The hundreds and hundreds of Donald Trump’s lies and distortions of the truth and his utter lack of leadership are coming home to roost in the deadly spread of a novel virus he ignored for far too long.

Trump’s repeated denial, downplaying, now indecisive leadership over the last three months have wreaked grave havoc on this nation’s readiness and ability to deal with this terrible disease.

It did not have to be this way, dozens of health and science experts, agree.

Two months after the outbreak in China, a month after his own intelligence agencies warned of the serious risk of the virus reaching our shores, Donald Trump told a rally in South Carolina that Democratic criticism of him and his failure to recognize the gravity of the threat was “their hoax.” That was February 28, 2020. One month earlier, his top trade advisor had warned the White House the virus could cost more than one million American lives and shatter the economy if aggressive action was not taken.

Before and since, Trump has issued one false, misleading or dead-wrong claim after another – while failing to provide steady, confidence-building leadership.

“We have it totally under control.” January 22.

“When it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” February 10.

“The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. Stock market looks very good.” February 24.

“We have only 15 cases.” February 26.

“I felt it was a pandemic long before it was a pandemic.” March 17.

Saying “we can’t let the cure be worse than the problem,” Trump said, “you’ll have packed churches all over the country (on Easter).” March 24.

It was not until March 13 that Trump ordered a national emergency. The National Response Framework, set up to deal with all major disasters, to prepare for everything from nuclear war to terror attacks, could have been deployed weeks before. He still has not employed full powers of the Defense Production Act, to command manufacture of tests, masks, ventilators and

other critical equipment. Instead of acting like a commander-in-chief of a nation, he now restricts usage of the federal stockpile.

Incredibly, reversing Harry Truman’s commitment that “the buck stops here,” Trump said “I take no responsibility” for the administration’s terribly costly response.

Months too late, with grudging recognition of the crisis, Donald J. Trump is beginning to realize that the coronavirus crisis is not another TV reality show.

Yet after saying a few kind words about Democratic governors in California, New York and Washington state – all battling the worst outbreaks – he soon reverted to form, telling governors he does not like not to call for federal help.

The president’s denial and stumbling recognition of a grave threat to our national security is the direct result of Trump’s inability – and in fact, outright opposition – to run an open, fact-based administration since 2016.

A few more facts:

Fact: A full-scale simulation by the administration’s Department of Health and Human Services in mid-2019 highlighted the grave risk of a pandemic and warned that major steps were critical to prepare. Its October 2019 report projected 586,000 Americans would die.

Fact: In three-plus years, Trump and his minions have taken a broadsword to science and health programs. He severely weakened the office of national security adviser, downsizing its health emergency staff. His administration has wiped out major environmental regulations and reduced funds for the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

Trump’s abiding disdain for anyone who disagrees with him is strikingly evident in three blatant actions in the last month – all appalling during a national crisis.

A loyal, inexperienced crony is firing respected officers in the intelligence community deemed critical of Trump. Trump has fired several professional inspector generals.

Second, today when national unity is essential, Trump continues to engage in conspiracy theories. He still attacks the “deep state,” professional experts we need in any crisis. It is “the Chinese virus.”

Third, Trump continues to malign the media. During the crisis, he has renewed attacks on “the enemy of the people,” – the favorite phrase of Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin.

Yet, during this crisis, it is newspapers, television networks and other outlets whose reporters and editors have risen brilliantly to the challenge and provided outstanding information and analysis.

It is the most sinister of ironies that this narcissistic president, a former TV reality star who campaigned on “Make America Great Again” continues to show in the most severe national security crisis in decades that he has very little concern for anyone but himself.

Frederic B. Hill, a Baltimore Sun correspondent and foreign affairs director to Republican senator, Charles Mathias, of Maryland, conducted wargaming exercises on national security issues for the Department of State. He is an Arrowsic resident.

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