As Americans look back on the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, one question remains unanswered: why did President Donald Trump spend most of February downplaying the virus.
Writing for the Washington Post on Tuesday, conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin quoted Trump's latest press conference epiphany.
“There has been so much unnecessary death in this country," Trump told the world from the Rose Garden on Monday. "It could have been stopped and it could have been stopped short, but somebody a long time ago, it seems, decided not to do it that way. And the whole world is suffering because of it.”
Rubin explained that it isn't hard to pinpoint those responsible for stopping the pandemic, at least as far as the United States goes. It is Donald Trump.
"U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the novel coronavirus in more than a dozen classified briefings prepared for President Trump in January and February, months during which he continued to play down the threat, according to current and former U.S. officials," the Washington Post reported.
“We have it totally under control,” Trump told CNBC on Jan. 22. “It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
Working closely with China and others on Coronavirus outbreak. Only 5 people in U.S., all in good recovery.— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1580421875.0
“I think it’s going to work out fine. I think when we get into April, in the warmer weather, that has a very negative effect on that and that type of a virus," Trump said Feb. 19.
Just left the Administration briefing on Coronavirus. Bottom line: they aren't taking this seriously enough. Nota… https://t.co/O2QeSYnFig— Chris Murphy (@Chris Murphy) 1580915374.0
The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries.… https://t.co/OwF1dR3caM— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1582580522.0
“You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are – in all cases, I have not heard anything other," Trump said Feb. 25 in New Delhi.
Then there was the matter of economics council director Larry Kudlow telling CNBC it's all contained.
“We have contained this,” he said on Feb. 25. “I won’t say airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight.”
Rubin explained that it is indisputable that Trump wasn't "tricked" by the World Health Organization or by China. He simply chose to ignore the advice of his aides.
"The frequency with which the novel coronavirus was mentioned 'reflected a level of attention comparable to periods when analysts have been tracking active terrorism threats, overseas conflicts or other rapidly developing security issues,'" Rubin wrote. "This is indicative of Trump’s entire presidency — a mixture of laziness, denial, arrogance (he knows more than anyone), inattention and willful blindness. He plays president but he does not do the job."
Given "Trump's narcissistic brain," Rubin said that she doesn't anticipate Trump will ever accept any responsibility for his role in the crisis. The uptick in poisonings after he suggested people inject disinfectant isn't his fault either.
"Asked whether he should be reelected as the number of covid-19 deaths approaches the number of Americans killed during the entire Vietnam War, Trump insisted he and his team had done a great job since some estimates had a projected death toll as high as 2 million," Rubin wrote. "He congratulated himself (prematurely) for keeping the figure to 60,000 to 70,000 (he used to brag about a projection of 50-60,000) — a number we may blow past in the coming weeks (and which may not have captured all of the coronavirus-related deaths)."
His refusal to accept responsibility for his actions that cost lives will be the "worst blunder in U.S. presidential history," Rubin predicted. But it's just another example of the "psychological device" he uses "to create his own reality."
"He, in fact, is the 'somebody' who could have stopped or considerably slowed the pandemic (as leaders in Singapore, South Korea and other countries did with immediate and widespread testing, tracing and isolation)," Rubin closed. "Voters living in the coronavirus nightmare should not be expected to accept Trump’s fantasy."