PHOENIX — There’s really no other way to say this: When it comes to his response to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, the combination of President Donald Trump’s arrogance and sheer incompetence is killing people.
Consider that the United States and South Korea each identified its first case of the coronavirus on January 20. As of this writing, South Korea has confirmed approximately 11,000 cases of infection and 260 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center.
The United States: more than 1.4 million cases and over 86,000 deaths.
Yes, the U.S. has six times as many people. But researchers at Johns Hopkins report that South Korea has had 0.5 deaths per 100,000 people. In the U.S., we’ve seen 25.71 deaths per 100,000—a death rate more than 51 times greater.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof thinks the true number of deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus is between 100,000 to 110,000, based on a state by state “comparison of death rates this spring with those in previous years.”
On its face, the U.S. response has been an abject failure, no matter Trump’s claim that his administration has “made all the right moves.”
Certainly, the primary and most obvious culprit is COVID-19. It goes without saying that the act of being infected by the virus is what can actually kill you, even if most who get the disease recover.
Next in line of a share of the blame would be China’s communist dictatorship, which downplayed the extent and lethality of the virus in the early weeks of its spread, as the Associated Press has reported, even going so far as to “punish doctors for warning about the disease.”
The Chinese government’s recklessness, of course, does not give anyone the right to attack Chinese Americans or anyone of Asian descent for the spread of the virus. Asians, including the Chinese people, are no more to blame for the spread of COVID-19 than my grandmother was to blame for the carnage and destruction that was visited upon the Caribbean two years by Hurricane Maria.
So, why do I think President Trump bears the brunt of the blame for the horror that we’re living through?
While it’s true that the president didn’t create COVID-19, and no matter what he did, the virus was bound to spread to the U.S., the president’s botched response has clearly made things worse.
And we knew months ago that it would.
It would take a book to list the multitude of ways that Trump has mismanaged the federal government’s reaction to the crisis —including his on again, off again insistence that the state’s 50 governors are basically on their own when it comes to dealing with the problem— but suffice it to say that we can boil his failings down to one thing: Trump just doesn’t give a damn.
To be more specific, Trump cares more about getting re-elected, padding his bank account and keeping the titans of Wall Street happy than he does about the lives of average Americans.
That’s why he’s spent nearly four months downplaying the danger of the virus’ spread.
Between January 22 and May 6, according to The Washington Post, Trump on at least 44 different occasions “regularly sought to downplay the coronavirus threat with a mix of facts and false statements.”
On January 22, asked by a CNBC anchor if he was worried about a global pandemic, Trump said, “Not at all. We have it totally under control.” On February 27, he said, “It’s like a miracle. It will disappear.” On February 28, he called the coronavirus the “new hoax” from Democrats.
On May 8, the president said, “This is going to go away without a vaccine, it’s gonna go away….” You get the picture.
So what’s so wrong with the president minimizing the dangers of COVID-19 and, as Trump puts it, letting him play the role of the nation’s “cheerleader”?
How would you like it if your doctor told you had terminal cancer, and when you asked what could be done about it the doctor said, “It’s like a miracle. It will disappear.”
I’d think that doctor should be charged with negligent homicide, at least.
Is our president purposely allowing Americans to die unnecessarily? I believe he is. If not by design, then at least by neglect.
Proving that, of course, would mean catching the president on tape saying something like, “I’m downplaying COVID-19 to help my re-election campaign, and I could care less if thousands of people die. As far as I’m concerned, they’re all warriors in the battle to keep me in power.”
That, of course, is not going to happen.
So how can Trump be stopped? He’s already been impeached, and Senate Republicans (with the exception of Mitt Romney) have made it clear that, short of the president shooting someone on the White House lawn, they’re willing to look the other way.
But how is it possible that the United States of America could elect someone so selfish, so in love with power, and so void of even the slightest tinge of empathy for the tens of thousands of families who’ve already lost loved ones due to COVID-19?
To be honest, I haven’t quite figured that out. But we did, and now at least 85,000 of our fellow Americans are dead.
And if you don’t think things couldn’t possibly get any worse, imagine a world in which Donald J. Trump gets re-elected.
James E. Garcia is a journalist, playwright and communications consultant based in Phoenix, AZ. He is the editor and publisher of Vanguardia Arizona and Vanguardia America. You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets from @JG_Vanguardia.