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Press: Only one issue counts in 2020: COVID-19

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As it’s been every year, last Friday, Sept. 11, was a solemn day: a time for every American to pause and remember, even for a moment, that frightful day, 19 years ago, when terrorists struck on American soil for the first time, and to mourn those who lost their lives.

But there was something discordant about this year’s Sept. 11 remembrance. It was like a black cloud hanging over the day: the reality of COVID-19. Which is not to say one is less tragic than the other. But just to put things in perspective: While 2,977 lost their lives on Sept. 11, more than 1,000 Americans are lost to the coronavirus EVERY DAY. On Sept. 10 alone, 1,206 Americans died from COVID-19. As of this writing, a stunning 194,000 Americans have died from the pandemic — already 66 times as many people killed on Sept. 11. The CDC projects that 217,000 Americans will die from the disease by Oct. 3.

And the great tragedy is: The death toll could be a lot lower. They did not all have to die. Who knows how many tens of thousands of lives would have been spared if the federal government had responded earlier and stronger with a plan to fight the pandemic?

Full disclosure: As a former political operative, I have always complained about single-issue voters. You have to look at where a candidate stands on a whole range of issues, I would argue. You can’t judge him or her based on one issue alone.

But 2020 is different. This election should be decided on one issue alone. Because, this year, only one issue matters: the coronavirus. On Nov. 3, voters should cast their ballot exclusively on how well Donald Trump has responded to the worst public health crisis in our lifetime.

By any measure, Trump has failed that test tragically and miserably. If that wasn’t clear before, it’s abundantly clear today after release of Bob Woodward’s new book, “Rage” — which depicts a president who, for at least two months, knew how deadly serious the coronavirus was, but deliberately lied to the American people about it — and still does today, claiming we’ve “rounded the corner.” And Woodward’s source is no disaffected staffer or anonymous White House aide. His source is Donald Trump himself, talking on the record.

Roll the tape. Trump tells Woodward he was warned on Jan. 28 by national security adviser Robert O’Brien that the coronavirus would be the “biggest national security threat you will face in your presidency.” No doubt, Trump knew how dangerous it was. In their next interview, he told Woodward: “It’s also more deadly than even your most strenuous flu. This is deadly stuff.” And yet, just a couple of days later, in the White House briefing room, Trump assured the American people the coronavirus was no worse than the flu, was totally under control, and would soon disappear.

Did he misspeak? No way. Trump knew exactly what he was doing. On March 19, he told Woodward: “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

What a pathetic excuse for any leader. Imagine if California fire officials had failed to warn residents to evacuate in light of approaching wildfires. We would have condemned them, just as we should condemn Donald Trump for his lack of leadership.

Bottom line: The president lied, and people died. That alone should decide how people vote on Nov. 3.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”

Tags 2020 presidential election campaign Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Pandemic

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