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OPINION

Frankly, America, Trump doesn’t give a damn

In a nation rocked by disease, despair, and division, the president is only focused on himself.

President Trump spoke in Cleveland on Thursday.
President Trump spoke in Cleveland on Thursday.JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Arguably, the only vile thing President Trump hasn’t done is shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue. Still, if he suddenly believes it could boost his reelection chances, don’t count it out.

We’re less than three months from the presidential election, and Trump is dragging this wounded nation over broken glass every single day. He wants to win, and doesn’t care at all how he does it. If things look bad now, by November we may recall these impossible days with tender indulgence.

With his poll numbers in a summer swoon, Trump is again undermining the electoral process; squeezing the Postal Service to disable mail-in voting during the pandemic; and firing up his greatest racist hits by disparaging the Black Lives Matter movement and athletes taking a knee to protest police violence and systemic racism.

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During a shambolic telephone interview Wednesday on “Fox & Friends,” Trump’s reelection angst was apparent. He again scapegoated China and stirred anti-Asian sentiments. He stoked his grudges against the late social justice icon Representative John Lewis and (of course) President Obama, whose rousing Lewis eulogy last month excoriated Trump without ever mentioning his name.

Trump insisted, “Nobody’s done better for our Black community than me.” That’s nonsense, but this much is true: He has done plenty in recent years to remind Black people just how much is at stake if he wins a second term.

Yet Trump saves his most grandiose lies for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. Against every imaginable measure, scientific fact, and common sense, he insisted on Fox that the virus will “go away like things go away,” and he’s willing to risk this nation’s children, teachers, staff, and their families to prove his point. He also claimed that kids are “almost immune,” which is blatantly untrue.

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Facebook and Twitter found the comment so egregious that they took the video down from their platforms.

Never mind that some reopened schools closed right back down. After teachers met to plan lessons in Georgia’s largest school district, 260 employees were barred from returning because they either tested positive or were in close proximity to someone who was infected.

Getting kids back into schools, Trump believes, will help his poll numbers. What it may do to their families and communities is irrelevant to him. (Yet Trump seems fine that his son Barron will start his school year remotely.) Even as US coronavirus cases swell toward 5 million, deaths surpass 158,000, and states struggle to keep up, Trump is guided only by his own needs.

Trump could not have stated that more clearly in his interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios. When Swan asked Trump why he claims the virus is under control even as it kills about 1,000 people a day, the president said: “They are dying. That’s true. And it is what it is.”

What it is, Mr. President, is the one of the greatest catastrophes in modern American history, fostered by your incompetence, malice, and cruelty. Few will be left unscarred. And if the polls are to be believed, more people are realizing that even before a vaccine is available, this nation must be inoculated from a second term of your presidency.

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He’s not accentuating the positive. Trump is, as usual, ignoring inconvenient truths. A man fueled by narcissism, and never empathy, is capable of doing or saying anything — like claiming that a vaccine may be ready by Election Day. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a White House Coronavirus Task Force member and infectious disease expert, has said that a vaccine is more likely to be available early next year, and that health regulators were “not going to let political considerations interfere” with their timeline.

It’s also why Trump agreed to pay the full cost for National Guard troops deployed to aid the coronavirus response — but only in Texas and Florida, states crucial to his re-election. The states are run by two of Trump’s favorite gubernatorial toadies, Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida. Other states will receive only 75 percent of their costs.

In a statement, Noam Lee, the Democratic Governors Association’s executive director, said, “With American lives at risk, the President is continuing to manipulate our nation’s pandemic response to benefit his own political fortunes.”

That could be Trump’s campaign slogan, and it likely wouldn’t deter the 50 percent of white people who say they would vote for Trump if the election were held today. That’s what he’s banking on — keeping his base bamboozled by his lies and comforted by his racism. For the rest of us, these will be very unnerving times.

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And this fact, irrefutable for the last 3 1/2 years, will be dangerously amplified in the coming weeks: Frankly, America, Trump doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself.


Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.