On Saturday, writing for the conservative website The Bulwark, columnist Philip Rotner tore into President Donald Trump for governing via his basest instincts in a time of national catastrophe.
“Donald Trump’s character flaws have shaped — and are continuing to shape — the federal government’s disastrous response to COVID-19,” wrote Rotner. “From the day Trump took office, Trumpism has wreaked havoc on our democracy, our culture, our standing in the world, and the very soul of our nation. But this time it’s different. This time it’s killing people.”
“It all started with Trump’s statements about the virus in the early days of the pandemic,” wrote Rotner. “He persisted in telling the nation that the virus was ‘under control,’ that we’d ‘pretty much shut it down,’ and that the weather in April would ‘kill the virus.’ Even deep into February, more than a month into the crisis, Trump continued to insist that ‘we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time,’ and ‘like a miracle, it will disappear.'”
When it became clear that wouldn’t happen, Trump switched to bragging about how he put in place a travel ban early that stopped the virus, against the advice of public health officials, with great success, and attacked Democrats for having opposed it.
Except, as Rotner pointed out, none of that was true either. Trump’s policy wasn’t a travel ban, he didn’t impose it early, it wasn’t contrary to public health recommendations, and it didn’t work.
“The real problem is that his false narrative shaped the actual, real-world action — or, more accurately, inaction — of the government in response to the crisis,” wrote Rotner. “And not just the federal government. Republican governors across the nation — not all of them, but enough to cost many, many lives — adopted Trump’s narrative and acted accordingly. As late as March 30, 15 states had issued neither stay-at-home orders nor ordered the closure of non-essential businesses. All 15 have Republican governors.”
Trump’s latest narrative, Rotner wrote, is to act as though the current projected death toll is a victory.
“He reset the bar so low that if ‘only’ hundreds of thousands of Americans die, he is the hero. And if ‘only’ 90,000 Americans die, he’s the greatest leader since Perecles,” wrote Rotner. “What this misses, of course, is the fact that Trump’s incompetence and refusal to accept any reality counter to his preferred narrative are largely responsible for the number of Americans who will die, whatever that number winds up being between now and when a vaccine is deployed.”
“Trump didn’t make the coronavirus, but he made it worse. More people will die than needed to,” concluded Rotner. “These are the ghastly wages of Trumpism.”
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