After months of unscientific experimentation, the president of the United States has completed his transformation into a biological weapon.
Infected with the coronavirus because he rejected the advice of government experts, Donald Trump can no longer evade the consequences of the policy and political choices he has made since last winter. With every wrong move, he brought himself and the country closer to this fateful moment. How many lives his terrible exercise in deception and self-deception will cost remains to be seen, but we now know that he does not hesitate to endanger even those closest to him.
Whatever insecurities have rendered Trump and his followers so resistant to every measure that stems the infection, especially wearing a mask, their selfish recalcitrance was on public display at the first presidential debate. Seated at the front of the hall, members of the Trump family brazenly refused to wear a mask — despite an explicit request from a staffer of the Cleveland Clinic, which was overseeing health and safety at the event.
For a moment during the debate, Trump tried to sound responsible, as he occasionally does. "I'll put on a mask when I think I need it," he told moderator Chris Wallace. But he couldn't resist mocking Biden, whose entire party entered the hall wearing masks and kept them on, except for Biden. "I don't wear masks like him," Trump barked, indicating Biden. "Every time you see him, he's got a mask. You could be speaking 200 feet away from them, and he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen!"
To excuse his rejection of masking, Trump distorted the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top government epidemiologist, who, like every other reputable expert, has urged universal masking and other basic safety measures for many months. His infantile attitude has done untold damage. According to a new study released by Cornell University, which analyzed over 38 million articles in English-language media around the world, the American president is this planet's single most toxic source of misinformation about the pandemic.
Trump's viral spewing of lies and myths about the coronavirus has rendered society helpless to stop the spread of the disease itself. In New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo seized public attention to deliver a strong daily message of masking and social distancing, directly contradicting Trump, the upward curve of infections was "flattened," and many lives were saved. In too many other places, where Trumpian rejection of science ruled, the virus continues to rage.
At first, the president pretended that the virus was a "Democratic hoax" or a mere variation of the seasonal flu. Then, he promised it would go away, "like a miracle," even though he knew and confided to Bob Woodward that it was extremely dangerous and could kill many thousands. Rather than mobilize government against the pandemic, Trump did nothing. Or next to nothing. As the pandemic took hold, he became preoccupied by scientifically questionable tangents, such as hydroxychloroquine, and even his own bizarre speculation that injecting disinfectant might restore health (it is much more likely to inflict death). Trump and his doctors even claimed that he took hydroxychloroquine — which, as his case should now persuade him, does not work.
As the final weeks of this election unfold, we are going to learn in detail how Trump's arrogance, vanity and irresponsibility have endangered hundreds of people around him, from the White House staff to the donors and supporters who attended his most recent events in New Jersey and Minnesota. Let's hope that neither he nor anyone around him suffers the worst effects of the disease — like the late Herman Cain, who died weeks after attending the Tulsa Trump rally defiantly unmasked. But let's not forget that such casualties are only a microcosm of the American carnage caused by this catastrophic presidency.
The sky over the White House is black with chickens coming home to roost, and there is only one way for our country to emerge from the darkness.
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.
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