Anthony Scaramucci

Vaccine disinformation and partisan politics are literally killing us

More than 615,000 Americans have died during this life-changing pandemic. In recent weeks, the delta variant of the coronavirus has led to a dramatic increase in infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Even with the widespread availability of vaccines, we have not been smart enough, determined enough or strong enough to finally defeat this public emergency. If we could successfully put a man on the moon 50 years ago, surely we can figure out how to eradicate this virus. But we have not.

The first vaccine was rolled out last December. Two more were available soon thereafter. Yet just 50% of all Americans are fully vaccinated as of now. This fact is both alarming and tragic. It is alarming because Americans do not seem to understand the importance of immunization in defeating the coronavirus. It is tragic because this painful and sorrowful pandemic will not be stamped out soon at this rate.

Vaccines are the safest and most effective way to end the pandemic. This is not opinion. This is a scientific, medical fact — a certainty. But it will take reaching herd immunity to accomplish this goal. And, according to public health experts, upward of 90% of Americans will have to be fully vaccinated before COVID-19 in all its variant forms is effectively expunged.

Two major roadblocks have interfered with our ability to win this pandemic war.

First, the pandemic and the vaccines have been politicized from the very beginning. Responses to both have been a litmus test for devotion to a particular political party. Republicans, as a group, have downplayed the pandemic, have undervalued the need for mitigation measures and have been reluctant to get vaccinated. Democrats, by contrast, have acknowledged the severity of the pandemic, have utilized mitigation measures and have eagerly been vaccinated. The best predictor of whether a person has been vaccinated is his or her political affiliation. That is the essence of politicization.

Second, misinformation about the pandemic and vaccines has been counterproductive to our national response. Millions of Americans still believe the pandemic is overblown. Millions of anti-vaxxers hold the belief that our vaccines are untested, unsafe or ineffective. Misinformation has been largely promulgated by Republican elected officials and by right-wing news outlets. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, have also allowed dangerous misinformation to spread. Science and medicine have been cast aside. Public health experts have been ignored.

That combination of politicization and misinformation has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, a wrecked economy, widespread anxiety and depression and a lack of accurate understanding of the usefulness of vaccines. We now have an undefeated pandemic and a coronavirus variant that is spreading like wildfire among the unvaccinated. If we do not reach herd immunity soon, vaccine-resistant variants are all too likely to emerge and kill millions more. The lambda variant, for example, may be vaccine-resistant.

We are calling for a coordinated effort by political and medical leaders to address these two problematic influences in our country. All political leaders need to make clear in their words and deeds that vaccinations are not a partisan issue. Elected Republican officials need to encourage their supporters to be vaccinated as soon as possible. Medical experts need to continue to inform the public about the safety and effectiveness of our vaccines. Herd immunity is a concept poorly understood by many Americans — but it's absolutely crucial, because we must reach that level of nationwide immunization that will finally end this pandemic. That is an achievable goal. But to achieve that goal in the shortest amount of time, vaccination mandates in our states, cities, schools, colleges and businesses are almost certainly necessary.

Our country has an illustrious history of vaccinations, and we shouldn't forget that. Over the decades we have successfully eradicated smallpox, diphtheria, polio, measles and mumps. They have effectively been wiped out. We were only able to get rid of these diseases because the American people accepted vaccines and were immunized in sufficient numbers to reach herd immunity. Vaccines were not an instrument of partisan politics, and not surrounded by so much disruptive information.

What we know is that 615,000 deaths and counting is unacceptable in a powerful and prosperous country. It is inconceivable that we continue to witness this kind of death and destruction. It is absolutely within our grasp to turn the tide and defeat this pandemic. But doing that requires eliminating partisan politics and deliberate misinformation from our national strategy. Our attitudes and behaviors must be guided by science and medicine. If that seems a daunting challenge at the moment, we must recognize that nothing short of that will work.

Here's how we can neutralize Trump during his dangerous last month in office

His diagnosis is clear. The remedies for his pernicious impact on America are clear as well.

In just over a month from now, Donald Trump — a malignant narcissist — will be removed from office by the will of the people and by the Constitution. Until then, his seditious, conspiratorial and corrupt influence will be front and center. He continues to promulgate the false narrative that victory in the election was snatched away from him by widespread voter fraud. He keeps filing baseless and frivolous lawsuits, even as high as the U.S. Supreme Court. He is ginning up his supporters, and at least 126 congressional Republicans have publicly supported him, out of a combination of misguided loyalty, opportunism and fear. Joe Biden will be our next president, but it is undeniable that Trump will exert a dangerous and destructive presence to his final day in office, and beyond.

