President Donald Trump last week lashed out like a jilted lover at his favorite cable information outlet, Fox News, because it had the audacity to stray from its usual pro-Trump agenda. "Looking for a new outlet!" Trump tweeted.
The president clearly relishes the emotional boost he gets from watching a cable channel that makes him feel loved, but it's more important to remember that almost 100,000 Americans have died and 39 million have filed for unemployment benefits. Maybe it's time for him to hit the TV "off" button and start doing his job.
When Fox News host Neil Cavuto last week criticized Trump for saying he was taking hydroxychloroquine to ward off the coronavirus, Trump exploded against Fox, calling the network "garbage."
"Fox News is doing nothing to help Republicans, and me, get re-elected on November 3rd," Trump tweeted — as if securing his election was the duty of a putatively independent news network.
In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Trump's secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar, began with: "President Trump's top priority throughout the covid-19 crisis and his presidency has been protecting the health and well-being of Americans." In reality, Trump has focused on pretty much everything except Americans' health and well-being.
Amid news reports of the coronavirus spreading in China early this year, Trump responded the way he responds to every issue that involves global players: by sealing borders against foreigners, as if that was all that was needed. In this case, his xenophobia backfired. Trump's travel restrictions, tailored to immigrants, allowed tens of thousands of Americans who'd been in China to sift back into American society unimpeded — as if the virus cared as much as Trump does what nationality someone is.
By late February, as Americans began dying in the pandemic and medical professionals pressed for testing and tracing like South Korea was doing, Trump asserted that he knew better. "It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control," he said then. "It's going to be just fine."
As of Tuesday, the U.S. death toll was reaching the 99,000 mark. Even now, Trump refuses to facilitate national testing, or to use the federal government's buying power to secure masks and equipment for states and cities, or even to offer words of comfort to the nation. Instead, driven entirely by his epic ego, he has fought with governors, hissed at reporters and fired whistleblowers.
Against that backdrop, even his partnership with Fox News isn't safe. Americans don't need a momentary flare of honesty by Fox News to see that Trump's management of this crisis has been catastrophic. Scientists still can't say when this pandemic can be brought under control, but one date remains firm for America to return to rational leadership: Nov. 3.
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