Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis continues to be criminally reckless.
Saturday night in Tulsa, Trump revealed he urged his administration to slow down testing of the virus. His goal is to depress the official number of cases and give the nation a false sense of security through the smaller tally, thus boosting his reelection chances.
It’s par for the course for a failed leader who didn’t grasp the gravity of the crisis at the start, peddled dangerous information to a worried public in the spring and is now pushing for a complete reopening of society in the summer. At every turn, Trump’s bad decisions have endangered lives.
We now know from John Bolton’s book that the president calculates his every move based on how he perceives it affects his reelection chances. That’s why his intentional incompetence in this matter has been so curious. Presidents are judged by their ability to manage crises, increasing the chances they get reelected when they do it right.
It’s in Trump’s best interest to guide the country through the pandemic with intelligent, science-based leadership. The key to virus economics is first you have to get control of the virus, University of Chicago Economics Professor Austan Goolsbee has repeatedly said. Had Trump done that, his approval numbers would have skyrocketed, along with his chances of victory in November.
Instead, Trump had a misguided belief that a strong economy was his only path to winning, and that has influenced every bad decision. First, he downplayed the virus for weeks. Then, his administration couldn’t get an adequate number of tests provided to health-care facilities, leading to official virus numbers that did not reflect reality. From there, he pushed for packed churches by Easter during a time when nearly the entire country was locked down. He then advocated for a premature nationwide reopening.
As a result, we are seeing virus cases spiral out of control in Republican-led states like Florida, Texas and Arizona, where the president’s opinion carries weight with state government officials. More than 120,000 Americans have perished in just four months, a death toll higher than this country experienced in World War I.
Now, Trump is touring the nation, inviting his supporters to do everything in their power to get sick. At least eight of his advance staff from Saturday’s disastrous Tulsa rally have already tested positive for the novel coronavirus, with more sure to come, including those who attended the event and then went home to their families.
Today, he is in Arizona, where he will be hosted by two kooks who are telling their parishioners that they have installed a magical filtration system in their megachurch that kills the virus in 10 minutes. From there, it will be onto Wisconsin for yet another potential super-spreading event.
All the while, Trump wants fewer tests so the public perceives the situation isn’t so bad. Slowing down testing doesn’t mean there are fewer cases. It just means we don’t know where the cases are and can’t contain outbreaks. When you test, infected people can successfully quarantine, preventing the spread. Trump’s childlike inability to grasp the importance of this has and will continue to have fatal consequences.
As long as the virus spreads like a wildfire, the economy won’t recover, and the public will continue to lose confidence and faith in the president.
And Trump will have failed on all fronts.