As Americans do battle now with one of the greatest challenges in their history, led by a man who is not only among the worst ever occupants of the White House but whose character makes him the last person on the face of the Earth you would nominate to be in charge at this moment.
On Thursday the US reached the top of the global league table for coronavirus infections, edging ahead of its closest rival for that honor, China. No law of nature dictated that outcome.
Much of it is directly attributable to one dreadful fact: that Donald Trump is president of the United States.
It’s become a commonplace to note Trump’s lack of basic human empathy, his tendency to be unmoved by others’ loss. But that gap in his mindset matters now far beyond an inability to offer consolation to the bereaved: it is warping his approach to a lethal disease.
“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” he tweeted in caps lock at the start of the week, shortly after Steve Hilton, one-time adviser to David Cameron, had made that same argument on his Fox News show.
Trump and his outriders contend that, while mass death is not ideal, it’s better than allowing the US economy to stall. Some, like Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick, are explicit, urging the elderly to risk their lives so that their grandchildren might enjoy the fruits of uninterrupted American capitalism.
“If that’s the exchange, I’m all in,” Patrick said. He was taking his cue from Trump who, while not putting it quite as baldly, has been quite clear. If coronavirus is a stick-up artist asking America, “Your money or your life”, Trump’s response has been: “Take the lives of the old and the weak: I want the money.”
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