Donald Trump waged the first war of his presidency against COVID-19 -- and then he lost: columnist
US President Donald Trump, pictured on July 8, has assailed Britain's US ambassador as a "pompous fool" and slammed outgoing premier Theresa May's "foolish" policies following a leak of unflattering diplomatic cables. (AFP/File / NICHOLAS KAMM)

Few people run for the presidency knowing they'll be forced into a war. Presumably, most would prefer to be leaders during a time of peace. But President Donald Trump relished in the idea that he is now a wartime president, fighting against an "invisible enemy," the coronavirus.

Like Vietnam, the war against COVID-19 appears to be falling to the enemy, wrote New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on Wednesday.

"When Michael T. Osterholm, a prominent epidemiologist, heard that the White House coronavirus task force was 'ramping up' its work this month, he was elated. Maybe now the United States would finally tackle the virus with the seriousness needed," he explained. "Then he realized that he had misheard. The task force wasn’t “ramping up” but “wrapping up.”

“I was in shock,” said Osterholm. “We’re just in the second inning.”

The White House announced this week that it would be disbanding the coronavirus task force, a move that earned substantial backlash from Democrats and Republicans alike. Trump reinstated the task force, saying he didn't know that they were so popular, completely missing the point that it was about safety, not popularity.

"Vice President Mike Pence had earlier said that the disbanding of the task force was possible because of 'the tremendous progress we’ve made' against the virus," said Kristof. It's unclear if Pence is intentionally ignoring the experts or believes their numbers and simply doesn't care.

"It’s actually the virus that has made tremendous progress, eclipsing heart disease to become the No. 1 cause of death in the United States," Kristof explained. "In less than two months, we have lost more Americans to the coronavirus than in the Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined."

He noted that when looking at Spain and Italy, two countries that have had astronomical outbreaks, they have shut down their countries and flattened their curve. The United States never flattened their curve but is now reopening anyway. Some states have even had an increase in COVID-19 cases after reopening, like Georgia.

Kristof also noted that on March 6, Trump promised, "anybody that wants a test can get a test." It still isn't true. Far from it, as MSNBC's Rachel Maddow pointed out. Even when mandated by the public health department, one company wouldn't give tests.

"And Trump and Pence still seem oblivious," said Kristof.

“By Memorial Day Weekend we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us,” Pence said on Fox News two weeks ago. Good luck with that.

“This is here to stay, in all likelihood, until we have a vaccine, and a vaccine could be a year or two away,” Kristof quoted former CDC director Tom Frieden. “Or it could be never.”

Read the full editorial at the New York Times.