President Donald Trump’s recent bout with COVID-19 – and the president’s recent tweets, as well as his actions in the wake of his stay at Walter Reed Army Hospital – is par for the course for a president who is fighting not only for a second term, but also anxious to avoid prosecution as a civilian over his financial history.
It should be no surprise that Trump’s optimistic appraisal of COVID-19 is being embraced by those MAGA voters. In a nation where over 200,000 people have died, with well over seven million infections, Trump forged ahead and participated in a campaign rally in Minnesota four days after the Sept. 26 White House ceremony wherein Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination was officially announced. And that very Rose Garden event is now being viewed as a superspreader that is more than likely the vector that passed the virus to many senior Republican Party officials.
It is also not surprising that the Trump White House has rejected an offer by the CDC to assist in leadership on the contract tracing stage. And why, ultimately, would the White House block FDA guidelines that would have prevented a “fast track” vaccine prior to the Nov. 3 general election?
Trump continues on a course of deflection, downplaying, and acting in contrast to health experts and legitimate science, while also pursuing the “America first” policy in terms of combating COVID-19. Trump abdicated the leadership role of the U.S. when funding was halted to the World Health Organization, and claimed that WHO was a “willing partner” in withholding from the U.S. and wider world vital information about the disease.
And what do the experts say who would have not promoted the idea of injecting Clorox or Lysol into the body? Trump’s callous attitude toward the coronavirus is reflected by many in his base, and this is not the type of leadership that is needed in the midst of a deadly disease that is not going away anytime soon.
The very notion, it seems, regarding Trump’s downplaying of COVID-19 – with the president telling people to “not let the virus dominate you” – is not the appropriate type of message we should expect from the president. But we are also living in Trump World, and in the Trump world, we were informed by the presidential tweet that COVID-19 is akin to the seasonal flu, which is completely inaccurate. Trump’s comparison of COVID-19 to the flu is indeed an apples-and -oranges comparison, as COVID-19 can result in long-term damage to organs beyond the lungs. Trump said, in a March 9 tweet, that “Nothing is shut down, and life as well as the economy go on!” At that point, there were 546 confirmed cases in the U.S., with 22 deaths.
Research paints a picture of what the death toll might have looked like if the nation had locked down faster, and that a much more rapid lockdown would have resulted in fewer deaths. Columbia University disease modelers cite that around 54,000 fewer people would have died by early May. I still reflect on what CBS White House correspondent Paula Reid said to the president about what Trump did with February.
It is indeed par for the course for the Trump White House to flout the experts, whether it is within the realm of the intelligence community, defense, or health experts, as the president has cast aside those expert consultations in favor of politically advantageous shortcuts to ensure four more years in the White House.
Brent Been is a Tahlequah educator with an emphasis on civics and history.