Continued from: Was COVID-19 born in the United States? (part 7)
Founded in 1923, and for its 97-year history, the popular TIME magazine had only once before – for its 9/11 issue – replaced its characteristic red border on the cover with a black one. But with the United States COVID-19 death toll nearing 200,000, the magazine published a stunning black-bordered cover (see featured image above) to mark the grim milestone. (J. DePaolo, ‘An American Failure’: TIME Mag Marks 200,000 Coronavirus Deaths With Stunning Cover Featuring a Black Border for First Time Since 9/11, mediaite.com, 10.09.2020).
TIME editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal explained the story behind the cover, while artist John Mavroudis discussed his aim for the provocative image.
“I really hope this cover is a wake-up call for those who are numbed to this catastrophe,” said Mavroudis. “Science and common sense are the answers to this crisis.”
The accompanying cover story, ‘COVID-19 Has Killed Nearly 200,000 Americans. How Many More Lives Will Be Lost Before the U.S. Gets It Right?’, written by Alex Fitzpatrick and Elijah Wolfson, is unsparing in its assessment of America’s handling of the pandemic.
“At this point, we can start to see why the U.S. foundered: a failure of leadership at many levels and across parties; a distrust of scientists, the media and expertise in general; and deeply ingrained cultural attitudes about individuality and how we value human lives have all combined to result in a horrifically inadequate pandemic response,” Fitzpatrick and Wolfson wrote. “COVID-19 has weakened the U.S. and exposed the systemic fractures in the country, and the gulf between what this nation promises its citizens and what it actually delivers.”
This followed the damning revelations in tape recordings of President Trump confessing to Bob Woodward that he knowingly and intentionally lied to the American people about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, and failed to take the reasonable and necessary steps to protect the American people – a failure of the first duty of a president of the United States.
At that time, Trump was telling the nation that the virus was no worse than a seasonal flu, predicting it would soon disappear and insisting that the United States government had it totally under control. It would be several weeks before he would publicly acknowledge that the virus was no ordinary flu and that it could be transmitted through the air.
As already seen, President Trump admitted to Woodward on 19 March that he deliberately minimised the danger. “I wanted to always play it down,” the president said. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
The Washington Post chronicled a ‘Timeline: The 108 times Trump has downplayed the coronavirus threat.’ Trump was still doing it. (As at 03.11.2020 it would be ‘The 201 times Trump has downplayed the coronavirus threat’, by A. Blake and J.M. Rieger).
On public occasions Trump would mock pandemic restrictions. His would be ‘super spreader’ events because Trump was encouraging behaviour which spreads the COVID-19 among his cult followers.
And as The Washington Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler noted, Trump says he did not want to spark panic, but, in fact, he is running on fear: “A cynic might suggest that Trump wanted to keep things calm because he was concerned that a plunging stock market would harm his chances for re-election. But let’s lay that aside for the moment and consider Trump’s explanation that he does not want to create panic.
That might be news to the President Trump running for re-election. His YouTube video channel is filled with apocalyptic images of violence, economic despair and disaster. So are the president’s speeches and news availabilities, including at the same venue where he said he did not want to create panic.” And Kessler provided a sampling, drawn mainly from the paper’s database of Trump’s false and misleading claims.
Fear mongering on “white fright” is Donald Trump’s brand. Here is a screen shot compilation (to remove the recipient’s name) from a recent Arizona Republican Party fundraising email which best exemplifies Donald Trump’s racist brand of “white fright” fear mongering.
Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post wrote about “Trump’s unforgivable sin: His Covid-19 lies killed Americans”: “When the president deliberately lies to the American people – as multiple presidents during the Vietnam war did (as we learned from the Pentagon Papers) – and many Americans die as a result, even loyal members of his own party must condemn him and demand he step away. His actions cost critical time, prevented earlier lockdowns and provided a false sense of security to vulnerable people. In all likelihood, tens of thousands of dead Americans would be alive today if he had acted with minimal competence and honesty.” (09.09.2020).
This situation – Rubin wrote – is not unlike Trump’s impeachment hearings.
