Answering the Kennedys’ Call
Early in Bob Woodward’s just released best-seller, Rage, President Trump said he knew by February that COVID-19 could act much like the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19. It was estimated to have killed 675,000 Americans and 50 million worldwide before it was over.
“It’s deadly stuff,” he said to Woodward, “It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus…maybe five times as deadly as the flu.”
Yet despite Trump’s confession that he knew early of its horrendous effects, his downplaying of its dangers to Americans and the world may set the stage for a repeat performance.
This is in part because we are not yet upon the season where it did its greatest damage—the fall and winter. Then combine it with the ordinary flu season that kills from 30,000 to 60,000 every year.
John M Barry’s book, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, first published in 2004 with a 100th anniversary edition reprint in 2018, details the horrors of the Spanish flu pandemic that broke out in the last year of World War One that no one should want repeated.
In a matter of 12 weeks two-thirds of its victims died, from mid-September to mid-December of 1918, said Barry, in as quickly as 24 hours from the onset of symptoms—some symptoms resembling those of the Black Plague. There was a less-deadly surge in the spring of 1919 that sickened even President Woodrow Wilson while he was in Paris negotiating World War One peace terms with Germany.
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward on March 19, even as he had declared a national emergency over the virus days earlier. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
If instead of playing down what he knew, Trump had acted decisively in early February with a strict shutdown and a consistent message to wear masks, social distance and wash hands, experts believe that thousands of American lives could have been saved, maybe preventing an inevitable repeat of the 1918 horrors that should never be repeated.
Why such a stunning disregard for human life by the Trump administration and Republican Party is now the question that needs to be answered.
President Trump is the last vestige of the conservative counterrevolution documented so accurately in Kurt Andersen’s Evil Genius, the Unmaking of America that has so weakened American values and institutions. We have come to a time when disregarding the laws of nature is the new normal, where race-baiting and the scapegoating of minorities have become official government policies.
Doctors Fauci and Redfield seem to believe 1918 may be repeated when they warned recently that the worst is yet to come this winter with a vaccine not generally available to the public before summer or fall of 2021 and the oncoming ordinary flu season that has historically killed thousands more.
Woodward also revealed Trump’s own National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien labeled the new coronavirus pandemic the greatest national security threat he will face as President.
We also now know the national security costs of electing a “useful idiot” to the Oval Office, in the words of Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, a decorated Marine veteran and former Russian analyst on the National Security in a recent Atlantic Monthly article.
“President Trump should be considered to be a useful idiot and a fellow traveler, which makes him an unwitting agent of Putin,” Vindman said recently. Useful idiot is a term commonly used to describe dupes of authoritarian regimes; fellow traveler, in Vindman’s description, is a person who shares Putin’s loathing for democratic norms.
He has also been a “useful idiot” for Republicans that have attempted more than 80 times to dismantle our public health system, including the repeal of Obamacare with its preexisting conditions inclusion, which has increased the risks to Americans’ health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even the separation of children from parents seeking asylum from corrupt Central American governments and drug gangs has been revealed to be government policy implemented by the Department of Homeland Security; as documented by the journalist Jacob Soboroff in his new book documenting the horrific Trump policies with immigrant families, Separated: Inside An American Tragedy.
These costs are no longer bearable because they reveal America has come to be governed by the useful idiots of one political party with no real regard for human life, who are determined to hold on to their wealth and power regardless of the consequences.
Harlan Green © 2020
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