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Donald Trump's Willful Failure To Protect America

President Donald Trump speaks in an address to the nation from the Oval Office at the White House about the coronavirus Wednesday, March, 11, 2020, in Washington. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via APl)
President Donald Trump speaks in an address to the nation from the Oval Office at the White House about the coronavirus Wednesday, March, 11, 2020, in Washington. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via APl)

Living in America this week has an escalated anxiety attack unlike anything in recent memory.

It's not just the mounting coronavirus cases that have popped up everywhere from Los Angeles to Massachusetts. It's also the revelation that the Trump administration botched our short-term window for preparing for the viral outbreak and it went out of its way to suppress coronavirus testing for political expediency.

A new, damning report from the New York Times revealed the depths of the Trump administration's negligence.

When early presumptive cases of coronavirus began appearing in Seattle in late January, local doctors who were treating the patients contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to get approval for conducting coronavirus tests. They were told, in short order, to stop what they were doing. Eventually, a handful of these doctors began performing the tests anyway, without a green light from the federal government.

What they found confirmed that coronavirus was spreading in the U.S. between patients with no history of travel to impacted areas like China. This was just a couple weeks ago.

Since then, cases in America have skyrocketed, and so far, at least 38 people have died. And it's excruciating to imagine everything that we could have done to protect ourselves from the virus.

Why would Trump allow the CDC to undermine doctors who saw the red flags and tried to get ahead of this virus before it exploded? The answer, of course, is that Trump's governing mission is to win another term and to avoid embarrassment at all costs.

And it's excruciating to imagine everything that we could have done to protect ourselves from the virus.

His appearance at the CDC offered a window into the president's brain. He openly mulled the idea of keeping Americans stuck on a quarantined cruise ship, because he wanted to keep the number of U.S. coronavirus cases down. (He also put a gag order on health officials who wanted to warn elderly people to avoid air travel.)

When coronavirus cases began rising and the stock market took a nosedive, Trump floated a plan to stabilize the market turbulence by cutting payroll taxes. This is where Trump decided to direct his energies at a moment when hospitals and state health departments across the nation were begging the federal government to send them kits to test for the virus.

But the most demoralizing move from Trump came late last night.

In a national television address from the Oval Office, Trump congratulated himself for the federal government's response to the coronavirus, while saying nothing about the shortage of testing kits.

Americans were looking for leadership and reassurance that their communities would be receiving all the resources they need to treat and contain the virus. Instead, the president made the address about his own insecurities and ineptitude. He plugged his payroll tax relief idea once again, and declared a shutdown of travel between Europe and the United States for 30 days, which public health experts say makes little sense in terms of coronavirus protection. That was it.

I watched this address in kind of a trance of disbelief. Maybe it was recent influx of stories from South Korea, Japan and other countries that have mounted impressive containment responses to the coronavirus. The distance between what those countries have done, and what Trump has deliberately chosen not to do, is staggering and horrifying.

Congress needs to invoke the 25th Amendment immediately and remove Donald Trump from office — for everyone's sake.

Easier said than done, of course. Mitch McConnell's majority of Senate Republicans has stood by Trump through each abuse of power, and even now, with a pandemic sweeping the world and America's public health in serious jeopardy, it's unlikely that McConnell and Co. would turn on Trump now.

Senate Republicans wouldn't pass a bill to extend paid sick leave to workers impacted by the coronavirus. And up until today McConnell wasn't inclined to pass any coronavirus legislative packages until after the Senate's upcoming recess. (He reversed course and canceled that recess this afternoon.) Plus, Mike Pence and a majority of Trump's cabinet members would have to send Congress a letter expressing no confidence in Trump's ability to manage this crisis, before Congress could invoke the 25th.

So, I get it: removing Trump seems impossible.

But isn't that nuts? Has Trump's “sociopathic” governance (Chris Hayes' words, not just mine) afflicted us so deeply that even the possibility of Congress doing its job seems out of reach?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the chamber after announcing he has canceled the Senate recess next week, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the chamber after announcing he has canceled the Senate recess next week, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

In theory, Congress exists to protect us from an executive like Trump — an executive who neglects their duty to uphold civil society in America. Trump's suppression of coronavirus studies and his hindering of containment efforts is one of the worst, most contemptible things that any American president has done to the American people. And his refusal to get with the program and let health experts call the shots puts us in further danger.

Trump is our greatest obstacle to beating the coronavirus, and this is why Congress must get him out now.

I have no illusion that this will actually happen. But we're not even talking about it. Instead, we're essentially Trump's prisoners, vulnerable to whatever decision he makes next.

Testing kits still haven't been sent out en masse. More people are getting sick each day. And Trump continues to downplay the risk of coronavirus exposure. He is putting all of us in danger to preserve his own power and ego.

I don't know how we rouse more American citizens and elected officials from the waking nightmare we've been in. But losing people we love has a way of doing that, and that is the logical destination of the path that Trump has put us on. We need to recognize this. Congress needs to act on this. Because if they don't, Trump will have effectively gotten away with murder.

Just like he once claimed he could.

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Miles Howard Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Miles Howard is a freelance writer who covers culture, travel and transformational politics.

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