In February, as we now know, President Trump was well awareof the imminent, lethal coronavirus pandemic. “This is deadly stuff” is hardly a dismissive take. But he didn’t want to sound counterproductively alarmist and dire. At a gut level, we get it. He played it down, because he didn’t “want to create a panic.” We get that non-panic part too. It’s part of a president’s uniquely protective purview when an ominous threat happens on his watch.
Then it’s up to the president to act, well, presidential. Think FDR. (Hell, think of a bullhorned George W. Bush in the ashes of the World Trade Center.) The danger is real, but a presidential president can still meaningfully mitigate deadly impact—by reassuring and preparing. It’s not an Apprentice moment. But saying it would “disappear”–not unlike a familiar flu–with the changing of the seasons was a lie. Thus, a misinformed and misguided public was unnecessarily—and negligently—much more vulnerable than it would ever have been. The U.S. death rate would not now be heading toward 200,000 if America had had a leader—not a misleader—during perilous times. It wasn’t political hyperbole for Joe Biden to label it a “life-and-death betrayal of the American people.”
So, this president, who has tested negative for empathy and was likely consumed with stock mark implications for his re-election messaging, dawdled on testing and contact tracing; failed to execute an effective plan for securing protective equipment; and went out of his high-profile-optics way to disparage mask-wearing and social distancing. He failed flagrantly on what would be any president’s ultimate responsibility: protecting the American people. Ironically–and hypocritically–Trump has had no qualms about stoking fear—if not panic—in the white suburbs with his law-and-order, “American carnage” warnings about invading hordes of “anarchists, agitators, looters.”
Then there’s this: Why talk, via 18 on-the-record, recorded conversations, with Bob Woodward—THAT Bob Woodward—who was writing a book on the Trump presidency? Because that’s what a pathological narcissist, who really thinks he can charm anyone–especially a celebrated, iconic author–does. “It actually reflects how deeply insecure he is about his own self-worth,” assessed Trump biographer Tim O’Brien. All of the president’s minions, of course, could never have prevented the fiasco-in-the-making. And Trump became, ironically, his own whistleblower.