If we are going to call 2020 the worst year, we cannot just treat the annus horribilis like an arbitrarily bad set of 365 days on a rotten timeline. This year did not make itself miserable. There is a bad guy in all of this.
While this year will be remembered for the horrors of coronavirus, a deadly pandemic that killed 343,000 Americans and 1.81 million people worldwide in 2020, its mortal impact was exacerbated by a bad actor. If the superflu of Stephen King’s The Stand had Randall Flagg as a coalescing figure of pure evil, then COVID-19 had President Donald Trump.
by George Lang, opinion writer for Free Press
Trump’s unwillingness to effectively deal with COVID-19 is his greatest failure in an infinitely unspooling crazy quilt of travesties. On February 7, one month before the pandemic hit critical mass, he told journalist Bob Woodward that the coronavirus was “deadly stuff.”
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump told Woodward. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”
That same day, Trump tweeted that the virus would be successfully battled “as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone.” He spent the rest of the month pushing the idea that warm weather would conquer the virus, that “It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear,”
In a March 24 White House briefing, Trump told reporters that “you have suicides over things like this when you have terrible economies. You have death. Probably and — I mean, definitely would be in far greater numbers than the numbers that we’re talking about with regard to the virus.”
This was not exactly warm reassurance. While there are no suicide figures yet available for 2020, the most recent number published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was 48,344 in 2018. Even if suicides doubled in 2020, it would still be fewer than one-third of the COVID-19 related deaths in the same period.
Trump repeatedly told the public that numbers were coming down when they were not, and at his June 17 superspreader event at Tulsa’s BOK Center, he told about 6,000 of his faithful that the pandemic was “fading away. It’s going to fade away.” This was cold comfort to the family of former Repubican presidential hopeful Herman Cain, who died days later after contracting the virus in downtown Tulsa.
Trump claimed that the U.S. had the lowest mortality rate in the world when it had the ninth-worst rate. He lied about the Obama Administration’s response to H1N1, he lied about Hydroxychloroquine, he lied about testing availability, he lied about a causal relationship between testing rates and positivity rates and he lied about the efficacy of consuming household cleansers and internally administered ultraviolet light as a treatment. He lied about immunity, he lied about the media “overblowing” the impact of the disease, he lied about the effectiveness of masks and he lied about states requesting ventilators that, he claimed, might be “going out the back door.”
Trump told so many lies he had difficulty keeping track of them, and yet The New York Times has yet to use the word “lie” to describe anything he has said. News organizations like NYT failed the public through their deployment of euphemistic language when they simply, based on the binary nature of facts, could have said he “lied.”
I have yet to mention any of the other lies he told about the economy, the Black Lives Matter movement or the Nov. 3 general election because each of these subjects is worth its own book. Chronicling each subset of lies Trump told in 2020 will take scholars years to enumerate.
But COVID-19 presented Trump with an opportunity to truly lead in a way that could impact everyone in this country, and he chose not to do so. Instead, he forged deeper divisions within the electorate when our nation needed to come together.
Speaking on the nature of leadership, Charles de Gaulle said that “faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.”
Trump did none of this. He lied to us all in a life-or-death situation, and regardless of whether he spoke to his flock or to his foes, Trump lied.
This is all we need to know about him or his ilk.
As we look to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration to end the proliferation of this virus and restore normality to our nation, we must remember what it felt like to be lied to repeatedly by the most powerful person in our country, and ensure that no one of such inferior character is elevated to that office again.
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