Sunday May 10, 2020
Coronavirus clearly has the US President Donald Trump panicking. Apparently, the only thing reverberating now in the president's mind is his own catchphrase — but with an addition. He can hear that outburst... someone banging the desk in the boardroom, saying: "Mr Trump, you’re fired!"
The last four months could very well have been a defining moment for him. One right decision about dealing with the novel coronavirus was enough for him to reclaim the White House in the upcoming elections.
However, Trump ended up opting for an nonscientific approach and that became the root cause of his nightmares.
Failing to turn this pandemic into a golden opportunity, the American president is trying his best to distract attention and divert criticism. Instead of finding genuine faults in the Chinese criteria of declaring a person affected by the novel virus, he has wrongly accused Beijing over the origin of the bug.
As for whether it would work for him or not, is a matter of time. But his able advisors, such as Dr Anthony Fauci — a senior scientist who is also a member of the White House's coronavirus task force — are not ready to ditch science, they have practiced it all their lives.
The top infectious disease expert, who has advised six presidents in the past, is refuting each of Trump's illogical accusations against China. Dr Fauci has categorically stated that there is no scientific evidence to allegations that the novel coronavirus was made in a Wuhan lab or escaped from there.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), on the other hand, is also not ready to become a scapegoat.
Now the president and his right-hand man, State Secretary Mike Pompeo, must produce the evidence they have been touting about for a while.
Are they borrowing time to come up with a ‘smoking gun’ produced by former state secretary, Colin Powell, against Iraq? Or they are waiting for some auspicious moment?
While they can get away with it even if they are unable to bring evidence, Trump’s non-scientific approach cannot. It has not only shocked the world but belittled America. One doesn’t need to be a scientist to lead a nation but must surely have common sense.
Forget about the scientific world for a while; what should a common man feel about the president of the United States who suggests injecting bleach into COVID-19 patients? Or asks for somehow "cleaning" their bodies with it only because bleach kills the pathogen!
The whole world knows that washing hands with soap destroys the virus. But does that mean that everyone starts eating soap cakes or drinking liquid soap?
If it really was so simple, then why are the top pharmaceutical companies spending billions of dollars to develop vaccines?
To err is human and that equally applies to Trump. However, he should admit his mistakes and correct himself. Blaming what he terms the "fake news media" — which he says misconstrued his "sarcastic" comments — cannot hide the reality.
Former state secretary and Trump's rival in the 2016 elections, Hillary Clinton, has a point when she says "just think what a difference it would make right now if we had a president who not only listened to the science — put facts over fiction — but brought us together". It was actually a reminder to Trump, who said in 2016 that "science is science and facts are facts."
The facts show that the American president was unable to comprehend the intensity of the crisis. The WHO had declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global health emergency on January 30. By that time, cases had already been reported in Germany and the US but Trump waited for something big.
Blaming the WHO for taking long to declare coronavirus a pandemic is alarming. The global health body is not a country and is bound to its International Health Regulations. Is President Trump accusing its officials of hiding information? If so, can he provide proof?
In fact, there are serious questions about his judgement. On January 20, the US had confirmed its first case in Washington.
The man had returned after a trip to China — the origin of the virus and a country that imposed lockdown in Wuhan, the centre of the epidemic, on January 23 — and still, the US did not ban flights from China and kept screening passengers.
Trump only declared a national emergency on March 13, when the virus had already wreaked havoc in 47 of the 50 states. So much so that it had killed at least 41 people and infected thousands of others. Didn’t he take too long in that announcement?
Trump's failure to understand the intensity of the deadly disease is also evident from his response in allocating funds to wage the battle against the novel coronavirus. He sought only $2.5 billion, whereas the Congress had approved $5.4 billion for Ebola and $7.7 billion against swine flu.
One wonders why the 93 US Nobel laureates in medicine or physiology didn’t write a collective letter to guide him better. After all, the US has more Nobel laureates in this field than the UK, Germany, and France combined.
The president’s economic bailout plan also faltered. Initially, he had sought a trillion-dollar package. Thanks to the Democrats, the Congress approved a $2.2-trillion stimulus. Yet, the priority distribution to large organisations left many without a penny.
The real estate tycoon-turned-politician was not elected for that; he was chosen to "Make America Great Again". His followers have revered him for being the authoritative host of The Apprentice who would show the door to the contestants over the slightest of mistakes. They remember him for firing a contestant for misspelling ‘Melania’ (though two years later as president, he would make the same mistake and misspell the name of his own wife as ‘Melanie’).
Over the years, he would make one U-turn after another. However, he managed to remain at the top because he was so good at keeping the economy running at its best. It was a subject he had not only studied but impressively practiced.
In one stroke, nevertheless, the coronavirus has destroyed those economic gains. The unemployment rate in the US has skyrocketed to 14.7%. Only last month, some 20 million people lost their jobs.
Realistically, it may take years to pull America out of this recession and revitalise its backbone. This vulnerability has brought together the Democrats, who were otherwise convinced of losing elections.
Left-leaning Bernie Sanders has tactfully quit and strengthened the pro-establishment Joe Biden. Endorsing a rival before the Democratic convention will help put up a united front.
Trump is clearly seeing this storm approaching fast. He is impatient to reopen all of America to portray an illusional revival, even though he knows full well that economies can crash in a moment but cannot be switched on with a magic wand.
As the new election season starts, the former host of The Apprentice knows that one of the two contestants will be eliminated. The dialogue he has delivered over 200 times in the past is now resonating thunderously louder — but with an addition: "Mr Trump, you’re fired!"