Trump’s Contagion Road Show Heads West

It’s like a Stephen King horror novel where a nation is swept by a deadly and uncontrollable disease, sickening millions and killing over 100,000 citizens. Ignoring the advice of top infectious disease specialists who say, “Don’t go to large-scale gatherings,” a crazed president insists on holding rallies for the sole purpose of boosting his rapidly sinking chances of reelection. While recklessly ignoring precautions and exhorting his followers to do the same, he leaves not hope, but contagion and death in his path. Only it’s not a novel, it’s our reality — and now Trump’s traveling horror show heads west.

The level of dysfunction of this president and his benighted administration now borders on insanity. After an illusory “victory” over the rapid spread of the deadly coronavirus, Trump announced there was nothing left but “embers” — only to have infection rates skyrocket across the nation, hitting hard in southern and western states that ignored initial precautionary measures or decided to “reopen” prematurely.

The last thing any thinking person would do when faced with this crisis is take steps to make it worse. Yet, that’s just what’s happening as Trump seeks to halt federal funds for testing when the medical professionals are advising just the opposite, with more testing, tracking, and isolation of infected individuals. Our “extremely stable genius” in the Oval Office, however, says the more you test the more infections you find, which makes his “numbers look bad.”

When the Centers for Disease Control and Infection say the actual number of infected individuals is likely 10 times greater than estimated, what does this most historically incapable president do? He urges the Supreme Court to nullify Obamacare, denying 23 million citizens health coverage during a pandemic after millions more have already lost their employer-provided insurance. Regardless of one’s opinion on the benefits, drawbacks, or efficacy of the nation’s feeble attempt at universal health care, to destroy it completely during an uncontrollable pandemic is not leadership, it’s sheer malignant lunacy.

They say cornered animals are the most dangerous and, after a disastrous rally in Tulsa that only filled one-third of the available seats despite bragging of having issued a million tickets, now a desperate and dangerous Trump responds by taking his contagion road show to Mount Rushmore after forcing the National Park Service to allow a massive fireworks display.

Fireworks have been banned at Mt. Rushmore for 10 years due to their wildfire danger and pollution of scarce local water supplies by perchlorate — which causes endocrine and reproductive problems and is classified as a “likely human carcinogen” by the EPA. Illustrating the depth of his ignorance, Trump said “What can burn? It’s stone,” totally ignoring the surrounding dry Ponderosa pine forests that readily burn.

In the meantime, Trump’s “flying monkeys” — Kellyanne Conway, Don Jr. and industry lobbyist-turned-Interior Secretary Bernhardt — are coming to Montana to fundraise, shoot, and fish. Someone ought to tell great white hunter Don Jr. that Montanans don’t embrace unethical hunters who illegally shoot endangered species with laser night scopes as he did last year to kill a rare argali ram in Mongolia on a “hunt” that cost U.S. taxpayers $77,000.

Were this a Stephen King novel we could have some hope that, in the end, the good guys might prevail. But the horror we’re living right now is not a novel. Tragically, we have a desperate and delusional president trailing disease and death in this wake saying “I don’t take responsibility at all.” Given his actions, that seems a firm grasp of the obvious — and more’s the pity.

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.