No matter what problems threaten, or how bad they might get, there’s one thing we must always remember – most of President Donald Trump’s decisions are focused on glorifying his time in office and getting reelected. I see no evidence that he has a long-term vision for the nation or its citizens, whether it’s health care, infrastructure improvements, environmental protection, fiscal responsibility, civil rights, whatever. He is totally focused on himself.
The coronavirus epidemic is a perfect example: It was obvious from the outset that Trump’s main concern was preventing a significant downturn in the stock markets, which he sees as a key to his reelection. So, instead of calling for calm and getting the nation well prepared to handle the crisis, he lied about the potential, saying there were only 15 cases and they would be decreasing soon. At a political rally, he even called the democratic response to his handling of the coronavirus epidemic a “hoax.”
After wasting precious time trying to downplay the quickly developing threat, Trump finally handed off the problem to a poorly prepared Vice President Mike Pence. Later as the virus continued spreading, he was playing golf at Mar-a-Lago. If President Obama had done this, Republican hair would have stayed on fire for weeks, prompting calls for an impeachment hearing. And Fox News would have devoted hours of programming, unmercifully bashing Obama.
When Trump finally addressed the nation from the Oval Office, his wooden demeaner and the bungled message he read from a teleprompter caused an all-time record drop in the stock markets the next day.
What Trump never mentions, however, is the 2018 decision by his former National Security Advisor, John Bolton, to eliminate the global health teams that Obama set up in the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security to monitor potential pandemics and other global health emergencies. Nor does he highlight the large funding cuts he has proposed for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other federal health programs. Trump’s resentment of scientists and others with expert knowledge is dumbing the government down to his ill-informed level.
But here’s the thing. While a pandemic can’t be stopped by Trump’s lies or angry tweets, his vindictive management style creates a very dangerous stranglehold on his administration. Cabinet officials and staff are afraid to make a comment or a decision that might anger him. Consequently, silence and delay are their safest courses of action. This fear of retribution from the president is what impeded the government’s response to the coronavirus. But it’s also preventing effective measures to thwart Russian attacks on our election and blocking election protection legislation in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Equally damaging is Fox News and the conservative media that are in lockstep with Trump in misinforming their viewers and listeners. Fox’s Sean Hannity recently claimed the coronavirus could be a “fraud” perpetrated by the deep state to cause panic and affect the economy. Fox Business anchor Trish Regan told her viewers that the virus was another attempt to impeach the president. What some Fox News pundits did in framing this health crisis as a plot against Trump is almost criminal. Polls show that Republicans are much less concerned about the virus than Democrats, no doubt due to Trump’s initial lies and the conservative media downplay. Some may fail to take appropriate precautions and die as a result.
Yet, it was clear almost from the beginning of his presidency that Donald Trump’s erratic decision making, his tariffs, his rebuffs of allies, his focus on immigration and his colossal ineptness would cause the bull market to hit the wall eventually. All it would take would be a crisis that many of us thought he would have no idea how to handle. Well, it’s here – and we were right.
I have had this nagging fear, however, that after a Democrat is elected president in 2020, the markets would collapse due to Trump’s mismanagement. That’s exactly what the economy did as Barack Obama was being elected president at the end of President George W. Bush’s two terms.
Yet, Fox News and other right-wing media somehow convinced many of their viewers and listeners that President Obama was at fault for the Great Recession. It is maddening to hear conservative Obama haters spout this nonsense and rail against his deficit spending. But of course, it’s hard for them to recognize reality when they have their head up their ideology.
So, they accept huge deficits caused by Trump’s tax cuts and increased spending even though federal red ink is already at unsustainable levels according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. And now the economy may go into recession, which will require even more federal borrowing. Some analysts say it’s already there. Unlike what Trump has done with numerous of his failed business ventures, he can’t declare the United States bankrupt.
After rejecting responsibility for inadequate coronavirus testing and leading from behind, Trump finally declared the coronavirus outbreak a national emergency yesterday and has signaled his support for responsive legislation designed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Both will result in greatly increased government spending. But unlike Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, which they almost unanimously rejected, Republicans will support Trump and pass these necessary measures.
We should all be thankful that Democrats control the U.S. House, led by Speaker Pelosi. If anyone can help lessen the burden from this crisis on the American people, they will.