In her new book, "The Enablers: How Team Trump Flunked the Pandemic and Failed America," Barbara Kellerman examines the role former President Donald Trump's political and media acolytes played in enabling what may be the most disastrous presidential performance in American history. "By every objective measure," observes Kellerman, who has written widely on leadership, "during the first half of 2020 and beyond under the leadership of President Trump, the federal government's management of the pandemic was woefully, humiliatingly bad."
It is true that the rot spread from the fish's head, as it so often does. Apart from the historic mendacity that Trump displayed virtually hourly as the pandemic quickly mushroomed, infecting and killing first thousands, then tens of thousands and finally hundreds of thousands of Americans, the president's performance as the crisis took root and deepened was part Herbert Hoover, part Bozo the Clown.
But Kellerman focuses on the role that Trump's ever-loyal allies played in downplaying the pandemic, mocking the public health experts who called for measures to curtail its spread and belittling those measures. "No matter what Trump did or said as it pertained to the new coronavirus," Kellerman writes, "no matter how mistaken, misguided or misleading his leadership, no matter how bad the pandemic during the first half of 2020, they continued to give him their undiminished, unconditional support."
With the average number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surging to 100,000 a day, Kellerman reminds us how we got here in the first place and of the role that a class of dolts and charlatans played in perpetuating the disease. Almost half of eligible Americans are still not fully vaccinated, despite the rock-solid evidence that the vaccine is extraordinarily effective against the disease and that it is almost only the unvaccinated who require hospitalization, and who die. Many millions of these unvaccinated Americans are instructed by political phonies and media crackpots that they should regard the call to be vaccinated as an affront to their Americanism. But it is the opposite that is true. Those who buy their hooey are jeopardizing their own lives and those of their family and community. And they are very badly weakening their country.
The ridicule visited by some on the Biden administration's exhortations to get vaccinated is precisely the same sort of ridicule that flowed from Trump groupies from the start, and that kept right on flowing as over 600,000 Americans died. The production and wearing of masks, the imposition of social distancing, the prevention of truly dumb virus-spreading events — all of the saving of lives that this facilitated was impeded, and even thwarted, by the sorts of geniuses who now mock the administration's efforts to protect public health and speed the nation's recovery.
"The coronavirus is the common cold, folks," intoned the late Rush Limbaugh knowledgeably. "The short-term crisis may have passed," opined Fox News superstar Tucker Carlson, who offered the similarly brilliant opinion that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the public health expert widely respected by the compos mentis on both sides of the aisle, was "the chief buffoon of the professional class." Carlson will not be inducted into the Credibility Hall of Fame anytime soon. "The virus," he informed us in April 2020, about a half million American deaths ago, "just isn't nearly as deadly as we thought it was." Fox colleague Sean Hannity was equally on target. Warnings about the coronavirus, he smirked, were nothing more than "mass hysteria" peddled by "panic pushers."
Meanwhile, the tragic idiocy rages on along with the resurgent virus. In Florida, where hospitalizations have soared above the state's previous high and where the Florida Hospital Association expects 60 percent of the state's hospitals to face a "critical staffing shortage" this week, governor and Trump wannabe Ron DeSantis promotes himself as a champion of individual rights as he blocks vaccination mandates that would save Floridians' lives.
The former president is no longer in power. The perpetuation of the pandemic by the enablers, however, continues.
Jeff Robbins, an attorney specializing in the First Amendment, is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.