It is unhealthy for us to sit back passively and allow this soon-to-be ex-president to continue to inflict damage on America. Trump's abusive impact is not unavoidable. It can be stopped.

Ten remedies exist to deal with Trump in his final days.

  1. The media must stop giving him attention. They must stop covering his every utterance. No more videos, audios, print stories or interviews. Attention is Trump's oxygen and lifeblood. He cannot negatively influence others if his visibility is curtailed or ended. If Trump organizes an alternative inauguration or a "campaign rally" on Jan. 20, it must not be broadcast or covered in any way. Bizarre and anti-American activities must not be given credibility. It must remain a part of his pathological fantasyland — not a part of our political and social reality.
  2. Americans can do their part by not watching or listening to him. Turn off the television and the radio. Do not watch him on social media. He is old news. He is irrelevant. His message must be abhorred and soundly repudiated.
  3. His Twitter account should be suspended. Stopping his Twitter activity would go a long way to neutralizing his impact. Trump tweets frequently — it is his most direct way to stay in contact with the public. His tweeting must be interrupted for the good of the country.
  4. Facebook and other social media platforms must do a better job of rooting out disinformation. Trump supporters have been ramped up by false and toxic rhetoric. That is unhealthy for them, and for the country. Making money as a business is one thing; contributing to seditious unrest in the country is another. Social media platforms must assume a more responsible role in our democracy.
  5. The mainstream media needs to allow mental health professionals to speak out. Experts have been almost entirely blocked out. It is long overdue to hear from professionals in the mental health field. Duty to warn the public is far more compelling than the outdated "Goldwater rule." Let experts be at the forefront of the discussion about this destructive and irrational traitor.
  6. Congressional Republicans need to put country over party and begin to speak out — loudly and forcefully. They need to abide by their oath of office. They need to find courage and boldness in Trump's final days. They must condemn his anti-democratic rhetoric and behavior. Loyalty to him is unacceptable. Fear of him is weakness.
  7. A small group of congressional Republicans need to speak with Trump in private and compel him to stop his rhetoric, concede the election and participate in the peaceful and orderly transfer of power. That's what Sen. Barry Goldwater and other Republican leaders did with Richard Nixon at the end of his presidency. These Republicans would be remembered as heroes.
  8. If Trump does not heed the private warning, he should be publicly asked to resign. Invoking the 25th Amendment remains a viable option.
  9. Trump needs to resign and allow Mike Pence to finish out the last few weeks of his term. He may well do this anyway, so that Pence can pardon Trump and his entire family. Regardless of how distasteful that is, it would at least get him out of the Oval Office and extricate ourselves from his dictatorial maneuvers.
  10. Finally, Americans should speak out and contact their elected officials to let them know that it is time for Trump to either shut his mouth or resign. Let your opinions be known. Being a citizen in a representative democracy requires active participation. Make a phone call or send an email.

It's fine that Trump does not want to attend the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. He does not deserve to witness it. We should demand that he slither away through the back door of the White House so that we do not have to endure his parting rants and raves.

The Trump nightmare is coming to an end. Let us hasten his exit from the scene. He has done too much damage to our institutions and to the collective psyche of America to tolerate this any longer.

Achieving a sense of closure from this man's malevolence will take time. It will not happen overnight. His pathological impact will dwindle slowly as we go forward. Positive, optimistic and hopeful political discourse will lead the way. We cannot remain hostage to his era of divisiveness and regressive decay.

Trump must be held accountable. He must be prosecuted for his crimes. That is the only way to demonstrate to all Americans — both those who support him and those who do not — that his criminal behavior has serious consequences.

Trump has done this to himself. He is not the victim. He uses victimhood to garner sympathy and to enlist the support of others who feel aggrieved. Victimhood is a deeply cynical process when it is false, fake and manipulative. It always is for him.

Trump's place in the history books is set. "Worst president in history" will be in every first and last paragraph. It will be his unchanging legacy.

So let us put Donald Trump in the rearview mirror sooner rather than later, where he belongs. As we do that, let us remember the 300,000 fallen Americans who will not be celebrating the holiday season, or our new dawn in America, with the rest of us. Their memories will be a constant reminder of what we have endured — and overcome.

