Trump fell asleep at switch as COVID-19 spread
History will record that Donald Trump was asleep at the switch while a deadly virus derailed the United States. We can only hope the next president gets the nation back on the right track.
At a campaign rally in South Carolina on Feb. 28 the president claimed Democrats had politicized the coronavirus outbreak and it was “their new hoax”. Before that, on Jan. 22, the president said, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.” Since then, thousands of Americans have been infected, some have died, the economy is on the verge of collapse — and the worst is yet to come.
After dismissing COVID-19 as a hoax, Trump finally declared a state of emergency on Friday, March 13. The president of the United States should be an international and national leader, but Trump’s tardy declaration followed aggressive action by prime ministers and American governors who were much more proactive.
By the time Trump finally got around to declaring a national emergency, Disney had already closed the company’s theme parks, several governors had declared states of emergency, and every major professional and amateur sports had suspended or ended their season.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took his cue from his president and failed to act. Last Wednesday the Democratic House majority passed an emergency bill to combat the coronavirus; the Senate GOP majority adjourned without acting.
Last Thursday, March 12 was the anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first Fireside Chat, in 1933. At the time, the nation was deep in the Depression, banks were closing and millions of Americans didn’t have access to their life savings. FDR’s radio address that night calmed an anxious nation. Last Wednesday night, Donald Trump gave a halting nationally televised speech that made Americans even more nervous than they already were. The next day, Wall Street suffered its biggest meltdown since the economic crash of 1987.
Joe Biden’s address to the nation Wednesday was everything Donald Trump’s wasn’t. Biden was cool, calm and collected, while the president appeared nervous during his speech. Biden’s speech was full of reassurance. He reminded Americans that the United States is a great country — one with a history of succeeding in the face of adversity.
Trump’s success as a candidate compared to his troubles as president clearly dramatizes the difference between sales and administration. There’s an edge to everything Donald Trump says and does. That edge served him well during his 2016 campaign, but it isn’t what a troubled nation needs from a chief executive during a crisis.
During his 2016 campaign, candidate Trump sought to contradict science supporting climate change. Despite the near unanimous warnings of climate scientists from all over the world, he claimed global warming was a “Chinese hoax.” It appeared that the immediate victim of Trump’s war against science would be the fight against climate change. But the coronavirus has taken center stage while the ravages of climate change wait in the wings.
The president’s disdain for science was manifested on Feb. 28 when he said, “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” This disdain is nothing new. In May 2018, the president abolished the office in the White House responsible for fighting pandemics, and appropriations for the Center for Disease Control have declined every year of his presidency.
I remember worrying on Election Night on Nov. 5, 2016, about the consequences of Donald Trump’s elevation to the presidency. I thought that if we get into a war while this guy is president, we’d be in trouble. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) told Americans last week that the coronavirus is on the “scale of a major war.” Hopefully, we’ll have a new president on Jan. 20 next year. The big question is how bad things will get between now and then.
Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.