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The Writing Is On the Wall for Trump

Donald Trump on the campaign trail in March 2016. Credit:Windover Way Photography

NPR interviewed Dan Diamond, a reporter for Politico, about the Trump administration’s coronavirus response or lack thereof. NPR drew attention to this passage from the interview on Twitter:

Sadly, the president’s willingness to put his own short-term political prospects ahead of the public interest is not the least bit surprising. That is how many of us interpreted his actions over the last six weeks as he consistently tried to minimize the danger from the virus and when he boasted about how successfully he had handled the problem. I said as much last week:

Trump spreads misinformation about the virus to offer people a false sense of security because he fears the effect that the outbreak will have on his political fortunes. Even when there is a public health crisis, the president remains concerned primarily about what it means for him.

This latest report lines up with his troubling remarks at the CDC last week when he talked about not wanting to bring passengers off from the cruise ship that was off the coast of California because doing that would raise the number of cases in the U.S. In the end, he relented and the passengers were brought to shore, but the expressed desire to keep the number down by putting more people at risk of exposure was there for all to see. As long as the official number stays low, that allows Trump to pretend that the problem is under control, so it is essential for him that the official number stay as low as possible. The federal government’s inadequate and slow testing is at least partly a result of this presidential resistance to knowing the real extent of the outbreak, and that has put more Americans at risk of serious illness or death.

Like his admitted willingness to use the powers of his office to advance his personal interests, the president openly admitted that he wanted to put his political advantage ahead of the health and safety of Americans. The president not only abuses power for personal benefit, but he puts his political interests ahead of the good of the people even in an emergency. One of the most unbelievable things that Trump said in his botched speech last night was this:

I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health, and safety of the American people. I will always put the well being of America first.

Unfortunately, this is not true, and his response to the outbreak has proven that it isn’t. We have seen him hesitate to take the necessary steps on many occasions, and we have watched as he squandered precious time with denial and obfuscation while many Americans became ill and some died. The president took a difficult but manageable situation and made it worse through neglect, indifference, and selfishness. The president does not serve the public interest and he never intended to do that. He sees public office simply as an opportunity for his own enrichment and aggrandizement, so when the test came in the form of this outbreak he was bound to fail it because his priority has always been to serve himself. The writing has been on the wall for a long time, but many Americans didn’t want to see it. Trump has been weighed in the balance and found severely wanting.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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