In another America, one that anybody over thirty or so can remember well, the Coronavirus crisis would have played out very differently. I am not being Pollyannaish, and recognize that there would have been partisan fights about how to handle the crisis; the party that did not control the White House would snipe at the president; and the government would have appeared to have moved too slowly. However, the US would have emerged as a global leader and helped coordinate the response to the crisis; the president would have called on us to come together; smart minds would be addressing the problem and keeping the American people informed; and there would have been numerous examples of American helping each other despite their differences. This is how the US had responded to various global threats in the past, most notably the Ebola crisis in 2014. Yes, George W. Bush’s handling of Katrina was terrible and after September 11th there were incidents of violence against Muslims and people thought to be Muslim, but those were exceptions and even during those times, we also saw many of the positives as well.

In recent weeks nothing like this has occurred. Instead, Donald Trump has acted exactly as we could have expected. He has been overmatched by the complexity of the problem, has seen this as a personal attack on him, doled out dangerous advice, ranted and Tweeted rather than offer helpful solutions and has called for shutting the borders long after the virus has become widespread here in the US. Trump’s narcissism, venality, unwillingness to learn anything and abject incompetence have combined into a perfect storm that has contributed to the spread of false information, made it extremely difficult to get tests for the virus and endangered the safety of every American. The presidential administration in general has focused not on solving the problem but on reacting to the president’s outbursts while simultaneously seeking to conceal the extent of his incapacity.

Trump’s narcissism, venality, unwillingness to learn anything and abject incompetence have combined into a perfect storm that has contributed to the spread of false information, made it extremely difficult to get tests for the virus and endangered the safety of every American

Despite this, it is wrong to place all, or even most, of the blame on Trump. The president is simply acting the only way he knows. He is responding to this real crisis the way he has approached every day of his presidency, and perhaps his whole life. For this reason, we cannot be surprised when he seems utterly unable to accept responsibility, express empathy for those who are suffering or see the problem through any prism other than how it affects him personally.

Throughout his presidency, the enablers and apologists for Donald Trump have been complicit in all that he has done. The Coronavirus pandemic is the latest and most deadly example of this. In this case, the people at Fox News as well as other right wing media outlets and pundits have demonstrated that their fealty to Donald Trump is more important than anything else, including saving lives. Fox covered the initial days of the Coronavirus largely by repeating Trump’s line that it was either not a big deal or a hoax. In doing this, they put their listeners directly in harm’s way. Given that Fox’s viewers skew older, the danger they face is quite severe. To be clear, Fox and others knowingly misinformed their own viewers and significantly increased those people’s risk of contracting a potentially deadly disease, because they wanted to keep Trump happy. Fox has not been a legitimate news outlet for years, but this kind of activity is shameful even for a propaganda network.

Every day of Trump’s presidency is a reminder of the breakdown of democratic mores and the rule of law in the US, but as the Coronavirus crisis deepens, the immediate need for the Trump administration to end, or at the very least for the president himself to be shunted aside in favor of people who know what they are doing, has never been more apparent. Instead virtually everybody around the President, beginning with Mike Pence, but including most of Trump’s cabinet and the Republican congress, have again committed themselves for covering up for Trump, and again propaganda outlets like Fox, but also Infowars and others, have gone along with this.

There are now people going out and working or socializing because Trump, or his followers, said it was okay. There are people telling each other not to worry about the Coronavirus because that is what they saw on Fox

During times of crisis, rumors always abound. A central role of all real leaders during a time of crisis is helping people distinguish truth from rumors. During the last two months Trump and his enablers have done the exact opposite. There are now people going out and working or socializing because Trump, or his followers, said it was okay. There are people telling each other not to worry about the Coronavirus because that is what they saw on Fox. People will die because of this and that blood will be not just on the small hands of Donald Trump, but on all those who were more interested in being on his good side than in telling the truth when American lives hung in the balance.

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