If not for COVID-19 and President Donald Trump's truly disastrous handling of it, Trump — unstable, erratic, self-centered and all — might still win the November election on the strength of the economy.
Instead, he'll be running on record unemployment, with whole sectors of the economy just failing, and some 2 million Americans (actually, it's nearing 3 million) having tested positive for COVID-19, potentially infecting and killing hundreds of thousands more.
And, apparently, no one is angrier about that than Donald J. Trump, who is now trailing Slow (but Steady) Joe by double digits. Not that Trump didn't do everything in his power to avoid it — losing, I mean, not COVID.
Trump delayed acting on the pandemic because he didn't want to spook Wall Street. Nothing could interfere with his re-coronation. So he did what he has so viciously accused the Chinese of doing. He put Donald J. Trump first. He put himself above the law. He considered himself entitled to risk hundreds of thousands of lives, which he did by putting himself ahead of "we the people" who created and built this country.
It wasn't a balance between jobs and health, the balance we are failing at right now. It was a balance between Donald J. Trump and the rest of us; his politics versus our lives; his reelection versus thousands of lives that would have been saved if we had been prepared, if we had had tests and screenings, if we had started social distancing a week earlier.
By now everyone should understand that Tulsa was about the worst place for a rally given its ugly racial history. Every serious health adviser warned him that packing people in an indoor arena with no masks and no social distancing was an invitation for infection. The Trump response: Make them all sign waivers so they can't sue us, even if coming to this rally costs their lives.
Six of his aides in town to promote the rally were infected before it was held. Is Trump upset? Does he actually worry that even more will get sick if the hall is crammed the next day? No, according to all reports, he was furious that the news had gotten out. His worry was that he would look bad, not that these aides could suffer permanent lung damage.
The bombshell from Tulsa was the president's demand that his team "slow the testing down" so it won't make us look bad. That was, of course, the same attitude he took when cruise ships with sick Americans were docked near our coast. He adamantly opposed letting them dock so sick people could go to hospital, because it would make "the numbers" — his numbers, the number of people who got sick and died while his head was in the sand — look bad. It's OK if they are bad so long as they don't look bad.
How dumb does this man think we are?
In normal times, we would have a president who would help us face the challenge and remind us who we are as Americans. In normal times, the president and his family would be role models, wearing masks, observing social distancing. Instead, he has turned our Christian concern for one another into a sign of weakness and being dictated to by Big Bad Government in the form of doctors everywhere. This is not something Presidents Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush would have ever done. It's nothing Nancy Reagan or Barbara Bush or Laura Bush would have tolerated.
I feel for the bishop who saw the military clearing a path so the president could use her church, the church where the community comes together to pray, a place Donald Trump had never set foot in, for a photo opportunity. A church is not a house of worship to him but a backdrop. Six thousand people shouting and cheering in an indoor venue, where wearing a mask means you're a weenie, was not a spike of illness waiting to happen but a smaller crowd that he wanted. Churches as backdrop and people as props.
So long as Donald Trump is in office, we need to remind ourselves that even in sickness and in fear; in trenches far away or in the pharmacy at the corner; we are people who care for one another and take care of one another. We are not selfish and greedy. We value life over money. We are better people than he gives us credit for, but we must do it ourselves.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.