Maggie Connolly ‘21
Chief Opinions Editor
Are we surprised to see another Trump slip up? In the last few days, countless news outlets have been covering Trump’s conversation with Washington Post journalist, Bob Woodward in mid-April. So, what exactly did he say this time?
“This thing is a killer if it gets you. If you’re the wrong person, you don’t have a chance,” Trump said over a scratchy voicemail on CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s segment. Here we have a leader who essentially admits to failure. Around this same time period, Trump was sure the virus would just disappear, and we could magically re-open the economy by Easter. He had already fired advisors who warned him about the pandemic and was weeks into making a fool out of himself and harassing journalists in press conferences that made Americans anything but reassured.
Even before his conversations in April, Trump admitted that COVID-19 was “worse than the flu,” but then proceeded to tell the public the exact opposite. Go ahead, take a minute. Think about what you thought of COVID-19 in February. Probably not much, if anything at all. Clearly, Trump got intel from many different people in his corner, but never rendered it important to share with the people whose lives he was putting directly at risk.
I wish we could stop being surprised by Trump. Maybe some people are. But this is a unique scenario. We have Trump, on the record, admitting to a completely different belief than the one he was advertising publicly. He cited directly how dangerous, deadly even, COVID-19 is, despite efforts to make people believe otherwise in public.
According to a piece in Vox from this week, Trump is having a difficult time defending his comments now that they are out in the open. In his defense, he claims that he was and still is trying to keep Americans calm and prevent panic. Therein lies the paradox, as they say. There is no way to truly prevent panic. As president, Trump has the power to send a message or create a narrative, but anyone who is paying attention is panicked. With the death toll of COVID-19 close to the 200,000 mark, spikes in cases in the Midwest, and many schools and universities returning back to classes, this pandemic is far from over.
Here we have another fundamental issue with Donald Trump as a leader and a representative of this country and its people. If he is readily willing to admit in a personal setting that this virus has the ability to take someone’s life, someone who does not “have a chance,” as he so clearly stated, how was he unable to admit those same facts to the public? His failure to be transparent with the people whom he governs is alarming and should cause the same exact panic he was trying to avoid by evading this information in the first place.
This president cares more about his image, his re-election, and his own personal privilege to avoid and be treated for this virus if he ever were to get it (which is not so unlikely considering his mask-wearing and social distancing habits) than he does the health and safety of the very people who elected him president. I find myself thinking after each mistake, misstep, and moment of pure and utter ignorance that Donald Trump has finally achieved a peak point of carelessness… and then he does it again.
This virus was not preventable, but the conditions we are living under as a country were. Donald Trump had the ability to enforce more aggressive lockdowns, mask-wearing procedures and policies, and he even had time to plan for students to safely and successfully go back to school, yet each incident is a bigger failure than the last.