Every sentient American knew in February that COVID-19 was an incredibly dangerous threat. We had seen how China, South Korea, New Zealand, and Taiwan controlled the spread of the disease by acting decisively. 

We then saw the counterexamples: first Italy, then Spain cavalierly failed to heed the warnings and ignored social distancing. Finally, after thousands of deaths, Italy imposed a draconian shutdown, and they are now beginning to reap the benefits. Meanwhile the Trump Administration was busy lying to the public, saying there were only a few deaths, and soon the disease would magically disappear. 

Last Sunday, the New York Times simply retold and documented the story every one of us had already lived through — of Trump blustering and lying and refusing to do anything to abate the virus. To this day, he has refused any national stay-at-home advisory. He refuses to use his war powers to direct U.S. industries to make masks or test kits. Trump’s failure to respond in any constructive way to this crisis, when the correct response was clear to everyone else in the world, has turned the U.S. into the hotbed of the worst pandemic in a century. Our sick and our dead now far outnumber any other country. Yet this disaster was preventable.

Trump is simply incapable of responding to this crisis. He refuses to listen to experts, preferring to fire them and replace them with sycophants. He refuses to learn from the experiences of other countries who have tried a variety of approaches. A competent CEO listens to experts who present options and discuss the ramifications of each choice. The best option is usually obvious. Trump cannot function this way — he extracts decisions from his “gut” which typically means the last pundit he heard on Fox News. He has no coherent strategy, and no one knows what he will decide next.

Trump now is itching to “open up the economy” because his only claim to success was to ride the upward slope of the stock market from Obama’s last seven years in office. Every rational view of how we might return to normal involves extensive testing for COVID-19. But Trump never wanted testing, and stymied efforts to carry it out, mainly because when you test there are many positive results, and this makes Trump look bad. He does not care that people are sick and dying, but he does care that he might be blamed for it. So, ostrich-like, he prefers to avoid testing altogether. The very thing that must happen before we can reopen our country is the thing he does not want to happen. While his tiny brain struggles with this dilemma, hundreds of thousands of Americans have become sick and tens of thousands have died.

Unfortunately, the TV networks are pathetically suckered into airing Trump’s daily “briefings,” which are undisguised political re-election ads. Trump cannot open his mouth without lying, so nothing he says can be taken at face value. Each declaration must be corrected by his staff. 

By spreading myths, phony cures, and lies about the COVID-19 crisis, these briefings seriously damage America’s safety. If these propaganda-fests must be broadcast, there should be equal time for a Democratic response. But there is absolutely no reason this garbage should be aired at all. 

Instead, the media should ask actual experts and knowledgeable people (e.g., the team at Johns Hopkins and Anthony Fauci) to give daily updates on the spread of the disease, the status of treatment or immunization efforts, and recommendations about social distancing, etc. 

Truthful, well-intentioned information is desperately needed, but instead we are insulted by a daily barrage of lies and narcissism. When their laziness and fear of being attacked by a psychotic President cause the news media to morph into mouthpieces for Sauron/Voldemort/Trump, it is time they reconsider their responsibility to humanity. 

Tom DeCoursey is a resident of Oak Park. 

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