Sacrificing American lives on the altar of the Dow Jones

Another week has gone by in this new, almost dystopian global environment in which we all find ourselves. The country is clamoring for real leadership, for someone who can give comfort, solace, truth and empathy, as well as confidence that we will get through this if we stick together and make the right decisions now to avoid more dire consequences later.

Unfortunately, we are not getting such leadership from our commander-in-chief. Far from it. Until a few days ago, President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE’s daily briefings became so farcical and truth-deprived that some of the media considered not airing them live or in full.  

Just two days ago, Trump tweeted that the “United States has done far more ‘testing’ than any other nation, by far! In fact, over an eight-day span, the United States now does more testing than what South Korea (which has been a very successful tester) does over an eight-week span. Great job!” 

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Maggie HabermanMaggie Lindsy HabermanVeteran CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller included in layoffs: report Seniors will make Donald Trump a one-term president Trump shares video of protesters confronting reporter: 'FAKE NEWS IS NOT ESSENTIAL' MORE of the New York Times fact-checked the president in real time, tweeting that this was not true and that “there are few things more dangerous than a president lying like this to a scared public when in fact most people still cannot get tested.” NPR then offered some specifics on the reality of the situation: We are at about 300,000 tests in each country, which means that South Korea has tested 1-in-170 people; the United States, 1-in-1,090. That's more than six times fewer, per capita, than South Korea.

On March 19, Trump announced that the FDA had fast-tracked approval of the drug chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for treatment of COVID-19. He also said, “The nice part is, it's been around for a long time, so we know that if it — if things don't go as planned, it's not going to kill anybody.” Well, doctors have cautioned that that might not be true, either that it would help patients or that it might not pose a risk to some patients.

One month ago, Trump said that “when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” referring to the low numbers of confirmed cases and efforts to contain the virus. Yet, on Friday, the United States reached a grim milestone: We surpassed Italy and China as the country with the most confirmed cases of the coronavirus.    

Not only does the situation keep getting worse, but our commander-in-chief seemingly sinks deeper into denial about the life-and-death situation we face, which will cost more American lives.

On Friday, Trump and his administration got into a ridiculous spat with New York Gov. Cuomo and New York City Mayor DeBlasio, who have told the federal government just how many ventilators they will need. Cuomo said that New York, which has become the nation’s epicenter of the coronavirus, will need a minimum of 30,000 ventilators. The federal government has given them far fewer than that, as Trump downplayed the need for ventilators based on nothing more than “a feeling.”

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Similarly, there is a widespread shortage of masks, gowns, gloves and other protective gear that our front-line health care providers desperately need to keep themselves safe so they can keep us alive. There are reports of some desperate health care workers being forced to fashion garbage bags as medical gowns — and yet, in briefing after briefing by the White House, we continue to be told that these life-saving supplies are being produced and on the way.

We are the most powerful country on earth. It is outrageous that our doctors, nurses and medical technicians are forced to scrounge for what they need, forced to choose not to go to work for fear of contracting the virus or spreading it, if they already have it.  

All of this could have been avoided, had Trump acted in a timely manner back in December and January when he knew this was coming. He apparently decided not to do so because he feared it would be politically perilous for him. And now, in an even more potentially dangerous move, Trump wants to reopen the nation’s businesses by Easter, a target date many medical experts say is too optimistic.

He is worried about the nation’s economy, as we all are. Yet, none of us should be willing to sacrifice American lives on the altar of the Dow Jones, allowing older Americans to die if it means we can have a strong economy again. 

These are times when it becomes obvious why we want our presidents not to have any business or financial conflicts of interest while in office. Reportedly, six of Trump’s seven biggest moneymakers have been shut down. Does he want to reopen the economy for the good of America’s bottom line, or to stem his own financial losses? The fact that we even must wonder is tragic. 

Donald Trump has demonstrated that, especially in a crisis, he has no idea how to lead, how to comfort, how to tell us the truth or how to make sound decisions based on facts and what is the greater good. And that makes it paramount to pick a different commander-in-chief in November. 

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.