Protecting the lives and health of citizens ought to be the most basic duty of any government. But the Trump administration, abnormal and toxic, is evidently determined to inflict illness and death on as many Americans as possible.
Consider what President Donald Trump and his minions have done over the past few days (not to mention the past several months). Owing to their feckless insistence on reopening the economy, the coronavirus has again surged across the country, from Florida to Texas to California, infecting tens of thousands — many of whom will soon need care in overburdened hospitals. Yet the federal government has simultaneously announced a drastic cutback in testing funds. They're suppressing the numbers rather than the disease.
Pretending that the virus is receding, as Vice President Mike Pence instructed Republican governors to do, isn't destructive enough for them, however. In addition to ensuring that more and more Americans become sick and cannot be tested or traced, Trump's policy aims to deprive them of health insurance at a time of grave peril. This week, the president sent his government lawyers to the Supreme Court for another attempt to kill the Affordable Care Act, just when Americans are losing their jobs and the health insurance upon which they and their families depend.
Let's review these insane acts in context: While we try to survive a deadly pandemic, with no end in sight, the president of the United States is seeking to end the only source of health coverage for millions of Americans. If that effort succeeds, the result will be a massive disruption of the health insurance market and a disastrous blow to the struggling hospital system. At this moment, in fact, there are half a million unemployed workers who have turned to Obamacare because they've lost insurance tied to their jobs. Soon there will be millions more lining up behind them — and Trump wants to leave them all without care.
Although Trump has been trying to repeal his predecessor's signature health program for years, he no longer pretends he will replace Obamacare with something "better" and "beautiful" that provides care to all. He's like a movie villain who finally drops the smiling mask. Except if this were a movie, nobody would find it believable.
So this is the perfect moment for Joe Biden, the anti-Trump, to deliver a speech on health care. Or it would be, if only the media would pay attention. The Democratic candidate may feel frustrated to emerge from his home — where he dutifully sheltered for most of the past few months — and offer a major policy address that only one network bothered to carry live. Any irritation he felt was probably soothed by the fact that he is leading Trump in every competent poll by margins of 9 to 14 points.
Biden's performance is worth watching for anyone who still needs reassurance that he can carry this fight to November. His speech was at once crisp and passionate, substantive and sharp, without any worrisome stumbles. Much of what he said was obvious yet necessary: that Trump's scheme to curtail Obamacare is callous and cruel; that the Trump administration has botched its pandemic response; that Trump cares above all about his image; and that only massive testing will permit the economy to recover.
While the complete details of Biden's health care program will be unveiled in coming weeks, he made an important promise that, if kept, would remedy the original deficit in the Affordable Care Act. Americans, he said, "need a public option, now more than ever." We need a public option, which would cover every American lacking insurance under a version of Medicare, because health care must be a right, not a privilege. He vowed to "fight like hell to get Americans the health care coverage they need."
Before our eyes, this veteran politician, long discounted by all the clever types, is becoming the leader of his party — and his country. His depraved opponent offers only a contrast that could scarcely be more stark.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.