“Now, we have malfeasance – precisely the sort of noncriminal but impeachable behavior that the impeachment clause is designed to uncover. Once again, Republicans will claim up is down and night is day. They will refuse to accept Trump’s own words confessing to a deception that cost thousands of American lives. They will not call for his resignation or call for him to withdraw from the election. They would rather continue to support a president demonstrably unfit than risk the wrath of Trump and his cult …
Imagine a president fully aware of a Category 5 hurricane near certain to hit a seaside community but who tells the residents, “No big deal. Don’t listen to the experts telling you to evacuate.” Surely, one would find him morally if not legally culpable for the deaths of anyone who made the mistake of listening to him. Covid-19 should be no different.”
Then Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said it is “disgusting” and “almost criminal” that President Trump knew of the serious risk posed by the coronavirus in February and then downplayed its threat in March.
“This caused people to die. And what did he do the whole time?” Biden said. “He acknowledged this – you breathe it, it’s in the air – and he won’t put on a mask. He’s talking about, ‘It’s ridiculous to put on a mask, what do you need social distancing for? Why have any of these rules?’”
“It was all about making sure the stock market didn’t come down, that his wealthy friends didn’t lose any money, and that he could say anything, that in fact anything that happened had nothing to do with him,” Biden said on 9 September 2020, speculating about Trump’s motives for downplaying the virus in the early weeks of its spread.
“He waved a white flag. He walked away. He didn’t do a damn thing,” Biden said. “Think about it. Think about what he did not do – it’s almost criminal. The virus is not his fault, but the deaths are his fault. Because he could’ve done something about it,” Biden said.
“He said there’s no need for social distancing, don’t bother wearing a mask. He actually went so far as to suggest it was a violation of American freedom to maintain you had to wear a mask. And look what’s happened. Again, 190,000 dead and climbing. And what’s he doing now? He still has not moved. Look at the schools that are not opening,” Biden said.
He added: “Think of the choice the single mom has to make, ‘am I gonna go to my $7 an hour job … or stay home with my kid? I can’t afford anybody. I can’t afford to bring anybody in.’ I mean he’s doing nothing to help. Nothing to help.”
Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward’s partner investigating Watergate for The Washington Post, called Trump COVID-19 tapes the greatest presidential felony of all time. He said on CNN: “It’s stunning, and I think we all need to take a deep breath and understand exactly what it is we have learned. We are listening to the president of the United States on tape deliberately undermining the security – national security of the United States, the health and wellbeing of the people of the United States, and he’s doing this knowingly, in real time.
It is the smoking gun of his negligence. And as those quotes you were talking about from Mattis and others demonstrate his unfitness to the president and more than anything, instead of levelling with the country, he covers up. We listen to him cover up this grave national emergency. This is one of the great presidential felonies of all time, maybe the greatest presidential felon. And we have the smoking gun tape of the president committing the felony.”
Bernstein suggested it was ‘criminal negligence,’ conduct in which a person ignores a known or obvious risk, or disregards the life and safety of others. (J. Easley, Carl Bernstein Calls Trump COVID Tapes The Greatest Presidential Felony Of All Time, PoliticusUSA, 09.09.2020).
It was, however, yet another impeachable offence which could have resulted in Trump’s immediate removal from office. The Los Angeles Times legal affairs columnist and University of California, Los Angeles law professor Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general, said that Trump’s conduct was “clearly an impeachable offense.”
“Remember the high crimes and misdemeanors debate?” Litman wrote. “This is clearly an impeachable offense, albeit not a crime. The POTUS lied to the American people for political purposes & easily tens of thousands deaths ensued. How more stark and harmful a dereliction of public duty can you get?”
Litman later added that the president’s conduct amounted to a “clearly impeachable offense/violation of public trust with horrendous deadly consequences.”
Washington, D.C.-based national security attorney Bradley P. Moss similarly said that the tapes collected by Woodward “should end [Trump’s] presidency,” adding, “If it doesn’t, god help us.”
