March 31, 2020 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Trump’s Acquittal Is Making the Pandemic Worse
He was tried for putting his interests above the nation’s. Why stop now?
There’s a fake argument circulating that goes something like this. The president isn’t to blame for the coronavirus pandemic that has now killed more Americans than were murdered on Sept. 11, 2001. Instead, the Democrats are to blame. They distracted Donald Trump with their pointless impeachment and failed attempt to remove him.
The “lost month,” as the Times called it, wasn’t the result of indifference, paranoia and/or dereliction of duty on the part of the chief executive but instead the result of petty partisanship and senseless hate of a president fighting for the American people.
At this rate, the US body count might eclipse the number who died fighting in World War II.
Or something like that. It’s hard to say. These talking points are never well-thought. Just speaking them, as if they were spells and incantations, is what matters to the sycophants, golems and ghouls the president enjoys surrounding himself with.
In any case, we know the truth.
US intelligence officials briefed Trump in early January, warning that a contagion was coming the likes of which we have never seen before. The president did nothing. Senators from both parties were briefed in early February. They urged Trump to ask for emergency funding to counteract COVID-19’s spread. The president did nothing.
On Saturday, the US death toll reached 2,000. Three days later, it reached 3,000. Sept. 11, 2001, had 2,977 victims. At this rate the body count might actually eclipse the number of Americans who died fighting in World War II (about 300,000). Indeed, that seems likely. The White House’s point-person, Dr. Deborah Birx, told the Today show Monday we can expect as many as 200,000 dead “if we do things almost perfectly.”
The fake argument gets something right, though. It gets right the connection between the president’s acquittal and his malign negligence. Think about it for a minute.
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He was acquitted of treason (extorting a foreign leader so he’d interfere with an election). He was acquitted of sabotage (undermining the constitutional authority of the Congress.) Thanks to the GOP, there’s virtually nothing Trump has to do to honor his oath to defend the US from all enemies. There’s nothing he has to do to “take care” that our laws are faithfully executed. Nothing, because who’s going to make him?
Well, public opinion might. That can be addressed by signing into law (so far) three rounds of stimulus that will shovel mountains of cash into the economy, buoying Wall Street confidence and keeping high the Dow and S&P 500. That can also be addressed by preventing the public from knowing how many people are dead from COVID-19.
If that means malicious lying, so be it. It that means prohibiting hospitals from getting tests, ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE), so be it. If that means subverting states’ rights and sovereignty, so be it. If that means mass death, so be it. Trump was acquitted of putting his interests above the nation’s. Why stop now?
The Times reported a phone call Monday in which the governors, Republican and Democrats, confirmed two vital facts. One, that the federal government has been outbidding states with vendors selling tests, ventilators and PPE. Two, and at the same time, the federal government has not provided states with enough tests, ventilators and PPE. “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem,” Trump said, which is code for, “I don’t want to hear about testing being a problem so I literally won’t hear it.”
The only people left in America capable of surprise are those who voted for Donald Trump’s promise to punish the right people for the fun it.
Yes, Trump will block the states from getting coronavirus testing in order to keep the national number of dead artificially low. Yes, that’s a terrible thing to presume of one’s president, but seriously. What did you expect? Is any of this all that surprising?
This is the same president who ordered the confiscation of babies from immigrant mothers; who banned Muslims from entering the US from certain countries; who attacked civil liberties and undermined impartial justice; who inspired acts of antisemitism, racism and mass murder; who stole daily from public coffers; and who got away with treason, complaining all the while that he doesn’t get enough credit.
The only people left in America capable of surprise are those who voted for his promise to punish people for the fun it. The only people left in America capable of surprise are those who don’t think it’s fun anymore, not when they are getting punished. They might say what a Trump voter said about a year ago: “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”
Don’t think Trump is in trouble with his base, though. It’s as masochistic as it is sadistic. The GOP itself has a high tolerance for high frequency death, even if Republicans are among the dead. After all, gun massacres happen in red states, too. Instead of tightening their gun laws, however, they seek to loosen them more.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.