President Trump’s incompetent response to the coronavirus continues to hurt Americans.
To the relief of many, Trump seemed to reform his negligent approach early last week when he resumed daily press briefings, saying on Monday that using a mask was “patriotic” and acknowledging that the virus “will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better.” But then he revived his flirtation with the questionable drug hydroxychloroquine by retweeting a video featuring Houston doctor Stella Immanuel, who claimed to have cured hundreds of the virus by using it. The message was echoed by members of his family and Fox News commentators.
The information was so dangerously wrong that the major social media platforms — Twitter, Facebook and YouTube — removed it, but only after millions had seen it.
And we soon discovered that this same doctor believes that scientists use alien DNA to create medicines, that some diseases are caused by having sex with demons in dreams and that the world is secretly run by a race of lizard people.
Trump tried to defend Immanuel during a presser, saying both that she was “an important voice” and “I know nothing about her.” When a reporter pressured him, he stalked off stage.
Given his tweeting habits, it seems likely that the president saw a bright, shiny object and retweeted it without checking the source — something any 12-year-old knows to do — so he once again wound up looking like a laughingstock. But it’s worse for the American people, some of whom will buy his dangerous advocacy.
Make no mistake: hydroxychloroquine may be harmless in some instances, it may be helpful in some limited situations, but by no means should it be considered a cure or preventative — it’s not. Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, along with other medical officials, had to speak up to warn people not to follow the terrible advice.
We have to wonder why the president is so infatuated with hydroxychloroquine. Is it simply because he’s desperate to find an easy miracle cure rather than call on Americans to take difficult measures? Is it because he thinks it’ll help his reelection campaign, like everything else he’s pushing these days? Is it because he truly doesn’t know better than to risk the very lives of the American people on this snake-oil cure? Trump’s promotion of this quackery isn’t just scary — it’s dangerous.
Trump’s not the only one who’s anxious to get things moving again. Congress struggled last week, and failed, to complete a new relief package for the American public. Senate Republicans padded their version with lots of goodies for their special interests — billions for military hardware, a new FBI headquarters and White House remodeling — while trying to reduce the amount of assistance given directly to working people.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted on two priorities: that people shouldn’t be paid to stay at home, and that businesses shouldn’t be held legally liable if their workers get sick. In the midst of an easily transmitted virus, that’s the exact opposite of what we should be doing. It’s a recipe for death.
Earlier this month, the Association of Former Members of Congress released a report called “Congress at a Crossroads,” in which it declared, “Congress has largely become a dysfunctional institution unable to meet the critical needs of our country. … The pandemic alone is a call to our elected officials for the type of leadership and vision we expect at a moment of crisis.” It seems incapable of rising to the moment, even when its leadership is desperately needed.
Also earlier this month, more than 150 prominent U.S. medical experts, scientists, teachers, nurses and others signed a letter to political leaders urging them to shut down the country and start all over again. Our initial, half-measured response failed.
On Wednesday, Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert, a mask skeptic, tested positive for COVID-19 — which he then claimed was attributable to one of the few times when he did wear a mask. Wednesday night, the president mingled freely without a mask at a fundraiser in Texas.
Tragically, the death of Herman Cain, another GOP luminary who denied the value of wearing masks, was announced on Thursday. The cause was COVID-19.
Someone in the White House and the Senate needs to learn about critical thinking. The answer has been sitting before us all along — the same answer that has allowed other countries to clamp down on the disease: Sequestration. Extensive testing. Contact tracing. Wearing masks and taking other precautions.
Instead, the federal approach has been polluted with conspiracy theories, politicization and ignored consequences.
These are not rational proposals. If this is the best our officials can do, they need to get out of the way and let someone else lead.