The world struggles with the new coronavirus China’s President Ji learned of in late 2019, and that America’s President Trump learned of in the opening days of 2020. More than six months later, many countries of the world have conducted themselves impressively. The country that has long fancied itself the most advanced finds it’s no more to be envied than Russia and Brazil. In fact, according to Statistica, of countries over 4 million population and over 5 thousand confirmed cases, only Chile, Kuwait, and Peru exceed the United States in Covid-19 cases per million inhabitants. Welcome to Trump’s America.
In China and the United States, the instinctive choice for each national leader was to cover up, minimize, or ignore what their scientists knew could become a threatening dark cloud over earth’s 7.8 billion human beings. Mr. Trump, after first praising, then castigating Mr. Ji, then chastised the World Health Organization for being “soft on China.” Eager to avoid any responsibility, thus maintaining his handy, defensive victim status, Trump and his far-right cheerleaders authored a new conspiracy theory, to wit: the virus was a hoax spread by Democrats. The lyrics of that song were getting a little old, though, so he conceded the virus but minimized the danger.
That enabled him to demonstrate both his calm control of the fearsome bug and his ability to take prompt action to deal with it, thereby leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Well, you know the story, that is, if you don’t rely on White House releases or perhaps Fox News. Needless to say, it’s been hard to miss Trump’s bragging about his wise choices, frequently against everyone else’s less beautiful ones. He still can’t stop talking about blocking air passengers arriving from China, seen as minimally useful by virus-spread specialists. As would be expected from past performances, Trump continued with a sequence of uninformed and sometimes idiotic statements, all seemingly with one aim: to show he knew more about viruses than the generals…(ahem)…the physicians, virologists, and epidemiologists.
Life is tough for a stable genius. It would be embarrassing not to know all the answers. So you’d assume even your conjectures are better than years of study by so-called “experts.” Question: When will this deadly calamity go away? A: By spring when weather warms up. Q: When will we no longer have fifteen cases? A: Very soon it will be near zero. Q: What about our first confirmed case in Washington state? A: We do have a plan and we think it’s going to be handled very well, we’ve already handled it very well [sic]. Spoken from Olympus makes such speculations no less amateur than would have a oiji board.
That list of Trump guesses is informative, not to mention lengthy, but they’ve little to do with truth. They are about Trump choosing what to guess. His slipshod practice regarding reality demands making this point: When a source that inquirers have a reasonable expectation of being authoritative and trustworthy—let’s say, the President of the United States—a shoot from the hip or mere hope constitutes a lie.
This morning, for example, Trump commented that he disagrees with Dr. Fauci (on what basis, one wonders!), after all, as circulated by Trumpists, “first Dr. Fauci said “don’t wear masks,” now he says to “wear them.” Only news geeks who follow closely, can see that is a poorly informed “gotcha.” Trump repeated the misinformation as if it makes sense, although it is true. Aha, see? The vaunted expert should be unvaunted! We trust our president, not some sawbones we never elected. To his discredit, Trump chose not to clarify that Fauci’s earlier proposal occurred months before when sufficient masks were unavailable, therefore should be reserved for vulnerable healthcare workers. Fauci changed his recommendation when masks became plentiful, available to all Americans. When an authoritative source that Americans have a reasonable expectation of being quoted accurately—let’s say, by the President of the United States—a failure to clarify factors relevant to that accuracy constitutes a lie.
This post is titled “Trump’s American pandemic” to make clear I am not blaming him for China’s or WHO’s errors, but I do blame him for most of the shambles he has caused in America’s handling of Covid-19, including most of its deaths and suffering, and for both the substance and the appearance of America’s incompetence in the world even prior to viral assistance.
Had he been able in intelligence and managerial understanding—now he is incompetent in both—to actually be the wartime president he grandiosely claims to be, he would have called upon Fauci and others for a rapid tutoring in virology and epidemiology, addressed the federal vs. state Constitutional impasse right away, assigned responsibilities for segments of the whole while not shedding his accountability for the total, assigned White House and Departmental roles to experienced, capable persons rather than choices like Jared and others not big enough for the job, shared all these actions openly and without secrecy, forbid on pain of banishment any “political games” that threaten the overall mission.
Leadership is greatly needed, yet impossible from this president. in life or death terms to hundreds of thousands. He is no leader and is incapable of becoming one in a few months. He is not alone, of course, but his announced irresponsibility, his ignorance cloaked in certainty, his demand of reverence from others, his political bullying of Republican office holders, his usual self-flattery, and other actions that consistently reveal his motivation comes not from what is best for American’s health, but from the day to day aggrandizement of Donald Trump.
Now this shallow, authoritarian pretender to the presidency has the audacity to request re-election, for the despotism he’s begun is not yet complete.
The fish does, indeed, rot from the head.