'Cynical' Trump is pushing Americans to 'play Russian roulette' with their lives as pandemic still rages: columnist
(AFP / JIM WATSON)

In a brutally frank Sunday column for the New York Times, Thomas Friedman accused Donald Trump of playing with the health and safety of Americans by pushing the country to return to normalcy during the coronavirus pandemic in the hope that he can salvage his re-election.


As Friedman explained, the president is encouraging a deadly game of "Russian roulette" to be played by U.S. citizens.

Noting the president's "Liberate" tweets encouraging the public to take back the streets that have been shut down in an effort to stem the COVID-19 virus that has killed close to 40,000 Americans, Friedman made his case.

"With these three short tweets last week, President Trump attempted to kick off the post-lockdown phase of America’s coronavirus crisis. It should be called: 'American Russian roulette: The Covid-19 version.,'" he wrote. "What Trump was saying with those tweets was: Everybody just go back to work. From now on, each of us individually, and our society collectively, is going to play Russian roulette. We’re going to bet that we can spin through our daily lives — work, shopping, school, travel — without the coronavirus landing on us. And if it does, we’ll also bet that it won’t kill us."

"As individuals, every person will be playing Russian roulette every minute of every day: Do I get on this crowded bus to go to work or not? What if I get on the subway and the person next to me is not wearing gloves and a mask? What if they sneeze? Do I get in the elevator at the office if there is another person on it? Do I go into the office lunchroom or not? Do I stop for a drink at this bar, where the stools are six feet apart, or that crowded one my friends chose? Do I use this toilet or that drinking fountain? Do I send my kid back to school or not? Do I stay in a hotel? Ride an airplane? Let the plumber in? Do I go to the doctor to check that strange lump or not?" he wrote before pointing out that the ones who will likely suffer are the poorest among us.

"Some people will have no choice but to take the subway or the bus to work. Some people will have to send their kids back to school because they can’t afford to stay home from work. Some bosses will demand that their employees show up to reopen their workplace, but some of those employees may be afraid to come back. Do you fire them? Do they bring a lawsuit against you if you do, or do they go on Twitter and post a picture of how closely together you forced them to work — six inches apart, not six feet?" he explained before explaining that is why the president is trying to turn the public against governors -- both Democrats and Republicans -- who are taking it slow out of concern for their constituents.

"Trump was cynically trying to curry favor with his base by implying that the Democratic governors, following his own national guidelines, were unfairly locking people up, depriving them of their livelihoods. Is there anything more irresponsible that this president could do, after weeks of complimenting the American people for how they pulled together and sacrificed to shelter in place — patriotically doing their part to bend the curve of this virus?" he wrote before issuing a final warning.

"Bottom line, my fellow Americans: Your president is telling you that you’re on your own to make these decisions. And if this strategy works, you can be sure that he will take credit. And if it doesn’t, you can be sure that he will tweet that it was all Anthony Fauci’s idea," he concluded.

You can read the whole piece here.