Press: For Trump, it’s just one more political campaign
Almost anybody in Washington will tell you: No matter what happens, no matter where in the country, it all boils down to which party it helps, Republican or Democrat? It’s always and only about politics. But they’re dead wrong.
Yes, politics is the dominant factor most of the time, but sometimes there are also events that transcend politics – and, in dealing with them, times when political leaders must put politics aside.
The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster wasn’t about politics. Neither was Oklahoma City, or Sept. 11, or Sandy Hook. After each of those tragedies, the Congress and Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Obama put party differences aside in order to lead and unite the nation in grief and determination, moving forward.
But not Donald Trump. The sad fact is that today, facing one of the most serious crises this nation has ever faced, Donald Trump has proven himself incapable of rising above partisan politics. He views the coronavirus pandemic the same way he saw the Mueller investigation and the impeachment trial: as nothing more than one more political campaign. It’s all about him and reelection.
Admittedly, that strategy worked for Trump in the Mueller probe and impeachment. Even though they both transcended partisan politics – Mueller was investigating attempts by a foreign power to interfere in an American election, plus multiple attempts by the president to obstruct justice; impeachment was about Trump’s bribing a foreign leader into, again, meddling in the outcome of an American election. Nevertheless, with the help of feckless Republican allies in Congress, Trump successfully painted both efforts as nothing but a Democratic Party-invented plot, combined with the help of members of the “Deep State,” to deny him a second term.
He’s charged into battle against the coronavirus crisis the same way, in fact initially linking it to the Mueller investigation, telling a South Carolina campaign rally on Feb. 28: “They tried the impeachment hoax. They tried anything…They lost. It’s all turning. Think of it. Think of it. And this is their new hoax.”
As the virus has proved to be anything but a “hoax,” Trump still treats it like a political campaign. Even though members of his own administration warned him about the coronavirus in late January and he took no action till mid-March, Trump still takes no responsibility for his delayed and muddled response, blaming it instead on his political enemies: Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, the media, the World Health Organization, Democrats in Congress, China and, of course, Joe Biden.
He still holds daily campaign rallies to brag about what a great job he’s doing, he’s just moved them to the White House briefing room. And he’s hailed protestors wearing MAGA hats and attacking governors for ordering self-distancing the White House itself has encouraged, as (shades of Charlottesville!) “great people.”
But Trump’s politicization of the pandemic is bound to backfire. For two reasons. One, because the American people understand: This is not about politics. This is about life and death. At this point, the next election doesn’t matter. What matters is how many lives are saved.
Two, by making coronavirus a campaign issue, Trump guarantees the 2020 election will be decided on one issue only: How quickly and how well did Donald Trump respond to the coronavirus? With more cases and more deaths in the United States than any other country, with 22 million Americans out of work, with the economy in worse shape since the Great Depression, can anyone honestly say he’s done a great job?
Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”
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