What was he thinking?

President Donald Trump speaks to his supporters Thursday during a rally at the MBS International Airport in Freeland, Mich. Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press/Tribune News Service

How can one defend a public official who admits to concealing from constituents critical information about a deadly virus at the start of a health care crisis?

President Donald Trump conducted a series of interviews with Bob Woodward for the investigative reporter’s forthcoming book, “Rage.” In audio segments released Wednesday, Mr. Trump said in February that he knew the novel coronavirus was substantially more serious than “even your strenuous flu.” But then in March, he told Mr. Woodward, “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Some of the president’s supporters correctly pointed out that he declared a national emergency March 13. Invoking the Stafford Act put the Federal Emergency Management Agency on standby to coordinate national activities to treat those infected with the coronavirus and work to prevent further outbreaks. It also made about $50 billion in funds and resources available to strengthen efforts to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic.

The Trump administration took other actions early on to stop the spread of infection. In late January, officials prohibited the entry into the United States of foreign nationals who had been to China within the last 14 days. This followed news that American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines had suspended flights between China and the United States for several months, according to a story published Jan. 31 by the New York Times (wdt.me/Kkghs6).

However, Mr. Trump confessed to withholding how much he knew about the severity of the coronavirus once the outbreak began. He and other administration officials made numerous statements downplaying the virus’s potential to infect large numbers of Americans. This no doubt influenced how people viewed their chances of developing COVID-19 — many to their detriment.

The website TheBulwark.com documented these comments (wdt.me/XdR6aB) from Mr. Trump:

“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.” (Jan. 22)

“We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.” (Feb. 2)

“A lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in.” (Feb. 10)

“[The number of people infected is] going very substantially down, not up.” “The 15 [cases] within a couple of days is going to be down to zero.” (Feb. 26)

“So last year, 37,000 Americans died from the common flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down; life and the economy go on. At this moment, there are 546 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 22 deaths.” (March 9)

“It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” (March 10)

Now we have Mr. Trump stating that he knew such comments were not truthful. Perhaps the most honest statement he made during this period of the crisis was this from March 13: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

Sadly, Mr. Trump never does. He believes everyone else is to blame for his incompetence and dreadful decisions.

While declaring a national emergency was essential, Mr. Trump utterly failed to use federal resources to get ahead of the pandemic. He spent way too much time arguing with state authorities desperate for funding and necessary supplies. He was far more concerned about his own image than he was about the welfare of U.S. citizens.

Panic over the coronavirus was inevitable. People would eventually see that it was adversely affecting loved ones and fear they would be next.

So the best way to stem widespread concerns would have been to understand what was needed to curtail the spread of infection as much as possible and make these resources available. But the president did not do this to the extent that he could have or should have. He frittered away numerous opportunities to make a real difference, and many people have paid for his inaction with their lives.

We agree with Mr. Trump that panic does a nation no good. However, the best cure for panic is to show you’re ready to confront the pending challenge.

The president, though, wanted to avoid panic by largely ignoring the problem. He repeatedly told Americans that the coronavirus will simply disappear.

This is not how health care crises are resolved. It takes concerted efforts on multiple fronts to treat those diagnosed with the disease and urge people to follow safety protocols to reduce their chances of becoming infected.

We’re not suggesting that the Trump administration didn’t take any necessary or beneficial actions. It certainly did. But officials wasted a lot of time at the beginning minimizing the pending catastrophe we had on our hands.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump described himself as a cheerleader for the United States in responding to the controversy over his taped comments. In reality, he’s been a cheerleader of denial throughout this ordeal. As his re-election bid enters the home stretch, Americans must closely examine whether his actions demonstrate the leadership we need at this time.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(25) comments

zeitgeist

Let's not forget that on top of being a total idiot, Trump is a self-proclaimed germaphobe. Germs-- COVID-- panic him!

Psychological projection is an unconscious defense mechanism whereby a person projects his difficult and scary feelings onto someone else or others, rather than admitting to and dealing with them himself.

In projecting his panic onto Americans, Trump was comforted and better able to deal with his own panic, albeit irrationally as evidenced by his inept leadership.

It's an atrocity that Trump psychologically comforted himself at the expense of thousands and thousands of precious lives.

Pitbull

None of your post is anything but conjecture.

Holmes

Criticizing Trump for concealing facts instead of condemning China for hiding it is unforgivable. Trump tried to protect public health and prevent panic. He also immediately began looking for remedies and cures. His critics still have not done anything about a cure, instead they are looking for any political advantage that helps them, not the public. People need to wake up...

KRobbins

Trump tried to protect public health and prevent panic. He also immediately began looking for remedies and cures.

Is he trying to protect public health by having campaign rallies? Also want to point out that most of the people at those rallies won’t be protecting themselves against the virus by wearing masks because that would be an affront to their leader.

Yes, I remember his search for remedy and cure by suggesting the injection of disinfectant. He also promoted hydroxychloroquine long after it had proven not only to be ineffective but to actually kill some. There’s a blood plasma treatment now that actually is effective and they’re having a hard time getting people to buy in because Trump pushed it.

Pitbull

Does it surprise about all the unmasked people at Trump rallies KR? Every single on has a Bible and a gun but no mask. Those people are really ignorant.

