Press: Election is now referendum on how Trump handled COVID-19
It’s an image Americans haven’t experienced for over 40 years: seeing the president of the United States airlifted to a hospital for treatment for a serious illness. Forget politics. This is a moment of national anxiety. It puts all Americans on edge. It concerns the health and safety, not just of the president, but of the entire nation. It impacts the economy. It raises serious questions about national security.
And here’s the worst part: In the case of Donald Trump, it was entirely self-inflicted. We could have been spared this national crisis. It could all have been avoided — if only Trump had listened to health officials and taken the necessary precautions. Instead, he recklessly and irresponsibly ignored their warnings. And now all of us are paying the price.
Of course, as Americans, Republican and Democrat, we wish the president a speedy recovery. But, still, it must be said. The coronavirus didn’t just happen to strike Donald Trump. He almost invited him to strike him. For months, he refused to take the virus seriously, dismissed its threat, insisted it would soon go away, refused advice of health experts to wear a mask and social distance, and, ignoring CDC guidelines, scheduled dangerous, super-predator crowd events on the campaign trail and at the White House — most recently, his Rose Garden gathering to announce the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
In so doing, Trump not only exposed himself to the disease, he put countless others in jeopardy. Including Herman Cain, who died of COVID-19 after attending Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa on June 20. And, more recently, first lady Melania Trump, White House aides Hope Hicks, Kellyanne Conway and Nick Luna, three White House reporters, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), campaign manager Bill Stepien, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins — all of whom tested positive.
Not only that, according to the Wall Street Journal, last Thursday morning, even after Trump learned that Hicks had tested positive for COVID, Trump insisted on proceeding to his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., for a fundraiser and campaign rally with supporters: eating lunch with donors, taking photographs, traveling with White House staff, Secret Service agents and military personnel — exposing another 206 people, not counting staff and security, to the disease.
Even while at Walter Reed, Trump continued to mock the disease, sending the hapless White House physician out to lie about his condition and putting brave Secret Service agents at risk by forcing them to drive him outside the gates so he could wave to supporters.
In the end, no matter how quickly he recovers, it will be Trump himself who’s hurt most by his diagnosis. For months, while downplaying the threat of coronavirus, he’s desperately tried to change the subject: to “law and order,” Hunter Biden, mail-in ballots, anything but COVID-19.
No such luck. By his own reckless disregard for safety, Trump’s made sure the coronavirus will be at the top of the news every day from now through Nov. 3. How is Donald Trump doing? What are his symptoms? Who else in the White House has been infected? And how many more Americans have died?
There’s no escaping it now. This election is only about one issue. It’s a referendum on how Donald Trump handled the worst public health crisis in our lifetime. Did he rise to the occasion? Did he take it seriously? Did he pull Americans together? Did he tell the American people the truth? Did he set the right example? The indisputable answer is a resounding NO.
Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”