the National Strategic Stockpile, our largest cache of life-saving medical supplies for a public health emergency, “is supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.” And Trump backed him up.
Trump also used a briefing, once again, to berate a reporter after being asked about the Inspector General’s verdict from the Department of Health and Human Services that hospitals still suffered severe shortages of supplies. After the president inquired how long this Inspector General had served in government and ABC White House correspondent Jonathan Karl told him she had served “in the previous administration,” Trump mockingly maligned her report as “another fake dossier” and, in his mean-spirited no-class style, called Karl “a third-rate reporter,” embellishing with, “You will never make it.”
But maybe what really took the cake that week was when the Centers for Disease Control formally recommended that now, when we go out in public, we all wear some sort of mask. The reasoning, spelled out simply by the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, is this: “On a very simple level, you can’t give the virus to someone else if you’re not physically near them.” To which the president defiantly declared, “I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know somehow I don’t see it for myself. I just don’t.” Of course he’s not greeting anyone in the Oval Office anyway these days (although he’d probably prefer the dictators when visits do resume). Does this self-serving president even have a clue about being a role model?
And by the way, also in April Fools’ Week, the president appointed a fool as his press secretary. A woman who had such myopia in mid-March, when the pandemic already had taken its toll, that she said on the radio, “This is something that is under control.” The ideal lackey to work for an inept boss like Trump. Contemptibly, she also said, “(Democrats) root for this to take hold… It doesn’t matter how many Americans they destroy in order to get there.”
After a week like that, I can only hope for four things. The first is, may the disease disappear faster and the deaths stop sooner than some predict. The second is, may the economy rebound, and its victims survive. Third, may the goodwill and amity many Americans have shown to total strangers persist beyond the end of the crisis. And fourth, may the majority of Americans see the truth about this monstrous man in the White House, and vote him out in November.