The question remained: could anything break through the mind control of the personality cult of Donald Trump? It did not appear so. Fox News was already defending his comments, and there was a collective ‘no response’ from Republicans on Capitol Hill.
“I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic.” President Trump said, explaining why he misled Americans about the coronavirus, He said that he did not want to spark panic. But he was running on fear. (G. Kessler, Trump says he didn’t want to spark panic. But he’s running on fear, The Washington Post, 10.09.2020).
Now the president was trying to rebut his own words in Woodward’s book by suggesting that he was trying to keep the nation calm by not revealing how much he knew about the dangerous nature of the novel coronavirus.
Speaking to reporters President Trump repeatedly played down the COVID-19 threat, suggesting that it was not much more dangerous than the seasonal flu. He emphasised what he had said on 26 February: “This is a flu. This is like a flu.” And on 14 March he said: “You know, we have flu in our country that kills, on average, 36,000 people a year – 36,000 people. And, you know, that’s something that we’re not talking about. But as of this moment, we’ve lost 50” from the coronavirus.
Here is a sampling, drawn mainly from The Washington Post’s database of Trump’s false and misleading claims: “Radical justices will erase the Second Amendment, silence political speech and require taxpayers to fund extreme late-term abortion. They will give unelected bureaucrats the power to destroy millions of American jobs. They will remove the words ‘under God’ from the Pledge of Allegiance. They will unilaterally declare the death penalty unconstitutional, even for the most depraved mass murderers. They will erase national borders, cripple police departments and grant new protections to anarchists, rioters, violent criminals and terrorists.” (From the paper, as at 09.09.2020).
“Joe Biden and the radical, socialist Democrats would immediately collapse the economy. If they got in, they would collapse it. You’ll have a crash the likes of which you’ve never seen before. Your stocks, your 401(k)s.” (07.09.2020) And on the same day: “Biden wants to surrender our country to the virus, he wants to surrender our families to the violent left-wing mob, and he wants to surrender our jobs to China – our jobs and our economic well-being.” And again: “Biden’s strategy is to surrender to the left-wing mob, which is exactly what he’s doing – I don’t think he even knows what he’s doing – and give them control over every lever of power in the United States government. But when you surrender to the mob, you don’t get freedom; you get fascism. That’s what happens in all cases. You take a look at Venezuela. Look what – look what’s going on there and other places.”
President Trump had said on 31 August: “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children. Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”
On 3 July: “In Joe Biden’s America, rioters, looters and criminal aliens have more rights than law-abiding citizens, and that’s true.”
On 20 June: “The entire Democratic field supports deadly sanctuary cities, which release dangerous criminals to terrorize your communities right here in North Carolina, believe it or not.”
On 2 March: “Every major Democrat running for president has pledged to eliminate gas-powered automobiles and destroy the U.S. auto industry forever.” (J. Dawsey, F. Sonmez and P. Kane, Trump acknowledges he intentionally downplayed deadly coronavirus, says effort was to reduce panic, The Washington Post, 09.09.2020).
Nor did President Trump deliver on what Donald J. Trump had promised.
Still, with the 2020 election approximating, Trump voters were not inclined to change their minds. Some of them had been and were forever Republicans who would have only voted the G.O.P. ticket; they are called hereditary voters. Others could not stand the Democratic Party nominees, would not vote for the Libertarian ticket, and would only vote for Trump. Some loved Trump because of his hardly concealed racial prejudice, anti-immigrant stance, deregulation of law enforcement on businesses, and nominations of anti-choice and right-wing corporatist federal judges.
Yet, polls showed that the one area of widespread disappointment among Trump voters – not the rich ones! – was that he did not deliver the improvements for their livelihoods that he promised in the 2016 campaign. Many Trump intending voters were willing to overlook Trump’s dangerous self-enrichment, lies, cover-ups, the surrender of Washington to Wall Street corruption, lethal incompetence, i.e., his bungling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and personal immorality: he has violated seven of the Ten Commandments – the Decalogue which is fundamental to both Judaism and Christianity. But Trump voters expected Trump to do a little bit more to further the legitimate self-interests of the families on Main Street.
