There’s no vaccine for this diseased and dangerous presidency

The White House

The first person in America to have been infected with coronavirus without having traveled to the affected areas or been exposed to someone known to have the virus has been revealed.  

According to experts, this is known as the beginning of “community spread.” This is the time when anxiety and concern will spread across the country and when Americans typically look to their leaders for comfort, guidance and most of all — honesty.

The coronavirus outbreak is demonstrating in life and death terms just how dangerous it is when an administration uses lies and misinformation to govern.

In a functioning society, people need to believe in what their leaders say, especially in the face of a possible global pandemic that will not only threaten lives but also the country’s economic vitality.

President Trump has a real opportunity to turn a new leaf and be straight with the public for once in his tenure. He can put American lives before his own political interests and show that he has the capacity to be the leader most of us don’t think he has the capacity to be.

Sadly, he is not starting out on a very positive note. In fact, he and his team are already proving most of us right — that they will continue to govern with lies, and that they are willing to put American lives at risk as long as Trump can save some face.

In an embarrassing exchange between Trump’s Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), Wolf was woefully unprepared to answer basic questions about the burgeoning threat of coronavirus, how many people currently have it in the United States, how it was transmitted and what the mortality rate was. 

It is astounding that none of these facts and figures were able to be articulated by the person who is supposed to keep us safe — a point made sternly and repeatedly by Senator Kennedy. 

What’s worse, Wolf not only didn’t have the information prepared and at his fingertips, the figures he did provide were wrong. When asked about the mortality rate of influenza compared to the coronavirus, Wolf stated that they were about the same.

They are not. The coronavirus is 20 times more lethal than the flu, which has a mortality rate of 0.1 percent. The coronavirus has a mortality rate of 2 percent. This type of misspeak and unpreparedness is simply unacceptable from the president’s cabinet secretary of the department whose purpose is to keep the homeland safe and secure. 

If only this were an isolated incident. 

Recognizing that a more robust response to this growing national emergency was needed, Trump, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Vice President Mike Pence and others took to the microphones in a press conference to try to assuage the country’s growing unease and fears about how prepared the government is to handle a possible global pandemic.

The results were not much better than Wolf’s testimony, and the public was not convinced that the Trump administration was ready or prepared for what was coming. 

In trying to prove they had it all handled, Trump announced that Pence would be the lead in the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. But in announcing this move, Trump clearly blindsided his own HHS secretary, leaving in doubt who was really in charge of the task force.

Pence’s record on handling public health issues, emergencies and deadly disease outbreaks is not a good one. While serving as governor of Indiana, Pence passed several anti-abortion bills that may have put women’s lives at risk. He also advocated for conversion therapy in a twisted vision to rid people of their homosexuality. He has been at the forefront of trying to get rid of ObamaCare, which would strip millions of Americans of their health care, and in the past he declared that smoking doesn’t kill. 

Perhaps worst of all, Pence presided over the worst HIV outbreak in his state’s history, while refusing to acknowledge a true health emergency and opposing a needle exchange program that would have saved lives. Pence does not have the kind of track record or training that inspires confidence in the administration’s preparedness for what is to come.

Add to that the president’s own refusal to acknowledge the facts that his team had just declared prior to his taking the microphone — that there will be more cases in the United States and that it is not a question of “if” but “when” they occur. Trump stated that it is not certain that the disease will spread.

Trump also stated that the stock market will recover. Earlier in the day, financial experts declared that American companies will not experience any growth this year due to the coronavirus global emergency.

Even Trump’s allies have urged him to put his political and economic interests on the back burner and focus on the response at hand for the sake of the American people. 

Trump’s response has been typical Trump: Lie or ignore the truth, mislead, obfuscate, appoint leaders inept at leading on the issue at hand and, of course, blame Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. He then declares that everything is under control when control is the last thing the administration has over an emergency outbreak of a disease against which no one is immune.

Perhaps now more Republicans will finally understand, for the sake of the public’s health, that getting rid of Donald Trump in November will be one of the best vaccines against a diseased and dangerous presidency.

Maria Cardona is a longtime Democratic strategist and co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee for the party’s 2020 convention. She is a principal at Dewey Square Group, a Washington-based political consulting agency, and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.

Tags Alex Azar Chad Wolf Coronaviridae Coronavirus Department of Health and Human Services Donald Trump John Kennedy Mike Pence Nancy Pelosi

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