The extraordinary news that the European Union has banned American travelers as a self-protective public health measure should draw scrutiny to another appalling dimension of President Trump’s spectacular mishandling of the pandemic, one that has eluded extensive discussion.

In a new statement sent to this blog, Joe Biden is opening up a new front along these lines, arguing that the E.U. ban shows that Trump has transformed the U.S. “into a global health risk.”

When the E.U. announced its ban on U.S. travel — based on our ballooning coronavirus cases, relative to much of the rest of the world — it placed us in a rarefied category of other countries that are also banned: Russia and Brazil.

Which shows that Trump’s disastrous failures haven’t just helped cause tens of thousands of needless U.S. deaths. They aren’t only helping to cause new coronavirus spikes in many states that could prolong our economic calamity.

They’ve also turned us into a kind of global pandemic pariah. And that will carry all sorts of other destructive consequences.

In the new statement, which was sent to me in response to my inquiries about Biden’s views of the E.U. ban, Biden says:

These new travel restrictions will have real consequences for Americans’ ties to the world — personally, economically, culturally, and strategically. Families that have been separated for months will be kept apart even longer. Commercial opportunities for hard-hit American business will be stunted. And the rift that Trump has created with our closest allies will only widen.

Biden notes that all this is the direct result of Trump’s serial failures to take the coronavirus seriously — which also includes Trump’s urging of a too-rapid reopening, leading to a resurgence — and adds:

Because Trump can’t do the most basic parts of his job, the United States is now viewed as posing a global health risk. Today, America is first in infections, first in deaths, and the EU has decided to bar Americans from traveling there as Europe reopens.

And Biden concludes:

A president who started his term by writing hateful travel bans is responsible for getting the American people banned from traveling. His presidency is an outrage from start to finish.

What’s notable is the casting of Trump’s role in bringing about the E.U. ban as another form of deep damage to our international relationships — damage, of course, that Trump himself did on many other fronts. The monumental botching of the coronavirus pandemic, then, is both extension and exacerbation of that Trumpian damage.

The E.U. is reopening borders to 15 countries, but it excluded the United States, Russia and Brazil. The metric the E.U. used was the number of new cases in the past two weeks per 100,000 people. As the New York Times notes, “the average among the 27 European Union countries was 16 in mid-June; in the United States, it was 107.”

The Times further reports on the consequences and deeper significance of this:

The prolonged severance of travel ties between the bloc and the United States has disrupted a critical economic, cultural and diplomatic relationship. Business travelers on both sides of the Atlantic are desperate to resume their visits, couples and families have been split up for months, and the differences between the European and American approaches to combating the pandemic have brought to the fore divergent views on science and policy.
While most European nations went into strict lockdowns early in their outbreaks and have been promoting the wearing of masks and other measures to try and control the resurgence of the illness, the United States has seen a patchwork response and the number of new cases has continued to balloon.

Taken together, all this serves as an indictment not just of Trump’s presidency but also of his illiberal populist nationalist worldview (as well as our woefully underfunded and piecemeal public health system and welfare state).

It shows us parting ways with Western countries — which appear to have managed the pandemic far more successfully — while lumping us in with Russia and Brazil, whose responses were hampered by their own leadership’s disdain for scientific advice and empirical evidence of the threat, much as ours was.

The crowning irony to all this is that Trump has relentlessly sought to convert the pandemic into support for his worldview, his hostility to the ideal of open societies, by demagoguing it into nothing more than a suite of foreign threats. He has used it as a pretext to bar foreign workers from entry and has scapegoated international institutions for his own epic failures.

Trump has also repeatedly blamed China, hailing his own ban on travel from there as an act of brave and heroic leadership. This, even though his depraved indifference to the coronavirus allowed it to rampage out of control here long after that.

Temporary bans on travel and immigration in such emergencies are not in and of themselves necessarily objectionable. But in Trump’s case, they have been paired with bottomless contempt for empiricism, science and good government on virtually all other aspects of the crisis.

It’s an extraordinary perversity that in part because of that contempt, we continue to be the target for such a ban even as many other countries recover.

All this provides a way for Biden to expand on his indictment of Trump’s handling of coronavirus: We’ve become a global public health threat (as Biden suggested) when we should be showing international leadership on global public health.

This argument from Biden opens the door to a renewed commitment to such international leadership on global health — at the helm of a revitalized multinationalism — as an alternative to Trump’s reactionary science-and-empiricism-disdaining nationalism. And we’re likely to hear more of this.

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