ALAN D. BLOTCKY

Alan D. Blotcky, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Birmingham, Alabama.

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SETH D. NORRHOLM

Seth D. Norrholm is an associate professor of psychiatry in the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit.

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ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI

Anthony Scaramucci is a financier and past White House director of communications. He lives in Washington.

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Trump's disordered psyche cannot handle his loss — and he must be stopped from wreaking havoc now

Jan. 20 cannot get here fast enough. Donald Trump is running wild with his disingenuous and false proclamations of a rigged election, rampant voter fraud and a stolen victory. Unbelievably, he is now claiming that the FBI and Department of Justice contributed to his fantastical claims of voter fraud. We have 50 days to go to survive this madman's deceitful and harmful rhetoric.

Let us be clear: Joe Biden won the election fair and square in what has arguably been the most scrutinized election in recent U.S. history. Trump has filed baseless and frivolous lawsuits and not a shred of evidence of massive voter fraud has been offered. In fact, his attorneys, with their bar licenses on the line, have repeatedly stated on the record, "This is not a fraud case." Yet Trump persists with his attention-seeking rants and raves.

Trump has lost. His psyche cannot handle the reality of the moment — that he has been repudiated by the American people. He is embarrassed, humiliated and scared, quite likely because he knows he is facing federal and state criminal charges once he leaves office. Trump is desperately trying to hold onto power to save his own hide. This is about his self-preservation. This is about him hiding out in the Oval Office so that he can avoid incarceration. To be sure, Trump's desperation is a confession-of-sorts of his wrongdoing.

Donald Trump is our outgoing president. He is old news. His voice is irrelevant. He has lost the bully pulpit. He should be packing his bags. He should be out of view. He should be saying goodbye and making plans for his life as a civilian.

We should not be giving Trump air time over the next 50 days. His lies, conspiracy theories and fake assertions are toxic. His Twitter account should be suspended or canceled. Television networks should not air his blather. He should not be quoted in newspapers or on websites. We should stop talking about him at the dinner table at home, with co-workers or in our online interactions. He needs to be out of our minds and out of the public consciousness.

Just like a screaming and defiant young child, Trump needs to be put in timeout — indefinitely. He should be silenced. He should be sequestered. We must not allow him to have the attention he thrives on — and any attention is positive reinforcement to him. The media must not allow his virulent voice to be heard.

Frankly, the media must stop normalizing his behavior, must stop trying to fit an ordered framework around his mentally disordered mind, and must stop using charming, storytelling descriptions such as "Mad King." The damage from this reckless and unfit president will be felt for decades. A necessary first step is to cut off the source.

Joe Biden is our future. He and Kamala Harris are the adults in the room who will provide strong and empathic leadership. The media should attend to their ideas, their plans and their expectations. Unity, inclusiveness and honesty is their mantra going forward. Let's give them our eyes and our ears. They deserve our full engagement now.

Trump should not be allowed to cause more damage on his way out. It's not like he is trying to attend to the pandemic or solve our economic woes. It's not like he is trying to save lives or pass a stimulus package for Americans who are suffering. No, all he is doing is promulgating false and fake conspiracy theories about the election — none of which are even remotely true. Worse than that, he has unsuccessfully tried to subvert democracy by overthrowing our election results.

Donald Trump's disordered psyche is his own damn problem. We have spent the past four years trying to navigate his erratic, nonsensical and inept behavior. It should not be our country's concern any longer. Trump needs a psychotherapist and likely some very strong medicine. That's his business. What we need is for him to leave us the hell alone.

Donald Trump needs to be gone. Short of members of his Cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment — which will not happen — we need to cut off his ravenous desire for attention.

It is obvious that congressional Republicans will not put pressure on the outgoing president to be quiet. They have proven themselves to be spineless cowards who cannot put country over their own political fortunes. They need to tell Trump to abandon his pernicious rhetoric and to focus on the peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden.

We should demand the silence of this miserable, desperate, pathetic man.

He needs to be put in timeout — indefinitely.

ALAN D. BLOTCKY

Alan D. Blotcky, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Birmingham, Alabama.

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SETH D. NORRHOLM

Seth D. Norrholm is an associate professor of psychiatry in the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit.

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ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI

Anthony Scaramucci is a financier and past White House director of communications. He lives in Washington.

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