Column: Trump put politics ahead of American lives

To the Valley News
Published: 9/17/2020 10:10:11 PM
Modified: 9/17/2020 10:10:02 PM

This week, the 200,000th American victim of the novel coronavirus will die. We’re in crisis, and tragically, it will get worse before it gets better.

As a U.S. senator, I served under three presidents, a Democrat and two Republicans. All three were honest in dealing with crises. Today’s president is not.

On Feb. 7, in a private, recorded interview with journalist Bob Woodward that is now on The Washington Post website, President Donald Trump said, “This is deadly stuff ... more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” Yet, a month later, on March 10, in a press conference he said, “we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

Only nine days later, on March 19, in another recorded conversation, likewise now on the Post’s website, President Trump admitted to deception. “I wanted to always play it down. ... I still like playing it down.”

Tens of thousands of deaths later, in May, Trump blocked the nation’s most respected pandemic expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, from testifying before the House. When asked why, Trump responded, “The House is a bunch of Trump haters.”

By knowingly downplaying the pandemic and stifling nonpartisan experts like Dr. Fauci, the president put politics ahead of public health — ahead of American lives — and he wasted months resulting in a frantic, fragmented state-by-state response instead of a coherent national response.

Compare: Out of 150 countries, only eight have a worse record than the United States, expressed in COVID-19 deaths per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Research Center.

Canada’s death rate per capita is less than half of ours. That means we could have saved over 100,000 human beings from dying in horrific circumstances — cut off from families, struggling to breathe, organs failing — had President Trump not deliberately deceived the nation. An early, nationwide program of testing and tracing, with a president expressing serious concern and encouraging the wearing of masks, would have dramatically saved lives.

President Trump compounded his dereliction by practicing what I can only describe as quack medicine. In an infamous press conference, addressing his medical advisers, he suggested injection of disinfectant as a possible COVID-19 cure.

These absurd remarks led a number of state health agencies to warn against ingesting disinfectants. Likewise, the president’s frequent hawking of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a cure, which the Food and Drug Administration found to be of “little benefit” but causing risk of serious heart disorders, was ill-advised.

This president has also publicly mocked the use of masks and crowed about continuing his political rallies, speaking to packed-together supporters who often are not wearing masks. In turn, he derides former Vice President Joe Biden for mask-wearing and for discouraging large political gatherings.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans don’t trust what Donald Trump says about the pandemic, according to an ABC/Ipsos poll released a few days ago. No wonder.

As we head into autumn, we should heed Dr. Fauci. “We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter, because it’s not going to be easy,” he said on Sept. 10, speaking with doctors from Harvard Medical School. Again, this is likely to get worse before it gets better. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, whose reports have been cited by the White House, forecasts the U.S. death toll could double to 400,000 by Jan. 1.

It’s time to change leadership. Donald Trump is a threat to the life and health of all of us, especially those of us 60 and older.

Having served with Joe Biden for 12 years in the Senate, I know him as a sensible, caring man. I trust him to put science first in fighting the pandemic. I urge independents and disappointed Republicans to join with me in supporting Joe Biden in November.

Gordon Humphrey, of Chichester, N.H., represented New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate from 1979 to 1991. He is a former Republican, now an independent.

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