One Mouth, Two Sides
Terry H. Schwadron
March 25, 2020
Talk about mixed signals.
Out of one side of his mouth, Donald Trump is begging Americans to heed the advice of medical professionals, governors and mayors to stay home, keep social distance and stop meeting up with others where coronavirus contagion may lurk.
Then, in the last couple of days, out of the other side of his mouth, Trump says maybe 15 days of isolation is enough, or 22 days — April 12 is his new deadline — not the months that the nation’s public health authorities have insisted will be necessary to let the virus crest and pass. Instead, Trump now argues, the cure for virus starvation may harm more people through a bad economy than help guard against illness.
In other words, the self-declared “wartime president” appears to be ready to announce Mission Accomplished halfway through the second inning of the game. As far as I know, FDR never got so fatigued with his war that he wanted to simply walk away.
Maybe he’s bored, as some of his staff are leaking out in reports to reporters. Maybe Trump is genuinely worried about restarting the economy, as conservative business adherents are arguing. Maybe he is simply heartless to any experience that is not his own, and he is overly concerned only with his re-election prospects, as argued by those who think the world would be better off if Trump were not in the White House.
Now amplifying Trump’s shuffle on staying home, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, has drawn undue attention for interpreting that seniors ought to risk dying to save the economy.
We’re one utterance short of telling America directly that the patriotic thing to do is to sacrifice Grandma — and me — to save corporate profits.
I’m neither a committed public health doctor nor a proponent of the need for constant profit-making by companies, but I am a stickler for clarity. Tell me what the need is, and I’ll adjust. We’re at home, like you; we’re worried about both illness and job prospects, like you. But explain to me the need, and I will adjust.
Donald Trump, don’t treat me like I’m an idiot. Don’t argue sides of this question, particularly at the same time. I am capable of understand that there is balancing going on here, even that there are arguments to re-draw the question that make sense.
But arguing a week into an arbitrary 15-day defined isolation period that there is enough data to draw a conclusion. Indeed, the data show that the full effect of the virus has yet to hit, that the hospitals are just about on the cusp of the anticipated surge.
But this president is leaping ahead to assume that a single malaria drug will work — with no medical confirmation — even beyond reducing systems to counteract coronavirus. And he is leaping ahead in equivalent treatments of economic problems.
By contrast, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was able to make a coherent statement of Trump’s meandering and contradictory remarks. Yes, it is possible to get started on the economy with younger workers and those who have come through treatment of coronavirus — but in a few weeks, please, when we are not looking at 25,000 virus patients in his state alone.
As Cuomo was able to demonstrate in a couple of sentences, the federal efforts to send 400 ventilators to New York (which has about 7,000) to treat upwards of 30,000 eventual hospitalizations makes mincemeat of Donald Trump’s self-congratulatory efforts. Cuomo’s outline of moving the ventilators two and three times to different states as their case counts crest makes such obvious sense, it spins the mind to watch the vacuous nature of federal briefings when it comes to learning actual numbers.
I would hope that restarting the economy after a substantial shutdown as the one we are living through should take more than a few words from Donald Trump. There are medical concerns, there are layered business questions, there are different regional concerns across the United States.
As with most such pronouncements by Trump, this date is likely to be porous, and re-dictated several more times.
But more than anything, the president’s blithe statements that the cure can’t be worse than the disease skips over the obvious. What possible evidence is there that what is befalling New York, California, Washington and Illinois are not coming to Texas and Nebraska in a matter of another couple of weeks?
It is a serious question whether we as a nation, as a world, care about deaths from tens of thousands upwards to a million from this disease more than we care about protecting Wall Street profits. At this moment, we’ve spent days in Washington arguing about how best to send cash to citizens forced from work, and we have wasted weeks arguing about how to keep people at a distance from one another.
But the bottom-line question is whether Donald Trump actually understands the confusion he causes when he irresponsibly tweets the opposite of what he said an hour before.