The most extraordinary failure in presidential history — the attempt to disguise and downplay the deaths of more Americans than all the U.S. military deaths from World War I, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined — has not been laid at Trump’s feet. Put aside criminal law for now; this is a moral crime of unimaginable dimensions that should never be erased from the records of Trump and his enablers. What’s more, it is still going on.
Trump’s refusal to tell the American people that the novel coronavirus was a deadly airborne virus far worse than the flu, as he told The Post’s Bob Woodward, followed by his effort to goad governors into opening their states’ economies early, his disdain for masks and social distancing, and his recklessness in holding rallies and unmasked events needlessly exposed Americans to death and illness.
In the closing days of his campaign, Trump is still holding mass rallies that have left a trail of infection. We now learn a coverup was underway to conceal the extent of an outbreak among Vice President Pence’s staff. The New York Times reports, “Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, portrayed an outbreak among Vice President Mike Pence’s close advisers as a matter of medical privacy that White House officials were right to try to keep from the public.” Meadows’s excuse that Pence was engaged in “essential” work and therefore exempt from health guidelines is false:
The C.D.C. guidelines allow “critical infrastructure workers” to continue working after a coronavirus exposure as long as they are asymptomatic. Campaigning, however, is not essential work. The guidelines also state clearly that a critical worker who has been exposed to the virus should “wear a face mask at all times,” among other precautions.Mr. Pence appeared without a mask at a rally in Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday, and some in the crowd were also maskless. Mr. Trump’s supporters also rarely wear masks at his rallies.
The mentality remains: Ignore the science, cover up the danger and risk others’ lives. The Post reports, “With the election a little over a week away, the new White House outbreak spotlighted the administration’s failure to contain the pandemic as hospitalizations surge across much of the United States and daily new cases hit all-time highs.” In short, “The outbreak around Pence, who chairs the White House’s coronavirus task force, undermines the argument Trump has been making to voters that the country is ‘rounding the turn,’ as the president put it at a rally Sunday in New Hampshire.”
Even more damning, we now hear a confession straight from the lips of the president’s chief of staff: The administration is not even trying to control the pandemic and reduce infections and deaths. “We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Meadows said. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations.”
Former vice president Joe Biden responded in a written statement. "This wasn’t a slip by Meadows, it was a candid acknowledgment of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away,” he said. “It hasn’t, and it won’t.”
A new report from Columbia University found, “Through comparative analysis and applying proportional mortality rates, we estimate that at least 130,000 deaths and perhaps as many as 210,000 could have been avoided with earlier policy interventions and more robust federal coordination and leadership.” Those deaths are on Trump’s hands.
Traveling in Michigan, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala D. Harris unloaded on Trump. “They are admitting defeat. … This is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of America.” She added, “We are breaking records for the number of people that are contracting a deadly virus, and this administration fails to take personal responsibility or responsibility in terms of leading the nation through this dangerous and deadly mass casualty event. And that’s why they have forfeited their right to a second term in office.”
In the bizarre effort to maintain “balance,” the mainstream media have failed to press the question to Trump: “Aren’t you responsible for possibly hundreds of thousands of deaths because you never wanted to admit failure?”
Furthermore, soft-pedaling the direct consequence of Trump’s pandemic denial gives cover to Republican politicians and pundits who still defend his presidency and even back his reelection. The question for them is: “How are tax cuts or Supreme Court justices worth the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives?” That is a question that should haunt them forever.
We talk about presidential blunders that lead to unnecessary wars, holding them politically and morally account for massive loss of life. Yet in peacetime, we do not apply that same exacting judgment to Trump. You would think the death of thousands upon thousands of Americans would top every story and be addressed in every interview with an administration figure and fellow Republicans. The failure to hold Trump accountable for one of the worst instances of civilian mass deaths in U.S. history stands among the greatest failures of American media.