Trump’s coronavirus failings

Kieran Dias-Lalcaca ’21

The failures of this administration have been highlighted throughout these past few months in an astonishing way. The coronavirus seems to be the climax no one saw coming in the never-ending series of unfortunate events that you may refer to as the Trump Presidency. While the efficacy of Trump’s policy over the last few years may be subject to intense debate, and his hateful rhetoric, a spot of much contention, the botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic seems to be a simple fact. 

     First, let’s look at the lack of action that the White House took in the month of February. Instead of bracing a nation for the impact of a novel and deadly threat, the president held four campaign rallies and played two rounds of golf. The lack of action can be simply summed up by the president’s own words. 

     On January 22nd, two days after the first case of the virus was confirmed in Washington State, CNBC asked if the president had any fears about the case. He responded, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

     On March 17th, the tone had changed significantly, as Trump told reporters, “This is a pandemic . . . I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” The reversal of the narrative was only the start of the show. Further complicating the matter from an administration point of view was Trump’s incoherent and inconsistent message, a defining theme in this presidency.

     On February 28, at one of the aforementioned campaign rallies, Trump likened the virus to the common flu and even called the virus “their new hoax,” referring to the Democrats. These comments further complicated the position of health experts, who needed to have one consistent message to the people—that coronavirus is a real threat and it needs to be taken seriously.

poll by Austin Zhuang ’22

     A mere eighteen months before the coronavirus pandemic, Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton disbanded the United State’s Pandemic Response team. Further complicating the mix was how the CDC responded to the virus and testing, implementing tests only for those who were suspected of having the virus, a response that has proved fatal to thousands of Americans.

     This approach was not implemented by other countries, and a clear example of the difference that good leadership can have is South Korea. South Korea’s CDC did not limit testing so dramatically and immediately put in the efforts necessary to trace and isolate those infected. It is here that the difference between action and reaction is so prominent. 

     Finally, we must address what I believe is the single most reprehensible part of this crisis, and the greatest failure in Trump’s presidency. This is Donald Trump as a figurehead and a role model. The president is meant to act as an example to the people, a leader who shows how one must do what is right. Further, this role, while certainly not easy, should be the most straightforward for any president, for it costs no money or political capital to be an example of what is right.

     Trump chose not to wear a mask at his press conferences, giving the impression that it was okay to do without such. He supported terrorists who brought weapons into statehouses across the country with calls to action in his tweets, while simultaneously addressing police brutality protests with racist threats.

President Donald J. Trump addresses reporters Saturday, April 4, 2020, White House Press Briefing Room. – Official White House photo by Andrea Hanks via Wikimedia Commons

     As with his tweet, “…when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” it’s not just that the president doesn’t do his job, it’s that he actively makes it harder for medical professionals to deal with this pandemic, while encouraging violence.

     He suggested drinking bleach and sunlight would cure the virus, and makes ludicrous excuses when he is called out for it. He acts like a toddler, failing to make progress on real issues, but somehow coming up with executive orders days after he felt Twitter hurt his feelings and “violated his freedom of speech”, which as a private company, they did not. The President is derelict in his duty as a leader.

     Each and every one of these scandals and failures would be enough to end any normal presidency. Yet, what I have written above constitutes less than six months of failures responding to the pandemic or the issues stemming from it.

The only substantive results will come with the ballot boxes on November 3rd, 2020.

     I have barely mentioned the economic impacts of this virus or the disappearance of the checks on his power. I haven’t scratched the surface of why he acts like the economy is the only important figure, or why he thinks that human lives are worth less than monetary gain. I have omitted these not only because they would require an inordinate number of pages but also because they matter little when compared to the failings of this president to do the basic parts of his job.

     In 2020, we have almost been to war with a nuclear power over this president’s actions, and now we have been subjugated to a pandemic; while not his fault, he has inadequately responded to it. In all this there is only one truth, and that is no matter what happens the only substantive results will come with the ballot boxes on November 3rd, 2020.