Have we forgotten Trump’s ‘appalling response’ to the pandemic?

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It’s perversely fitting that the anti-science quack whose imbecilic behavior during the pandemic resulted in an unnecessarily high death toll is now declaring that, if returned to power, he will withdraw all federal funds from public schools that require vaccines.

There’s a lot to unpack in that opening paragraph. The Lancet, a prominent medical journal, concluded in a ’21 report that Trump’s “appalling response” to the pandemic “expedited the spread of Covid” in the United States. As a result, as many as 40 percent of the 470,00 deaths that occurred on his watch could have been avoided, had he acted rationally.

But has Trump learned anything since? Of course not. At a Virginia rally last weekend, he indeed talked about punishing schools that mandate vaccines, a brain fart he first floated in Iowa a year ago.

As this country slowly goose-steps toward a MAGA Restoration, with roughly half the electorate too dumb or oblivious to take notice, Trump’s record on public health would seem to be relevant grist for fresh discussion. I know, the pandemic was so four years ago, ancient history by our standards – Gore Vidal was right when he quipped that U.S.A. stands for “the United States of Amnesia” – but since Trump was once an incumbent, perhaps we should treat him like one by re-inspecting his detestable actions.

And there’s no better time than right now, because last week, we marked the four-year anniversary of America’s first confirmed Covid death. Four years ago this week, the CDC reported 60 confirmed cases. Four years ago this month, the entire nation virtually shut down.

Trump, we now know, was seriously briefed about the impending crisis long before it hit. But here’s what he said publicly on Feb. 26, 2020: “When you have 15 (infected) people, and the 15 within a couple days is going to be down close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done…This will end. You look at flu season. (Covid) is a little bit different, but in some ways it’s easier…It’s a little like the regular flu.”

But that’s not what he told Bob Woodward in an interview on Feb. 7: “It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu…This is deadly stuff.”

Why didn’t he share these early warnings with his fellow citizens so that they could be better prepared? He answered that during an interview with Woodward on March 19: “Really, to be honest with you…I wanted to play it down. I still like playing it down.”

That’s why he fired Nancy Messonnier, a top CDC official, who’d made the mistake of committing public candor on Feb. 25 when she said that Americans should get ready for “significant disruptions” to their lives.

Then we got Dr. Trump’s miracle cures. He pitched hydroxychloroquine (“try it if you like…it’ll be wonderful, it’ll be so beautiful”) – which was deemed worthless by the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the World Health Organization. And when Richard Bright, a prominent federal vaccine expert, stated that the drug “clearly lack(ed) scientific merit,” Trump fired him.

Undeterred as always, Trump flashed his medical credentials on the topic of disinfectants. Either half the electorate wants to restore this kind of thinking to the presidency, or, more likely, half the electorate doesn’t remember it, or know it even happened, or doesn’t care that it happened. Trump was talking to a science official who was off camera:

“So supposing we hit the body with a tremendous – whether it’s ultraviolet or just a very powerful light – and I think you said that hasn’t been checked because of the testing. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that, too…I see the disinfectant that knocks (Covid) out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning? As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”

Suffice it to say that, during the Biden administration, the makers of Lysol haven’t felt compelled to issue a statement warning against internal uses of its cleaning project.

Five days after Trump’s 2017 Inaugural, I wrote that he would likely “get a lot of people killed.” That was a cinch prediction, and indeed he did. If we’re heedless enough to entrust our lives, yet again, to an anti-science sociopath, next time could well be worse.

Copyright 2024 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at [email protected]