Donald Trump is fiddling as America burns — and coronavirus cases double again

Donald Trump is fiddling as America burns — and coronavirus cases double again
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, receives a briefing update on Hurricane Dorian as it approaches the U.S. mainland Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

With a pandemic disease sweeping around the globe and the United States notching new cases from coast to coast, what the nation desperately needs is leadership. The nation needs consistency and transparency in reporting. It needs strong action in preparing for disruptions in services and daily lives. It needs someone to step up and make difficult decisions that place the national interest ahead of a pretense of normality.


Unfortunately, what we have instead is Donald Trump.

And that means that the nation is lurching forward without key information, without critical planning, and without any idea of where to turn for accurate information that informs personal decisions. Instead, Trump is busy blaming Barack Obama, tweeting jokes about Mike Bloomberg, and bragging that he hasn’t killed 13,000 people … yet.

UPDATE: Thursday, Mar 5, 2020 · 6:58:49 PM Eastern Standard Time · Mark Sumner

And now it’s 221 cases, with cases in Colorado, Massachusetts, Texas, Illinois … but don’t worry. Donald Trump is still more popular than the Black Death. So it’s okay.

The number of Americans who have confirmed infections of 2019 novel coronavirus leaped again, with 31 new cases and another death in Washington state, four new cases in Los Angeles, and cases in Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle, New York … Meanwhile, Donald Trump was still refusing to acknowledge the actual number of cases, and genuinely bragging about “only” 11 deaths. Those 11 deaths give the United States one of the highest case fatality rates in the world—worse than China, and far worse than South Korea. Trump also claimed that his “quick action on closing our borders” was responsible for keeping numbers low.

They’re not low. He never closed the borders. And Trump’s whole campaign of trying to “win” coronavirus is murder, and on an epic scale.

There has never been a moment when Donald Trump wasn’t more concerned with ratings than truth. Whether it’s a State of the Union message, a congressional hearing, or a funeral, the first place Trump turns is the television ratings. Anything, no matter how outrageous, is good if it scores TV eyeballs. So it shouldn’t be surprising that, rather than announcing any action to deal with the threat or providing Americans with any facts they can use, Trump spent Thursday afternoon claiming that Gallup “just gave us the highest rating ever for the way we are handling the CoronaVirus situation.”

Trump appears to be referring to a report that Gallup published on Feb. 20—a report in which just 31% of Americans expressed a “high confidence” in the government’s ability to deal with coronavirus at a time when there were only 15 cases in the United States and over 99% of all cases were still in a single region of China. As an example of how little Americans understood about the virus at that point, 34%—more than the number who though the U.S. could handle it—believed that coronavirus would have no impact at all on the world economy. People were literally less concerned about the coronavirus at the point this survey was made than they were about West Nile Virus.

What matters to Trump is that people felt the government was more prepared for dealing with this outbreak than they were for swine flu. Trump refers to this as the “April 2009-10 Swine Flu, where nearly 13,000 people died.” In fact, the 2009-2010 flu season in the United States began early and ran long. Barack Obama came into office in the middle of a global pandemic, on top of the economic collapse. But it wasn’t as if Obama was dealing with the flu season, and then also the swine flu. It was just that the 2009-2010 season’s flu was an H1N1 flu. Even so, total flu deaths in the 2009-2010 season were actually less than they were in 2018-2019.

None of which really matters, because Trump isn’t trying to relay anything substantive. He’s just trying to hold himself up as the “winner.” The Gallup poll said people thought the government was more prepared for this disease than for swine flu so … Trump wins! Suck it, 12 (and counting) dead Americans.

Meanwhile, chaotic doesn’t begin to describe the messaging coming out of the White House. Even on a question as simple as when tests will be available, the answer has bounced all over the place in a single day: A million tests are going to be available. The tests are in the mail. No they’re not. Yes they are. But as far as Trump’s PR campaign goes, not having any tests out there is a good thing. What Americans don’t know is always good for Trump.

This level of chaos is literally killing Americans. Right now. In numbers. It is leaving people without the information they need to know what they should do to protect themselves or their families. It’s leaving businesses without the guidance they need to handle the crisis. It’s leaving the nation without either the materials or services it requires to make this happen.

Donald Trump is only interested in how this affects his polls (answer: not good), but Trump’s failure to step up as a leader is making the situation worse in every possible way.

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