By Sue Hagan
After months of insisting the Democrats were hyping the coronavirus epidemic for political purposes, on Friday, March 13, Trump changed course and announced the virus is a national emergency: I congratulate Trump on doing so! But now he denies he made all those statements minimizing coronavirus dangers, claiming his gut told him from the start it was going to be a pandemic.
Trump may think he’s believable when he says something one day and denies it the next, but the recordings are irrefutable. He’s on record comparing the coronavirus to the common flu and claiming the later was more dangerous. In February he said, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA…Stock Market starting to look very good.” And he said that a vaccine was close to development. If he really thought there would be a pandemic but misled the public anyway, that’s even worse: people booked trips, invested in stocks, and didn’t follow precaution guidelines because the President said not to worry.
Trump and Pence are failing to persuade MAGA followers to change course. Surveys show Republicans are half as likely to be taking protective steps and twice as likely to believe coronavirus is less serious than the common flu than are Democrats. Among conservative religious zealots, it’s even worse: some megachurches are urging congregants to ignore the social distancing guidelines: keep coming to church, shake hands and put coins in the collection plate. Some deeply religious (one of my brothers among them) are now seeing the virus as the plague that Revelations says is a prelude to the Second Coming; they look forwards to their own rapture, so bring it on. Should the rest of us who have long thought science deniers are risky extend social distancing a bit further for our Republican family and friends?
Two weeks ago, 8th District Republican Chair Ray Rehder wrote in this paper, “This virus is newsworthy and should be covered. However, the Democrat Party is using this to…conceal what they are beginning to do behind the scenes of their Presidential primary.” Newsworthy? Schools and libraries are closed, the economy is collapsing, stores are running out of food and basic necessities, layoffs are rising, many people are getting seriously ill and some are dying. That’s more than newsworthy!
But coronavirus wasn’t Rehder’s primary concern; his column was headlined, “Democrat party leaders are cheating Bernie again”. Rehder thinks Democrat leaders persuaded candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar to end their campaigns and endorse Biden just to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the nomination. Ludicrous! Let’s not forget Republicans in several states cancelled their primaries because they don’t want party members voting for anyone but Trump—that is real voter cheating.
Let’s face it: unless the Democrats nominate a right-wing conservative who on election day withdraws and cedes victory to Trump, Rehder will not be happy with any Democratic nominee. He writes “the cupboard is again empty of good nominees” for Democrats. No way does Rehder want a social democrat as President, so why his concern that Sanders is now falling behind Biden?
Rehder is not alone. Trump urged followers in states with open primaries to vote on the Democrat ballot to help nominate “the least electable Democrat”—he meant Bernie Sanders. The Russians, too, have been trying to boost Sanders in the primaries. Rehder, Trump, the Russians all believe Sanders is the weakest Democrat candidate and so that’s who they want running against Trump.
Could it be that Republican politicians actually helped persuade many Democrats to switch from Sanders to better assure Trump’s defeat? My neighbor switched even though she, like millions, think Sanders’ proposals are wonderful: she wants Trump out before he ruins everything.
Rehder also made disgusting attacks on Joe Biden, including this: “[Biden] cannot give a coherent speech”. How provoking in view of the mumble-jumble spewing from Trump’s mouth in all his impromptu speeches. And don’t overlook Trump’s bold-faced lies, his grandiosity, and his refusal to accept responsibility for anything that goes wrong—be it the economy, his mismanagement of the epidemic, or even admitting the North Korea government took advantage of his friendship recently to launch more multiple projectiles into the sea. Biden has indeed long suffered from communication difficulties but far worse is Trump’s condition which worsens with each crisis.
Last week Rehder credited Trump’s leadership for there being “only” 39 USA coronavirus deaths and compared that to the flu. From when he wrote his column to publication, coronavirus deaths have risen to 129. Without significant government and individual action to slow the spread, experts say 2.2 million U.S. citizens could die.
Congressman Smith’s column ignored coronavirus completely; he was more interested in pushing a discredited conspiracy theory about the FBI trying to stop Trump’s 2016 election. Mr. Rehder and Congressman Smith, instead of writing nonsense, how about answering a few questions? With trillions in new expenditures necessary to help us through the epidemic, will Republicans be willing to end the tax breaks they gave the super-rich a few years back? Will the GOP stop their “make the poor work for benefits” agenda now that so many are being laid off? Will the assault on the Affordable Care Act, which Trump has taken to the Supreme Court, be ended? And will Trump refrain from going to Mar-a-Lago, a hot-bed for the virus and little social distancing?