Trump, as usual, is just mak­ing things worse

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - OPINION - Eu­gene Robin­son Eu­gene Robin­son Eu­gene Robin­son/ eu­gen­er­obin­[email protected]­

WASH­ING­TON » The na­tion is suf­fer­ing through a ter­ri­ble cri­sis. Day by day, tweet by tweet, un­hinged brief­ing by un­hinged brief­ing, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is mak­ing it worse. That is a hard con­clu­sion to reach, even for some­one like me who has long con­sid­ered Trump one of the worst pres­i­dents in our his­tory.

The COVID-19 pan­demic is the def­i­ni­tion of a mo­ment when ev­ery­one should hope and pray for strong, smart, steady pres­i­den­tial lead­er­ship. In­deed, the restrictio­ns Trump im­posed against travel from China and Europe, where the novel coro­n­avirus was run­ning ram­pant — whether his mo­tives were sci­en­tific or xeno­pho­bic — had a good im­pact. He bought us some time. But then he squan­dered it.

If you can bear to watch Trump’s per­for­mances dur­ing the daily White House update brief­ings, you can only con­clude that any ef­fec­tive fed­eral re­sponse is hap­pen­ing not be­cause of the com­man­der in chief, but de­spite him.

The es­sen­tial prob­lem, of course, is the pres­i­dent’s un­shak­able view that ev­ery­thing is al­ways, al­ways about him. As Alice Roo­sevelt Long­worth once said about her fa­ther, Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt, Trump in­sists on be­ing “the corpse at ev­ery funeral, the bride at ev­ery wed­ding and the baby at ev­ery chris­ten­ing.” This is a mo­ment for self­less­ness, but Trump has shown no ca­pac­ity to think of any­thing other than him­self.

We are asked to stay home and avoid one an­other, at great eco­nomic and psy­cho­log­i­cal cost, to keep the COVID-19 pan­demic from over­whelm­ing the na­tion’s health sys­tem. The cri­sis calls for shared sac­ri­fice. Yet at Sun­day’s brief­ing, Trump went on and on about why he will not make the com­mit­ment to sac­ri­fice any po­ten­tial bailout funds for which his ho­tel prop­er­ties might qual­ify.

“You know, ev­ery time I do it, like, for in­stance, I com­mit­ted pub­licly that I wouldn’t take the $450,000 salary [as pres­i­dent],” he said. “It’s a lot of money. Whether you’re rich or not, it’s a lot of money. And I did it. No­body cared. No­body — no­body said thank you. No­body said thank you very much.”

There are oth­ers who de­serve that “thank you very much” and more: the front­line health care work­ers who are dan­ger­ously reusing pro­tec­tive masks and gowns be­cause such vi­tal gear re­mains in des­per­ately short sup­ply; the mil­lions of work­ers in the restau­rant and ho­tel in­dus­tries who have lost their jobs and in many cases have no sav­ings or ben­e­fits to tide them over; the mil­lions of re­tirees who have seen their 401(k) bal­ances evap­o­rate; the mil­lions of par­ents who are try­ing to work their of­fice jobs from their kitchen ta­bles while home-school­ing their chil­dren while keep­ing tabs on their el­derly rel­a­tives who are most vul­ner­a­ble to the virus.

It is not too much to ex­pect a pres­i­dent to show his grat­i­tude for the sac­ri­fices his cit­i­zens are mak­ing by do­ing ev­ery­thing he can to sup­port them, rather than whine that the na­tion is not thank­ing him. Yet who be­lieves, at this point, that we will ever see such moral lead­er­ship from Trump?

Since that’s not com­ing, I’d set­tle for prac­ti­cal lead­er­ship. But we aren’t get­ting that from Trump, either. He could have com­pelled the pro­duc­tion of pro­tec­tive med­i­cal gear and life­sav­ing ven­ti­la­tors.

And he could have called in the lead­ers of both the House and the Se­nate and in­sisted that they work to­gether to quickly pass the mas­sive trillion-dol­lar bailout pack­age that is sorely needed to keep what is left of the econ­omy afloat. In­stead, Trump re­fuses to talk to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and bus­ies him­self retweet­ing po­lit­i­cal at­tacks against likely Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den.

We are ba­si­cally on our own. And, all things con­sid­ered, across much of the coun­try, we’re do­ing pretty well given the cir­cum­stances.

“I want Amer­ica to un­der­stand, this week, it’s go­ing to get bad,” Sur­geon Gen­eral Jerome Adams said on Mon­day. Trump has the power and the plat­form to make us con­fi­dent that things will even­tu­ally get bet­ter, but he either can’t or won’t. We must con­tinue to com­fort and re­as­sure our­selves.

If you can bear each day to watch Trump — with his un­shak­able view that ev­ery­thing is al­ways, al­ways about him — you know any ef­fec­tive re­sponse is de­spite him.

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