Two Pulitzer-Prize-winners, famously accurate reporters, Hedrick Smith, executive editor of reclaimtheamericandream.org, and Nicholas Kristoff of The New York Times would come to say so, and to provide accurate lists of Trump’s broken promises. Smith would also mention some promises that Donald J. Trump tried to keep, such as those which largely favour the wealthy and big businesses.
“Trump promised to create 25 million jobs over 10 years – 2.5 million jobs a year. Even before Covid-19, Trump didn’t come close, because, in large part, he didn’t push for a major infrastructure jobs bill in Congress to repair and upgrade public works in every American community.”
These include getting out of the Paris Climate Accord and the huge tax cut for himself and other wealthy Americans. But President Trump has failed badly on many of his over 200 campaign promises in 2016 which were directed to working people.
Donald J. Trump repeatedly promised to bring back 7.7 million lost manufacturing jobs. At its high – in February 2020, President Trump’s economy and trade policies did not even begin to deliver. In fact, President Trump encouraged Timothy Donald Cook, the chief executive officer of Apple Inc., to keep the company’s Chinese factories by waving tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Apple phones and computers imported from China.
Donald J. Trump promised to raise wages, but once president proceeded to keep the frozen federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour. Under Trump’s watch, taking inflation and loss of benefits into account, Hedrik Smith was forced to conclude that “workers are net losers.” But this would not be the case of the C.E.O.s like the head of Walmart, who makes about $12,000 per hour and benefits from President Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy!
Smith referred to Princeton economist, “[professor Alan Stuart] Blinder, who pointed to academic studies that show ‘For the first time in the past hundred years, the working class today pays higher tax rates than billionaires.’”
Nicholas Kristoff reported additional broken promises – from Mexico not paying a peso for the much publicised ‘wall’ to President Trump inciting violence, breaking laws, and bringing disorder to American streets, to altering “the terms of student loan repayments” adding $200 billion over a decade, although he had promised the opposite to “our students who are drowning in debt,” to repealing and replacing “disastrous Obamacare.” President Trump has failed miserably.
On 27 July 2018, Trump said, “You’re going to have a great health care at a much lower price. It will cost the United States nothing.” How could he tell that to the frontline COVID-19 workers who were being gouged when tested and still do not have adequate protective equipment under the Trump Administration. Many have no health insurance or are underinsured.
Two weeks before the 2016 election, Donald J. Trump said that he was “proposing a package of ethics reforms to make our government [be] honest once again.” Instead, Trump has given the American people the most relentlessly corrupt regime in reported American history. From the White House to key government agencies, President Trump and his cronies daily twisted and broke the law.
The list of broken promises could fill volumes. Candidate Trump promised: “We will honor the American people with the truth and nothing else.”
As at 11.09.2020, according to The Washington Post Fact-check service, the number of false and/or misleading claims stood at 23,035. And that, of course, was less than two months before the election and the avalanche of lies which followed it.
“We will end our chronic trade deficits.” The trade deficit is now bigger than in Obama’s last year in office. Result: The United States is now exporting jobs.
In 2016 Donald J. Trump pledged to dispose of $19 trillion National debt “fairly quickly,” but as president he cared little about adding huge debts on the children and grandchildren of America so that he would not have to repeal his enormous tax cut for the wealthy and stop massive corporate welfare handouts and bailouts. And there is more on Smith’s Reclaim the American Dream and Kristoff’s on The New York Post websites. (R. Nader, Trump’s Broken Promises to His Voters – He Didn’t Deliver!, Common Dreams, 12.09.2020).
One cannot say that, in the presence of the ravaging COVID-19, the Trump Administration took no initiative. In fact, Trump aides tried to alter reports on COVID-19 coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to fit the President’s false claims. (J. Johnson, Trump Aides Tried to Alter CDC COVID Reports to Fit President’s False Claims, Common Dreams, 12.09.2020).
Days after President Trump admitted knowingly to downplaying the COVID-19 pandemic in his statements to the public, new reporting on 11.09.2020 revealed that the president’s political aides had been reviewing – and in some cases altering – weekly Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about the deadly virus in an effort to bring them into closer alignment with the president’s false narrative and claims.
