On Wednesday, President Donald Trump released a video of himself standing behind a podium in the White House’s Diplomatic Room, where he delivered what he claimed was the “most important speech” of his presidency.
The video, released on a day when the United States lost 2,798 people to the COVID-19 pandemic, did not show Trump offering heartfelt condolences or offering an in-depth explanation of how he planned to rein in a public health catastrophe that claimed the lives of a 9/11’s worth of Americans in a single day.
Instead, Trump delivered a grievance-filled, fact-free rant about his favorite topic: Himself.
A two-minute version of the video was posted to Twitter, with a link to the full, 46-minute version on Trump’s Facebook page. As the New York Times reports, Twitter labeled the video “disputed.” Facebook added a note that President-elect Joe Biden, who received almost 81 million votes and 306 electoral votes, is the projected winner of the election, the Times further reported.
Trump did make a glancing reference to the pandemic, according to The Washington Post. But once again, it had not a whit to do with the thousands grieving absent family this holiday season, or the economic pain inflicted on millions of people because of pandemic-related shutdowns.
It was entirely about him.
“Using the pandemic as a pretext, Democrat politicians and judges drastically changed election procedures just months, and in some cases, weeks before the election,” Trump harrumphed, according to the Post, without providing any evidence to back up his claim. “They used the pandemic, sometimes referred to as the China virus, where it originated, as an excuse to mail out tens of millions of ballots, which ultimately led to a big part of the fraud, a fraud that the whole world is watching, and there is no one happier right now than China. … It is important for Americans to understand that these destructive changes to our election laws were not a necessary response to the pandemic. The pandemic simply gave the Democrats an excuse to do what they have been trying to do for many, many years.”
Sometimes referred to as “The China Virus” — only by him, and only because Trump has spent months trying to evade responsibility for the worst public health crisis in a century. It’s there, in his own words.
“I don’t take responsibility at all,” Trump said in March, as he tried to play down an early COVID-19 testing fumble, Politico reported.
And now, nine months later, after 273,000 dead, with a record number of infections, and a record number of hospitalizations, Trump has left the field, ranting madly like Charles Foster Kane in his tower, oblivious to the suffering around him, taking a battering ram to our democracy, and counting down the days until he becomes a private citizen again.
Meanwhile, the rest of us, who live in the real world, are left to pick through the wreckage; to struggle to reassemble lives shattered by death or unemployment or displacement because of the pandemic. We console our children, who are attending school remotely, and tell ourselves that seeing family over Zoom at holidays is as good as the real thing.
And it would be one thing if Trump’s Republican allies on Capitol Hill and state Legislatures were stepping up in opposition to this mad king routine. But they’re not. Most Congressional Republicans are unable to use the words “Biden” and “president-elect” in the same sentence for fear of angering the man-child in the White House.
In Pennsylvania, which Biden won by more than 80,000 votes, one GOP loyalist, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, who represents a sprawling district around Erie, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on his claim that Pennsylvania’s mail-in balloting law is unconstitutional. Kelly has asked for the results of the entire election — including his own — to be set aside, disenfranchising millions of voters.
And back to the pandemic, two Republican state lawmakers who attended a charade, mask-free hearing on Thanksgiving Eve that was shot-through with groundless claims of fraud, have now come down with COVID-19. One of them is the hearing’s organizer, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who has been one of the loudest opponents of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic management policies.
It’s a pattern of irresponsibility that begins at the very highest level of government and filters down to every junior-grade Trump wannabe looking to fill the vacuum created by the president’s looming exit from the national stage. It is no coincidence that Mastriano is often mentioned as a possible GOP contender for Pennsylvania governor in two years’ time.
Meanwhile, outside this feedback loop, public health experts warn of a difficult and painful winter. There is consolation that a vaccine is on the way, but because public health workers and the most vulnerable are being rightfully prioritized, it could be a while before the general public is fully immunized. And that assumes that everyone steps up to do so.
Trump could have used his 46 minutes at the podium to talk about all of these issues — or even one of them — but he did not. And most of us have long since stopped expecting him to do so. Instead, we’re looking to Biden, who is weeks away from assuming power, to step up and do the right thing.
And there’s no reason to think that he won’t. Because Biden knows loss. He knows pain. And he understands the weight and responsibility of the power he will soon wield.
In March, Trump looked the American people in the eye and told them he took no responsibility. We should have listened the first time.