Chuck Todd wasn’t mincing words last week when he suggested that Donald Trump has blood on his hands. Lots of people are making the case that the responsibility for many of the American deaths from COVID-19 can be laid directly at the feet of Donald Trump. And not in an esoteric “the buck stops here” kind of way.
Of course, no one is blaming him for the virus, but Trump’s actions delayed and weakened our country’s response in the early days of the epidemic. His lies and incompetence caused many (including some state and local officials) to question and even flout the advice of the medical community. He has failed to competently use the power of the federal government in a coordinated and effective way, leaving states to fend for themselves; it certainly hasn’t helped that he’s made federal assistance to states contingent on governors kissing his butt. Trump’s early characterization of the virus as a hoax, his administration’s slow response to news of the growing threat, and his public downplaying of the severity of the situation, all coupled with his daily barrage of lies, exaggerations, and misinformation have made a deadly situation deadlier than it had to be.
Long before the words “novel coronavirus” entered our national consciousness, Trump stupidly dismantled the global pandemic response team. In spite of his repeated assertions that “nobody could have guessed” that anything like this would happen, plenty of people did guess. In fact, they not only guessed, they planned: the outgoing administration actually briefed the then-president-elect’s team on a potential pandemic scenario, and walked them through how to handle it. The fact that he and his self-absorbed offspring and advisers chose to ignore the warnings doesn’t mean that no one knew it could happen.
But I don’t have to detail all the ways Trump and his team have failed us. If you’ve been anywhere in the vicinity of the internet or a newspaper or a television in the past two months, you already know.
But Trump didn’t accomplished this mess all by himself. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Because let’s be honest: The Donald didn’t land in the Oval Office all by his lonesome. Despite what he’d have you believe, Trump didn’t rise to national prominence and then win the presidency solely by his personal and political genius. And 45 hasn’t stayed there for over 3 years in spite of his corruption, abuse of power, and incompetence without a few enablers to help him along the way.
For one thing, he’s had the assistance of a host of other self-serving, callous, and irresponsible individuals to help broadcast his ineptitude. His Twitter account, after all, only reaches so far. Enter the right wing media. Fox News and conservative commentators on the radio and the internet use their platforms to amplify Trump’s lies, spew conspiracy theories, and informally advise him by speaking directly to him.
I can’t illustrate their stupidity any better than the Daily Show did in their video montage:
But there’s a long list of others who also own an equal share of the blame. Every person who supported him, made excuses for him, lied for him, or covered up his wrong-doing for one minute after it became apparent that he was unfit for office is equally culpable. So I want to take a moment to point out a few of the other people who also bear personal responsibility for this American tragedy.
First up are Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Kellyanne Conway, Anthony Scaramucci and all Trump’s other spokespeople: individuals who have unapologetically used their positions to brazenly lie to the press and to the American people. From the first day following the inauguration they stood — with the symbol of the White House and the American flag prominently displayed over their shoulder — and with a straight face began repeating demonstrably false information. Thus began the administration’s gaslighting of America that continues unabated to this day. Together, they taught the American public to consume alternative facts as easily as they swallow Chick-fil-A milkshakes.
Next up is every Republican member of the United States Senate (with the notable exception of Mitt Romney) for voting not to remove Trump from office in spite of the fact that they knew that he was guilty of obstruction and abuse of office and, more importantly, that he is fundamentally incapable of performing the duties of his office. Add in every Republican Member of the House of Representatives (and a few Democrats, too) who have made excuses for the lies, the demagoguery, and the flaunting of our legal and constitutional norms just to save their own cushy jobs.
Those lawmakers knew that Trump was incapable of competent leadership and they knew that there would come a time when our nation would need competent leadership — because every administration eventually faces a time of crisis. And they chose to let America face the crisis with a mentally incompetent man in charge. They chose their careers over the lives of Americans. Every one of them, and especially Senate Leader Mitch McConnell who actually threatened members of his party unless they voted to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial, shares responsibility for this tragedy.
Next up are the members of Trump’s cabinet, both current and former, and every one of his advisers, and especially his grown children, who continue to lie and put their personal and financial interests above their responsibility to America, and most notably Attorney General Bill Barr, whose exceptional ability to lie to our face cannot escape special mention.
There are plenty of others, elected and not, at the state and local levels, and in the business and religious community who have also helped to support this unsupportable and incompetent man in his disastrous running of our government.
But the individuals who bear the biggest degree of responsibility for the eventual toll of COVID-19 on America — human as well as economic — are those Americans who for whatever reason have supported and continue to support Donald Trump. They are responsible for putting and keeping an incompetent and corrupt man in office, and their continued support at his rallies, at the polls, and in their daily actions are what keep officials from taking the steps necessary to remove Trump from office. It’s The Voters that gave us Donald Trump. It’s The Voters that determine the actions of lawmakers. And it’s The Voters who have made this crisis the tragedy it has become.
I pity each and every one of those folks when the time comes for them to meet their maker. They’ve all got blood on their hands.