Catastrophe

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July 3, 2020 10:54 p.m.

I seldom think anything good about Donald Trump. I hate what he has done to the country. I hold his enablers even more responsible for what has happened on his watch. But today I feel that stew of emotions in a new, deadening way. I am baffled and aghast and angry in a way that feels new.

The US is not experiencing a COVID surge. We are back to exponential growth in the virus just as most of the rest of the wealthy, industrialized world is moving on. COVID is not done for them of course. There are masks and mitigation and distancing and people are still falling ill. Some are dying. But most of these countries have beaten COVID down into low enough numbers that they can get about the business of a new form of social and economic life.

More than 57 thousand new cases were reported today. I was dumbfounded by that number even though the trend pointed to it. This is almost triple the number of cases of three weeks ago. This is a national catastrophe and one due almost all to ourselves, to a litany of horrible decisions and even more to simple abdications of responsibility. And, yes, it really all goes to Donald Trump who has tried to deny the problem whenever possible and when he engages it does so through the prism of assigning blame to someone else for anything that goes wrong. The concepts of service and responsibility are entirely alien to him.

We’ve watched a ragged, lying, stupid and absurd performance going back five months. Any sense of national coordination or unity have come apart like a torn necklace. No wonder the result is so bad and we’re alone in the world.

The White House tonight says it is shifting to a new message: “We need to live with it.” It is a brazen effrontery to point us to their failure and tell us, “Deal. That’s just how it is.”

We are often helpless before nature and fate but the different outcomes in so many parts of the world tell us that it is neither nature nor fate which have brought us to this pass.

Being President is a hard job and this was an historic challenge. But that’s the job. It’s on you. You may not be at fault but you are responsible. You can imagine good presidents of the past and bad struggling under the weight of this crisis. He’s done none of that. His battle has been running away. It’s all been a matter of blaming states for not having enough ventilators or tests, making covid denial a centerpiece of his movement. His whole record in the crisis has been denial and then finding nonsensical arguments that a crisis befalling the country to which he was elected head of state somehow has nothing to do with him. The states have to fend for themselves and the federal government has to take care of itself, as though the federal government is anything but the expression of and protector of the people who collectively make up the states.

And then he just decided he was done. He got bored. It wasn’t fun anymore. He shuttered his largely ineffectual task force and moved on. He wanted rallies. He branded a new “transition to greatness.” He made masks a sign of being a Democrat and a wuss.

But COVID hadn’t moved on.

None of this had to happen. It is a failure of cataclysmic proportions. It has many roots. It has revealed many insufficiencies and failures in our society and institutions. But the scale of it, the unifying force of it is a man who never should have been president, who has abandoned his responsibility to lead and protect the country, making it every state for itself, a chaos only organized by a shiftless and shambling effort to help himself at all costs at every point.

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