To Hell with Donald Trump
By Will Holland '20
The coronavirus crisis has proved that it is time for a real president.
It’s all fun and games until a global pandemic hits. In the past month, President Trump’s usual antics of bashing the media, taunting political opponents, and making false promises have endangered the social and public health of the nation at a time when competent leadership is needed more than ever. His trivial arguments with Democratic governors and torrent of daily falsehoods have revealed the president to be uniquely unprepared for a crisis of this magnitude and have reminded all Americans of his inherent inability to provide responsible leadership.
Because of President Trump’s childish behavior and refusal to combat the virus in its early stages, the United States is currently looking at months of mitigation measures before life returns to normal. Ironically, it was Donald Trump who confidently declared in mid-March that “nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion.” While that may have been true for him, to many members of the scientific community and his own administration, the danger posed by COVID-19 had been obvious for many months.
The Washington Post has reported that multiple intelligence officials had warned the president of the virus as early as mid-January. One official who spoke anonymously to the Post said that “Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it.” Remarkably, as President Trump was dismissing concerns of the intelligence community, he was praising China’s handling of the virus (a handling that was marked by ignorance, lies, and coverups).
The Trump Administration did make one logical decision during this process. In early February, it imposed severe restrictions on travel to and from China. However, the president soon squandered the extra time provided by this move. For most of the month of February, as the disease spread rapidly in Italy and South Korea, the president did absolutely nothing to prepare the United States for the coming health emergency and subsequent economic downturn. What could have been a period of procuring medical equipment, mandating social distancing, and readying economic stimulus was instead spent by the president reveling in the stock market’s gains, attacking socialism, and calling coronavirus the Democrats’ “new hoax.”
All the while, administration officials made a series of statements that demonstrated their own naïve approach to the issue. Larry Kudlow, the Director of the National Economic Council, said in February that the United States had “contained” the virus, and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said that coronavirus would actually accelerate job growth within the United States (in the third week of April, the number of cases was increasing at an exponential rate and over twenty million workers had filed for unemployment benefits).
When it did come time to at last take decisive action, President Trump gave an Oval Office speech on March 11 to announce his administration’s efforts to halt the disease’s spread. However, the speech only added to the confusion as the president made a series of statements that his advisors soon had to walk back. He said that the United States would ban all goods coming from Europe. That was false. He said that all travelers coming from Europe would be prohibited from entering the country. That was false. He said that health care providers would waive fees for those infected with COVID-19. That was false.
Since that speech, President Trump has continued to over-promise and under-deliver. On March 6, the president said that “anyone who wants a test can get a test,” a claim that was not true then and is not true now. Even though most experts say that extensive testing is required before the country can reopen, the Trump Administration has visibly fumbled its attempt to boost the amount of tests available. For example, the White House pledged to conduct four million COVID-19 tests by March 9, but only cleared that number in late April.
On April 16, the Trump Administration outlined a series of steps to an eventual reopening of the country. Finally, the president seemed to be trying his hand at a unifying response to the pandemic. He allowed for governors to decide when to roll back social distancing guidelines and retreated from his previous assertion that the president’s “authority is total.” Yet, the very next day, after seeing coverage of anti-quarantine protests on Fox News, the president tweeted out to his more than 70 million followers that they should “LIBERATE” the states of Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia. These three states are alike in that they all have Democratic governors who have imposed harsh restrictions on civilian life in order to stop the spread of the virus. In language that sounded more like a call for insurrection than a logical plan to restart the American economy, the president undermined his own administration’s effort to project stability and potentially endangered law enforcement across the country.
Later that month, of course, President Trump wondered aloud if doctors could inject ultraviolet light or disinfectant, such as Clorox, into Americans’ bodies. This idea was so laughably absurd that it seemed as if the President were parroting a month-old story from the satirical news website The Onion, wherein President Trump suggested that people should drink bleach to fight off COVID-19. After receiving both criticism and ridicule from both sides of the aisle, President Trump backed off his claim and said that he was only being “sarcastic.” Apparently his sense of humor did not rub off on some of his supporters, many of whom called state health departments to ask if consuming disinfectant could indeed yield immunity to coronavirus.
While the president’s behavior is alarming, it cannot be surprising. In 2016, Americans elected to the presidency a failed casino magnate who claimed he knew “more about ISIS than the generals” and called the theory of climate change a “Chinese hoax.” That Donald Trump continues to ignore the advice of experts and eschew scientific findings is in keeping with a pattern of selfish behavior that is tailored for the tabloids of New York City, not the halls of the White House.
Despite the image that he seeks to cast as a strong and formidable leader, the past few months suggest that it would be imprudent to view Donald Trump as anything more than an aging real estate tycoon and former playboy who is entirely out of his league in the world of bureaucracy. He is not up to the task of taking the coronavirus crisis seriously, for he is by nature a very unserious person. One need only look at his record of playing down the threat posed by the virus, making unrealistic promises about his response, and taunting his political opponents as they work to lead the country out of this crisis to conclude that the president is shockingly immature, pointlessly vindictive, exceptionally cantankerous, grossly incompetent, gleefully ignorant, hopelessly narcissistic, and utterly unsuited for the job of Commander-in-Chief.
Fortunately for the American people, and for the cause of democracy, there will be a referendum on his job performance this coming November. President Trump enters his reelection fight the weakest incumbent in modern political history, trailing his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, by an average of six points. Donald Trump has beat the odds and defied conventional wisdom before, but never before has this country been immersed in a hellacious crisis reared on the shoulders of its president’s own ineptitude. For this reason, it can be hoped that the American people will render a clear verdict on Donald Trump’s presidency by removing him from the office he was never fit to hold.