The daily White House coronavirus briefings have made me cringe, scream, shake my head, and even laugh. The President of the United States offers medical advice, minimizes the coronavirus, injects partisanship into his remarks, and generally treated these critical briefings as his daily open mike. He uses his bully pulpit to praise and to scold, saving particular scorn for the media. Not only is this man vindictive, but also brusque and churlish.
His ignorance hit a nadir, though, when he suggested, on April 23, that sunlight and heat might heal the coronavirus. Then he said that since bleach and other disinfectants could rid surfaces of the coronavirus, bleach and disinfectants might also work on people. His comment was so alarming that the Lysol Company had to respond, “Under no circumstances should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body through injection, ingestion, or any other route,” a Lysol spokesperson told NBC News. A day later, he attempted to explain his remarks, but he outright lied about what he said.
Is 45 this ignorant, or is he merely deflecting from the many mistakes he has made, as our nation’s leader, in combating the deadly and highly infectious virus? From urging people to go to church on Easter Sunday (he took it back), to telling states they can open for business before testing results are back, he has taken the nation’s health into his hands and imperiled our collective health as a result. Not to mention his enthusiastic embrace of hydroxychloroquine, touting it in several press briefings as a “game-changer.” The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cautioned against the use of the drug except in a hospital setting or clinical trial. Did 45 ask for their advice? Or did he go to med school when none of us were looking?
During the daily briefings, I’ve been extremely impressed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the blunt-talking director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. While he is not disagreeable, he is not afraid to openly disagree with 45. He’s been leading NAIAD since 1984 and was instrumental in working on ways to contain the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The president seems tone-deaf to Dr. Fauci’s advice and the advice of Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. Previously, she served as the United States Global Coronavirus Response Coordinator. Watching her body language when 45 speaks suggests that she does not have to contradict him verbally to make her displeasure. When he ignores the advice of these medical experts, he endangers our health. According to the president, there has been sufficient testing. Most experts disagree. He says that anyone who wants a test can get one. That’s a bald-faced lie. Indeed Larry Hogan, the governor of Maryland, had to get 500,000 tests from South Korea because the federal government either didn’t have them or would not distribute them.
Mr. Trump has missed no opportunity to praise himself for doing “a great job” in combating the coronavirus. He has missed no opportunity to demean or condescend to the media. He has turned a severe world pandemic into a chance to bloviate, lie, and offer self-congratulations. I laugh to keep from screaming, even though since I’m sheltering in place, no one would hear me. While there is nothing funny about a virus that has, in just a couple of months, killed more than 50,000 people, some of the Trump remarks are amusing, amazing, and, ultimately, disgusting.
The White House attitude toward the states also endangers our health. Disaster relief funds include money for hospitals. It also has money available for the states. But through a murky set of rules, the states cannot use the funds for state operations, only for COVID-19 related expenses. How do we tell the difference, especially when state operations (including health operations) are strained by the virus? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the states can go bankrupt. These attitudes are hazardous to our health.
The president is not concerned with our physical health, but with his political health. That is why he has sparred with governors, the press, and others. That’s why he has been opposed to mail ballots, even as he casts them himself. That’s why he has approached a dire situation with bluster and braggadocio. That’s why he has failed to wear a mask, failing to model the kind of behavior all of us, including his acolytes, should emulate.
Scientists are looking for a vaccination against the coronavirus. Our nation needs protection against our president.