Donald Trump has made the calculated decision to let the pandemic play out without need of a federal plan for disease treatment and economic recovery. Over 100,000 deaths mean nothing to him, a cost of doing business you might say. While state and local governments are preoccupied with a public health crisis, Trump seeks to divert attention to his America First agenda, using (abusing) the power of his office and a Supreme Court majority. His executive orders and other unilateral acts are designed to erode Obama’s social and international legacy, promote corporate and white nationalist interests, bypass Congressional authority, and of course carry him to reelection.
This stealth attack on America has been carried out in broad daylight and Friday nights, with incalculable long-term damage to our country’s institutions, environment, and international standing.
Here, in no particular order, are some of Trump’s actions during the pandemic period:
• Issued an executive order on social media “censorship” that in fact legalizes far-right lies without interference from Twitter, Facebook, and the rest.
• Ordered the reopening of meatpacking plants, schools, and churches—which, of course, he cannot do, and which had no effect.
• Demanded the reopening of the economy and supported armed protesters who defy stay-home orders while taking “no responsibility at all” for bringing the pandemic under control.
• Sidelined the Centers for Disease Control and overrode CDC pandemic guidelines.
• Withdrew the US from the 1992 Open Skies Treaty that has 34 other signatories.
• Reversed over 60 Obama-era environmental regulations, and is seeking to roll back or eliminate over 30 others. (A New York Times study found that “his administration has weakened Obama-era limits on planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and from cars and trucks, and rolled back many more rules governing clean air, water and toxic chemicals” and wildlife protections. “All told,” the Times report continues, “the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality each year, according to energy and legal analysts” (www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks.html).
• On immigration, closed the border with Mexico, virtually ending asylum applications, contrary to international and domestic law.
• Pursued a legal challenge to eliminate Obamacare.
• Declared Dreamers (DACA) parents ineligible for stimulus checks and DACA students ineligible for loan relief.
• Terminated funding of the World Health Organization, arguing that the US would be “redirecting” money to “other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.” He provided no specifics, and neglected to mention that withdrawal from WHO requires formal one-year notice and, in the meantime, continued US funding.
• Fired three inspectors-general (for the intelligence community, health and human services, and the state department) and demoted a third (the defense department), virtually eviscerating oversight of key government offices.
• Removed special treatment for Hong Kong, including on customs and travel, thus further exacerbating tensions with China while accomplishing nothing for Hong Kongers’ human rights (which he has never supported before).
• Played golf as America burned.
• Promoted racial and street violence with various tweets, notably on the Minneapolis protests (“when the looting starts, the shooting starts”), Antifa (a “domestic terrorist organization”), and in a teleconferene with governors (“you have to dominate” protesters), while refusing to say a word about white supremacist and other far-right agitators, and rejecting a nationwide address to calm and heal.
• Used the Department of Justice to roll back Russia investigation findings on Michael Flynn, gain the release from jail of Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, and seek investigations of Joe Biden and son.
• Deployed active-duty US troops to “protect” people’s lives in Washington, DC; put the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in charge of (what?); and had his defense secretary declare that he wants governors to “dominate the battlespace” in US cities.
The bottom line: Donald Trump has failed to be a healing national leader, thus cementing his place as the worst president in US history. As Robert Reich writes: “By having no constructive response to any of the monumental crises now convulsing America, Trump has abdicated his office” (www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/31/donald-trump-coronavirus-pandemic-george-floyd-minneapolis-tweets). Yes, he has; but in the meantiime, he is literally attacking our country.