A tiger can’t change its stripes, and Donald Trump can’t change his essential inability to chose the right decision no matter what situation he finds himself in.
Anyone hoping that the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic disaster would elicit some previously unfound depths of intelligence, rationality, and beneficence in the president was always certain to be disappointed when the same proudly uninformed, injudicious, and misanthropic Trump continued his self-absorbed obsessions with his own ego and managed the crisis more for his own benefit than in the public interest.
Trump’s behavior since the very beginnings of the coronavirus outbreak has been self-serving, starting with his initial downplaying of the dangers the pandemic posed and continuing through the supposed pivot to treating the crisis seriously wherein he has continued to spread false hope about untested cures while fretting more about how the economic catastrophe accompanying the medically required shutdown of most non-essential businesses in the country will affect his reelection chances (with the possibility of post-presidential prosecution potentially lingering in the back of his mind.)
It should come as no surprise then that the president tweeted out an all-caps cry of frustration at the extreme measures of social distancing and quarantine that have shut down much of the commerce in the nation and devastated both the stock market and Trump’s most important campaign marketing message, his claim of responsibility for the growing economy that he inherited from Barack Obama.
WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2020
Trump’s tweet elicited paroxysms of horror from health officials — including the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci — who fear that Trump will arbitrarily end the extreme policies keeping people indoors and isolated from each other that — while economically difficult — are the only method to stop the spread of the vicious virus and prevent an increase in both the infection rate and the subsequent death toll.
Even normally reliable Trump boot-licker Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has urged the president against ignoring the advice of medical experts and listening to his economic advisors instead.
“It would be a major mistake to suggest any change of course when it comes to containment,” Graham told The Washington Post in an interview. “I just spoke with Dr. Fauci — he believes that if anything we should be more aggressive and do more. … You can’t have a functioning economy if you have hospitals overflowing. People aren’t going to go to work like that.”
Dr. Fauci has been doing his best to counter the misinformation about the pandemic and potential solutions disseminated by the president with actual facts but admitted in an interview with Science magazine on Sunday that he can only so so much.
“I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” Fauci said, according to the interview. “OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time,” he continued.
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of Harvard’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, told the newspaper that Trump was on the wrong course if he advocates an early end to social restrictions.
“We haven’t yet even seen signs that the growth is slowing, much less reversing. Now is the time to tighten restrictions on contacts that could transmit the virus, not loosen them,” Lipsitch said. “If we let up now we can be virtually certain that health care will be overwhelmed in many if not all parts of the country. This is the view of every well-informed infectious epidemiologist I know of.”
While the president’s tweet brought plenty of blowback from medical professionals who pointed out that saving lives was a more important aim than salvaging his reelection bid, Trump doubled down on his outburst by retweeting it 12 hours later to make sure no one would miss his impatient deadline.
CNN‘s diligent fact-checker Daniel Dale proved that the direct pipeline between the Fox News airwaves and Trump’s brain was still fully operational by showing the likely origins of the president’s tweet in a Fox News broadcast last evening.
Fox News host Steve Hilton last night: “You know that famous phrase, ‘The cure is worse than the disease’? That’s exactly the territory we’re hurtling towards.”
Trump later last night: “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” pic.twitter.com/yoNL2ca5ey
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) March 23, 2020
Perhaps if we had a president who would get his information and make crucial decisions after reading detailed intelligence briefings summarizing the opinions of experts instead of parroting Fox News’ radical right-wing copywriters we wouldn’t be as far into the exponential spread of the coronavirus as we currently are and would actually have enough testing kits to determine the true extent of the contagion.
Alas, we don’t. We have Trump, at least for the time being, and we are paying for that foolish decision by a small minority of voters in a handful of swing states with the lives of Americans all across the country as a result.