As the United States braces for the highest point on the epidemiological curve in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the ensuing human and economic costs, many of us are attempting to figure out how the country at the forefront of the first world reached this point. Is China to blame as the point of origin? Are left-wing journalists at fault for unfairly criticizing the government’s response? Or does the Trump administration bear the responsibility?
On the one hand, it is pointless to assign blame for this disaster, as the most useful application of our energy is to find the best path forward, but there is one point at which these two desires intersect and that point is situated squarely on Donald Trump’s shoulders. It will be difficult to properly mobilize the resources of the United States without confronting the blunders the president has made over the past few months and is likely to make in the future.
Trump’s response to the ongoing pandemic exemplifies everything that makes him singularly unqualified for his job. His reflexive gainsaying of anything he hears repeated by people in positions of academic and intellectual authority or by left-leaning news organizations is driven by incredible shallowness, at a moment which requires deep empathy and insight and the will to make hard decisions. You need look no further than that time the President stared directly at the sun during a solar eclipse for a portrait of the man’s psychology. Simply because CNN had told him not to, he felt obligated to endanger his own sight. This might be quite amusing if he were not in a position of authority over the planet’s largest economy and its 350 million citizens.
Clearly some form of intellectual myopia is at play here. Over the past several months, Trump has willfully ignored the warnings of medical experts and the scientific community at large. He dragged his feet, insisting that the virus could be contained after it had clearly broken containment and, against the advice of virtually everyone who was tasked with informing him, took no meaningful action to halt the spread of COVID-19. Just this week, he implied that extensive social distancing might end by Easter Sunday—in flagrant disregard of empirical reality, a concept with which Trump has had an intense and baffling feud for the duration of his political career. As our country’s top elected official busied himself in pointless and time-consuming arguments over the proper name for this virus, his citizens rapidly began sickening and dying.
It’s probably no accident that Trump finally came to his senses and declared a national emergency on 13 March, after the DOW fell almost 4,000 points in two days. Short-term economic interests are the only things that seem to matter to him outside of his personal fame—and those interests probably only matter to him because so much of his personal reputation is wrapped up in his public image as a good businessman. Yet, ironically, Trump’s downplaying of the pandemic will almost certainly lead to serious long-term economic consequences, rendering any concern he may have for the day-to-day vicissitudes of the market moot. Last time I wrote for this publication, I focused on Trump’s fatuous nihilism and declared it his most dangerous quality, but perhaps I didn’t give the man enough credit. He’s demonstrated that he’s more than capable of myopic and reckless disregard for human life. Just recently, his medical advice resulted in the death of an Arizona man and the hospitalization of his wife, after they took an anti-malarial drug, recommended by Trump to treat COVID-19. As a businessman, Trump’s casual lies merely had the potential to bring about economic ruin to a few at a time. Now, they are instruments of life and death and bear on the entire national economy. His inability to speak coherently and forthrightly has never been more dangerous.
With over 400,000 confirmed cases in the United States, this situation has the potential to rapidly spiral out of control. Of course, we don’t even know for sure how many people are infected because of the disastrous failure to roll out nationwide testing, the weeks and months wasted by Trump’s refusal to listen to the CDC and WHO and his refusal of aid from the latter and from Germany.
As a private citizen, the costs of Mr Trump’s public lies were measured in dollars; as president, those costs will be measured in American blood.
In this conversation, there is a sense of the death of the very notion of a common humanity – a humanity, that is, able to communicate, to speak and to listen…..
It’s very disturbing to observe the tenor of the conversation on this comments feed. I don’t understand why there needs to be such intense hatred and absolute lack of civility expressed on both sides of the line. I wonder if it’s got something to do with the notion that everything nowadays has to be political? You had that in the 15th century in Europe, when people went to war over religion, and now it seems people are willing to go to war over a virus. Why do people put so much store in their political convictions? One thing that I notice is those participating in this comments feed seem to care less about truth and more about “being right”. Also reminds me of the bickering of young children in a family; there always has to be one person who “wants to have the last word”. It’s a sad day when… Read more »
For some reason the website isn’t allowing me to make a direct reply, so please consider this a reply to user johntshea. The man in question took Chloroquine which is indeed an anti-malarial drug. Also, *I* didn’t establish the standards on medical and scientific evidence. Clinical trials are the established protocol for this, and we haven’t gone through them with regards to using these drugs to treat COVID-19. Until we do, it’s dangerous to promote them as a proper treatment for the disease because there is no reason to think that they will make a patient’s condition better as opposed to worse.
Very good article. Trump supporters have succeeded in creating a political culture that shields Trump from any and all fact-based criticism. You can also see it in the knee-jerk reactions of the commentariat. I have no idea how they got away with that, but it’s antisocial as fuck and it’s creepy that it works. I’m not American (thank God), but you can even see this garbage dynamic in people outside of the US. Apparently enough propaganda was internationalized that you actually have non-Americans (usually on the far-right fringes) who will defend Trump no matter what he does. These are people who don’t have good arguments, mind you. They have just bought into the idea that people in positions of power ought not to be criticized. Trump supporters have leveraged a strategy of repeated lying, loud anger, constant self-victimization and inversal of responsibility (“Don’t make me do that”), while denying any… Read more »
“On the one hand, it is pointless to assign blame for this disaster, as the most useful application of our energy is to find the best path forward,” followed by five paragraphs of assigning all of the blame to Trump. Take the plank out of your own eye.
When I read something as silly as this article I come away defending Trump. Please don’t make me do that.
It seems that the concentration of idiots creating posts on this site has reached a critical stage.
Although, if this was the goal of the creators of the site, I congratulate them! They got their way!
This was not a good article. Trite straight through.
“Just recently, his medical advice resulted in the death of an Arizona man and the hospitalization of his wife, after they took an anti-malarial drug, recommended by Trump to treat COVID-19.”
President Trump referred to DOCTORS using Hydroxychloroquine and other drugs to save lies. The Arizona couple took a fish-tank cleaning compound which contained a form of hydroxychloroquine and other chemicals obviously not intended for human consumption. If Mr. Derin gets the Coronavirus, I expect he will refuse hydroxychloroquine and die to prove his point.
Yup. That said, I do blame the media, left as well as right, for amplifying his message. There’s no reason to have him on TV at all these days. Or any politician. If the person talking about Covid isn’t a scientist, doctor or at least a professor of statistics, there’s really no reason to listen to them at all. The incentives for politicians as well as cable news talking heads is not the spread of factual information. Politicians, news people and blue check twitter “influencers” are all incentivized by the same thing. Popularity. Doctors and scientists (legitimate ones) are incentivized by facts.
We’ve gotta’ change the incentives before the next pandemic.