Truths about Donald Trump dissipate quickly in middle America.
Regardless of political affiliation, people are far enough from the D.C. political world to be more cognizant of the day-to-day struggles brought on by COVID-19, than to be consumed with the latest evidence that the president is a liar and a cad.
Six months into the pandemic, much of America is like this as fall begins.
School districts are fending off threatened lawsuits from parents livid about the lack of fall sports and the prospect of a senior year where a talent scout won’t see their child perform and maybe offer a college scholarship worth thousands of dollars in tuition.
Parents are churning with the heavy decision of whether their child will attend online, in person or a hybrid learning environment.
Universities are increasingly instituting strict rules in efforts to control the coronavirus enough to keep campuses open; quarantining students in motel rooms and threatening expulsion for repeated flaunting of mandated mask wearing.
These are dilemmas that require constant focus and attention. There are no easy choices, or frankly time to waste on what we already know about President Trump.
Into that reality the Bob Woodward bombshell dropped. In a taped interview, the president admits to the journalist in early February his understanding of the fatality rates of COVID-19 and that he chose to play that dire news down, to keep it from the public.
The president could have saved American lives. Instead, Trump pivoted to embolden his version of America. The one where businesses are open, not shuttered and the economy is pumping strong and masks are draconian nanny-state asks.
Never mind that some nursing homes would soon become virtual deathtraps for seniors, the first demographic that began dying of the coronavirus.
It’s unconscionable. But the fact that Trump lied to the American public is in keeping with how the president behaves in regard to every issue that crosses his path. This isn’t any different. Trump always puts himself first. It’s simply more directly tied to life and death this time.
Woodward released the snippet as a promotion to sell more copies of his forthcoming book “Rage.” Revealed sooner, the president could have been pressured to speak more honestly about the dangers of the virus. And for that, Woodward ought to answer.
But looking ahead, it’s likely that Trump will, at least for now, escape the blame that he deserves. Because people have shifted to focusing on local gatekeepers, an understandable move as people grapple with how to navigate daily life.
They have to be attuned to who is making the decisions affecting their family in the most immediate ways. And for parents, that’s school boards, educators and university administrators.
Cable news hosts have the time to fill, and the bandwidth to argue Trump’s negligence for hours. But parents have to get their children to school, or situated at the kitchen table, engaged in remote learning.
At the University of Missouri, a student can now play solitaire under one of the trees dotting the campus with no one else in sight and still, they are required to wear a mask.
Masks outdoors while on campus is a new order at MU.
Hundreds of MU students are already facing discipline for breaking the ever-shifting campus COVID-19 rules. Some have been ordered into quarantine, shuffled to local motels and told to hunker down alone for two weeks. The university expects a continued upward trajectory of new transmissions as the college town of Columbia, Missouri, is part of hot spots affecting many similar areas across the Midwest and in some Southern states.
And if college students are found to be the reason that COVID-19 spreads through the Columbia, Missouri, area, locals will blame the students for spreading the virus in the community, not President Trump for concealing what he knew and when he knew it.
Trump, it will be argued, is the good guy, willing to tell a fib to save the nation from worry.
Expect to hear people recite some version of this quote from the Woodward/Trump interview: “I think, Bob, really, to be honest with you, I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Yes, plenty of people are also incensed that Trump sounds so on point in the tape. But those same people might be logging on to attend a remote school board session soon. The hope for the nation is that even if they’re too busy to vent now, come November, they’ll note the hardships of recent months and come to the rightful conclusion.
President Donald Trump is the wrong person to lead the nation during a pandemic, or any time.
Readers can reach Mary Sanchez at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @msanchezcolumn
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