KRobbins

Does it surprise about all the unmasked people at Trump rallies KR? Every single on has a Bible and a gun but no mask.

No, it doesn’t surprise me. As I’ve said I believe not wearing a mask is how they show loyalty to their leader. Drink the koolaid has become breathe the COVID. If they have both Bibles and guns I have to ask which they would give up if they had to choose: The teachings of the Prince of Peace or the means to kill their fellow man.

Eagle24

Trump tried to protect the public health?? 😄 Holding rallies with no masks ? Maybe ask the family of Herman Cain how well Trump protected him.. The political advantages are offered by Trump's daily tweets... If he'd shut up and focus on his accomplishments he'd have a chance...won't happen... today he'll claim the world is flat...and tomorrow you'll defend his claim.. wake up..

KRobbins

He doesn’t even have the courage to fire people face to face. Comey was in California and learned from seeing CNN that he’d been fired. He thought he was being pranked. Trump fired others via tweet. He certainly didn’t have the courage to level with Americans about coronavirus. So, he tried to lie and wish it away. Maybe he thought he could con a virus. And he thinks he’s the equivalent of Roosevelt or Churchill!

Whatever actions he did take he didn’t call on people to mask up, socially distance and close nonessential businesses until it was under control. Ironically if he had he’d probably be in better shape for re-election. Now he’s out on a superspreader rally tour and attendees prove their loyalty to their leader by not distancing and not wearing masks. They are almost literally drinking the Koolaid. Maybe we can change that expression to “breathe the COVID.” We officially have a cult leader as president.

Empathy

I find it hard to believe my eyes when I see those middle age and up supporters at his rallies without masks and without distancing. I'm beginning to wonder if he has four busloads of the same paid supporters that he transports around from rally to rally. If one keels over, he just hires another? Fiction? Or do we really have that many foolish people in the US?

KRobbins

In 2016 there were a lot people who didn’t want to admit they were Trump supporters, but voted for him. This time there are a bunch of Trumpers who don’t want to admit they don’t support him and will vote against him. The hidden Biden vote.

That’s for Mr. Stefanik+14.

Holmes

First of all they are not rallies, they’re ‘peaceful protesters’ protesting ergo no masks required. Secondly, they don’t make four buses that can hold 20,000 “same paid supporters”...

Pitbull

Not everyone is as smart and insightful as you, Empathy. When is your next wellness lecture?

Pitbull

We officially have a leader as a leader. He doesnt even need to read a teleprompter to answer a question. Crawl back into the gopher hole with a mask on and see what exists when you crawl out.

Eagle24

Maybe if he had a teleprompter his wouldn't suggest to inject a disinfectant.. that McCain's a loser.. or at least consider what his sister, a Federal Judge, thinks of him.. There are many talented GOP candidates.....hopefully this gets fixed in November..

hermit thrush

"He doesnt even need to read a teleprompter to answer a question."

imagine writing that about the person-woman-man-camera-tv guy.

Pitbull

Poor James Comey. What an honorable citizen. Trump has more courage in a wisp of orange hair than OBiden ever had. He's tough on China, Iran, and Noko while they were weak. He's actually tougher on Russia if you look at reality, rather than hopes and dreams.

hermit thrush

trump has been extremely weak on all four of those countries. it is really wild how his supporters will spout lies like that.

hermit thrush

trump should resign and the republican party should be obliterated.

Pitbull

Boom! Obliterate them! I just love to watch the liberal echo chamber/silo build up a head of steam! Obliterate the Republicans!

hermit thrush

not quite obliterate the republicans. i am an ideological democrat, which means that i am concerned with the welfare of all people. i want good things even for my political opponents as human beings. however, the republican party as an institution deserves to be eradicated from the face of the earth.

Pitbull

Hermit, as an ideological Democrat, you said all people. Thats altruistic, but this is an American political battle underway. Oh wait, if you "eradicate the republican party" it will clear the way for opening up our country to ALL people. I see how you think.

hermit thrush

your attempts at wit are really something to behold.

while we're at it, though, allowing more immigration would be a very good idea.

Holmes

Ludicrous

Mallow53

There is no way Americans would have panicked hearing the truth. We didn’t panic during other crisises, we can together to work and support each other. There were a few who rushed out to buy up all the sanitizer and TP to profit but the vast majority pulled together. I do not believe Trump understands how Americans are willing to work and sacrifice for each other, it is something he never would do. His lies and distrust of experts, his made up and untested “treatments“, and his refusal to build and support a national strategy to fight this virus has lead to more deaths. Even his refusal to wear a mask shows his disregard of the lives of those around him and lack of understanding that his actions effect us all across the country. If Trump has stood up, been a leader, and stopped trying to invoke panic and fear I believe he could have won this election. As it is his disregard for our military heroes, his lies, and his lack of true leadership and empathy has driven all but the most ardent supporters away.

KRobbins

I do not believe Trump understands how Americans are willing to work and sacrifice for each other, it is something he never would do.

Great point! Also, didn’t read your comment before leaving my other one. Glad to hear you also say that he would likely have won re-election if he’d acted like a true leader. God forbid we have another 4 years of this.

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