Politico reported on 11.09.2020 that the Health and Human Services Department’s politically appointed communications aides, led by former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo, a Republican strategist with no medical expertise, “have attempted to add caveats to the CDC’s findings, including an effort to retroactively change agency reports that they said wrongly inflated the risks of Covid-19 and should have made clear that Americans sickened by the virus may have been infected because of their own behavior.”
The primary target of the Trump officials’ interference, according to Politico, was the C.D.C.’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, a crucial resource for experts, public officials, and members of the public seeking to track the spread of COVID-19. While C.D.C. officials had pushed back on meddling from political appointees, Politico reported that the agency had “increasingly agreed to allow the political officials to review the reports and, in a few cases, compromised on the wording.”
According to one internal email obtained by Politico, Caputo aide Paul Alexander accused the C.D.C. – an agency directed by Trump appointee Dr. Robert R. Redfield – of “writing hit pieces on the administration” and attempting to use its weekly reports to “hurt the president.”
“CDC tried to report as if once kids get together, there will be spread and this will impact school re-opening.” wrote Alexander, an assistant professor of health research at McMaster University in Toronto. “Very misleading by CDC and shame on them. Their aim is clear.”
Alexander demanded that Dr. Redfield allow the Department of Health & Human Services aide personally to edit the C.D.C.’s reports, which are prepared by career scientists.
“The reports must be read by someone outside of CDC like myself, and we cannot allow the reporting to go on as it has been, for it is outrageous. It’s lunacy.” Alexander, who had also attempted to alter the public messaging of Dr. Fauci, wrote to Dr. Redfield. “Nothing to go out unless I read and agree with the findings how the CDC wrote it and I tweak it to ensure it is fair and balanced and ‘complete.’”
Yale epidemiologist Dr. Gregg Gonsalves called the emails “explosive” and said that Caputo should resign immediately.
“This is just beyond the pale,” Gonsalves tweeted. “Caputo, with acquiescence of Redfield, has started to twist the science to Donald Trump’s advantage. It’s sick and disgusting.”
According to Politico, attempts by political appointees to alter the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports to their liking “began in earnest after a May report prepared by senior CDC official Dr. Anne Schuchat, which reviewed the spread of Covid-19 in the United States and caused significant strife within the health department.”
“Department of Health & Human Services officials, including Secretary Alex Azar, believed that Schuchat was implying that the Trump administration moved too slowly to respond to the outbreak.” Politico continued. “The H.H.S. Department’s criticism was mystifying to CDC officials, who believed that Schuchat was merely recounting the state of affairs and not rendering judgment on the response.”
In addition to trying to change the language of C.D.C. scientists to make it fit with President Trump’s rosy depiction of the pandemic, Caputo and his aides had also moved “to halt the release of some CDC reports, including delaying a report that addressed how doctors were prescribing hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug favoured by Trump as a coronavirus treatment despite scant evidence,” Politico reported.
“The report, which was held for about a month after Caputo’s team raised questions about its authors’ political leanings, was finally published last week,” Politico noted. “It said that ‘the potential benefits of these drugs do not outweigh their risks.’ ”
Politico’s new reporting represented just the latest evidence of the Trump Administration’s ongoing interference in the activities of public health agencies, an effort lawmakers and experts had denounced as a deliberate campaign to undermine trust in COVID-19 data and advance the president’s political agenda.
“A Trump stooge with a history of racist statements and no medical background is doctoring CDC reports warning Americans on Covid because they make Trump look bad,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) tweeted on 11.09.2020, referring to Caputo.
A trump stooge with a history of racist statements and no medical background is doctoring CDC reports warning Americans on covid because they make trump look bad.
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) September 12, 2020
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, said that the “Trump CDC is dead to me if they muzzle the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.”
“To kill the M.M.W.R.”, Feigl-Ding added, “is akin to burning science.” (D. Diamond, Trump officials interfered with CDC reports on Covid-19, Politico, 11.09.2020).
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