President Trump doesn’t want to save lives. He wants to save his bid for reelection.
Ignoring the advice of actual smart people like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the self-proclaimed “smart guy” is talking about loosening the social distancing rules that may provide the only defense against the coronavirus spread. These regulations have all but brought America to a standstill and have sent stocks plummeting.
For a man who has tied two-term aspirations to a once-booming economy, this is shattering news, far more devastating than a pandemic which, World Health Organization officials warn, is accelerating.
So on the same day that COVID-19 claimed more than 100 people, this nation’s largest one-day death toll, Trump pushed for a speedy return to normal life.
“America will, again, and soon, be open for business. Very soon," he said, during his daily briefing/rally. “A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. Lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” As of Tuesday, he was suggesting a “reopening” for as soon as April 12, Easter Sunday.
The president is worse than the disease itself.
As usual, Trump is retreating from his own previous message. When asked last week how long Americans would need to hunker down at home, the president said, “People are talking about July, August — or something like that.” He was probably parroting what he’d been told by someone who fully grasps the depth of this crisis, like Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force.
Since nothing irritates Trump more than professionalism and competence, it’s being reported that Trump is getting tired of Fauci, who neutralizes the president’s dangerous fictions with scientific facts. Whenever the revered doctor isn’t standing near Trump at a briefing, the country’s temperature goes up. Trump doesn’t like being a featured player when he expects to be the only star.
Either Fauci has been sidelined or he simply can’t be that close to the grotesque spectacle of a president telling the nation to do the exact opposite of what most scientists are recommending. Of course, Fox News is already amplifying Trump’s reckless message. “The cure can’t be worse than the disease and we will have to make some difficult trade-offs," Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser, said on Fox. Those “difficult trade-offs” would probably be more people infected and killed by the virus.
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick even suggested that senior citizens, if asked, would be willing to risk their own survival “in exchange for keeping the America that all of America loves for your children and grandchildren.” In other words, grandma and grandpa should sacrifice themselves to COVID-19 to kickstart the economy. A grandfather, Patrick said, “I’m all in.”
Dying for the Dow. This is utter madness.
Eager to make Trump happy, Patrick and his fellow Stepford Republicans remain beholden to corporate profits over people. They ignore the fact that you can’t rebuild a flagging economy on a rising body count. Instead, they’re promoting ideas that threaten to balloon a roiling disaster into an unbridled catastrophe. Without a vaccine, FDA-approved treatments, or accessible, widespread testing, social distancing is the best we’ve got to curb the virus. It cannot be discarded, or even eased.
Fortunately, state and city leaders recognize this, with a growing list issuing stay-at-home advisories and orders. They will lift them on their time line, not the president’s. While they’ve led, Trump dithers and makes unsubstantiated claims about untested drugs. After an Arizona man recently died from ingesting a version of a drug Trump touted, his wife, who was critically injured from taking the drug, said, “Don’t believe anything that the president says . . . call your doctor.”
Trump listens to his ego and answers only to his self-serving agenda. He is immune to any suffering that is not his own. Even his surgeon general continues to urge people to stay home and is warning, “This week it’s going to get bad.”
From the beginning of this crisis, Trump has hindered the nation’s response. Now he wants to unravel it prematurely with his thoughtlessness. Better to take the mournful advice of a woman who, with her husband, listened to Trump and ended up a widow: Don’t believe anything that the president says.
Have a point of view about this? Write a letter to the editor; we’ll publish a select few. (We’re experimenting with alternatives to the comment section for creating online conversation at Globe Opinion over the next month; you can let us know what you think of our experiments here.)
Renée Graham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.