Trump AWOL on Coronavirus

We’re dealing with a president who thinks the Oval Office is a throne room with him as king. We once had one and definitely don’t want another.

As a democracy and a republic that Benjamin Franklin wondered aloud if we could keep it, we’re letting Donald Trump get away with too much, though we’ve gotten some help from the courts. Too often, there doesn’t seem much we can do to prevent him from making fools of us, though he keeps trying. Much of the Western world pities us, for good reason.

The Founders didn’t expect a Trump. Laws must be adopted curtailing presidential powers so we don’t get another Trump.

Ideals that go back to the Enlightenment, the 18th century era of European philosophers who influenced Thomas Jefferson, are sacred in a true democracy. Yet Trump violated some of those ideals by commuting the prison sentence of his friend Roger Stone because Stone didn’t rat on him, as the mafia would say. He was sentenced to three years in prison for lying to Congress.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, no Trump fan, said of the commutation: “Unprecedented historic corruption – an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.”

There are other ways of subverting democracy. Another example is the Trump administration’s order to hospitals to give patient information about the coronavirus to the Department of Health and Human Services instead of to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thus handing control of the numbers of the ill and the dead from COVID-19 to the chaotic White House.

The HHS website that would collect the data is closed to the public. Therefore, information is hidden. COVID-19 data already has disappeared from the CDC website.

With Trump’s penchant for lying to make himself look good – The Washington Post has counted more than 20,000 presidential lies and misleading statements so far – how can he be trusted to provide the correct numbers for morbidity and mortality?

He already has sidelined infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, for sure because the good doctor gently has contradicted the president about the seriousness of the coronavirus and how to safeguard people from contracting it. Trump has fired people for less; he seeks only loyalty. Forget truth.

“Historically, CDC has been the place where public health data has been sent, and this raises questions about not just access for researchers but access for reporters, access for the public to try to better understand what is happening with the outbreak,” Jen Kates, the director of global health and HIV policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation, told The New York Times. “How will the data be protected?”

Fauci, who told The Atlantic that recent White House attacks against him were “bizarre” and “nonsense,” insists that people wear masks. Trump has shunned them for an obscure reason having to do with some false sense of masculinity. Who knows how many lives have been lost because of his disastrous handling of the pandemic.

Another example of Trump’s underhandedness: His administration asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. The Republicans have tried dozens of times to delete Obamacare and have nothing to replace it. Already, 5.8 million Americans have lost their medical insurance because they have been dismissed from their jobs. Their saving grace would be to apply for Obamacare.

It was totally unexpected, like a stab in the back.

It’s a good bet that Trump’s failure from the outset to lead the country in fighting the plague, beginning with not wearing a mask – to govern by example – may be a major reason he may not win reelection. He’s falling behind Joe Biden in nationwide polls and hired a new campaign manager to fix it. Nobody but Trump can deal with it because he’s the problem.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll Friday showed that only 38 percent approve of his handling the coronavirus. Fully 60 percent disapprove.

Trump’s apparently not even taking the lead to ensure the well-being of the jobless, the worst unemployment since the Great Depression in the 1930s. He’s focusing on tax cuts instead.

The coronavirus is a life-or-death matter, a major disaster. More than 134,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in a resurgence that has touched most states.

So instead of leading, Trump knows he has lost the war against the virus and is hiding behind a screen so he and his sycophants can control the COVID-19 death toll numbers downward.

You can’t believe Trump. He’s proved that. You can’t trust him. You can’t rely on him to do the right thing for the American people. And he’s been more focused on carrying out the conservative and evangelical agenda – against abortion, more deregulation, more right-wing judges, getting government out of healthcare – and building a cult following.

All that’s missing are huge posters of his face tacked to buildings rising from main thoroughfares, as happened in Soviet bloc countries.

Perhaps Washington Post conservative columnist George Will put it best Wednesday:

“Under the most frivolous person ever to hold any great nation’s highest office, this nation is in a downward spiral. This spiral has not reached its nadir, but at least it has reached a point where worse is helpful, and worse can be confidently expected.

“The nation’s floundering government is now administered by a gangster regime.”

Richard C. Gross, a career journalist at home and abroad, retired as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.


Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.