Recently, I was walking with my girlfriend, and we saw a man with a German shepherd approaching. As we crossed the street to keep our distance, he said something like, “I guess you saw me coming,” and explained that his dog is well-trained and safe.
Nine months into a global pandemic, and it never occurred to him that we considered him the danger.
What is it with oblivious responses to such a deadly scourge?
It’s a question that painfully hit home on Sunday after reading the Spokesman-Review’s stunning endorsement of President Donald Trump, a man who already has been whipped by the pandemic. Publisher Stacey Cowles said as much in the editorial, along with calling Trump a “bigot” and “a bully.” Not mentioned is that the president has branded journalists “an enemy of the people,” an omission that hasn’t gone unnoticed in the publisher’s newsroom.
Despite all of that, Stacey just couldn’t get to “You’re fired,” because the other guy might raise his taxes.
In a past life, I wrote endorsements for the Spokesman-Review, and Stacey was my boss. I authored the 2016 endorsement for Hillary Clinton, which marked only the third time the paper had not endorsed a Republican. I was proud of Stacey’s decision. I cannot explain this one.
Let’s set aside Trump’s bigotry, mendacity and general nastiness, and focus on the pandemic. The coronavirus is our greatest enemy since World War II. It’s killed more than 225,000 Americans in nine months, or about half the number who died in World War II over four years. It’s shattered the economy and shuttered businesses. Nothing will return to normal until the virus is contained.
Doing so requires a calm, unified national response. Trump has responded with chaos and division. He has no plan for the next four years. On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows waved a white flag, saying, “We’re not going to control the pandemic.”
Instead, each state competes for resources and goes its own way, and the coronavirus seeps through the political fissures and thrives.
Yet, we still have people complaining that Gov. Jay Inslee is treating this like an emergency by implementing restrictions on public gatherings and businesses and imposing mask mandates. His administration also has established guidelines for opening schools. Many of these critics were fine with Trump invoking an “emergency” to shift funds over to wall-building on the southern border in response to “caravans” of illegal immigrants headed our way.
Check the toll on the caravans. Check the toll on the coronavirus. Then ask how people can get so worked up about a phantom menace while downplaying a real one.
This dizzying disregard cropped up in the Spokesman-Review’s Oct. 11 endorsement of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, where, incredibly, the coronavirus is never mentioned.
Trump’s response to the pandemic is reason enough to dump him. Need the assurance of endorsements? Here are two for the history books:
For the first time in its 175-year existence, Scientific American endorsed a presidential candidate, picking Joe Biden. The publication called Trump’s response to the coronavirus “dangerous” and “inept.”
The New England Journal of Medicine said Trump “took a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.” It’s the first time in that prestigious publication’s 208-year-history that it has spoken out on a political candidate.
Checking in from Planet Oblivion, McMorris Rodgers recently called Trump’s actions “extraordinary.”
And the German shepherd was trained.
The real tragedy of the Republican Party is how it has turned against science to further short-term political goals. It did it with climate change, and it’s doing it with coronavirus. The willingness to choke on summer smoke and push for relaxed coronavirus restrictions as the death toll mounts is barbaric.
The Trump administration had all year to accurately communicate the coronavirus threat and to map out and implement a cohesive national strategy. Instead, the president panicked about the impact on his political future and rejected the sensible, science-based measures other countries have implemented to stem the spread.
The Spokesman-Review editorialized against the state’s lockdown in spring, signaling a willingness to accept more deaths in exchange for better business outcomes. But the pandemic cannot be separated from the economy. Some states have never shut down, and their economies have cratered. The only way to return to prosperity is to unite and square off against the virus, but the president has already tossed in the towel.
Like many, I’m doing my best to follow the advice of public health experts: Wear a mask, keep my distance and stay out of spaces where the virus thrives. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fun. And it keeps me apart from people I love.
When I see people acting in ways that prolong the agony, I want to see consequences. It’s like reckless drivers. I don’t want them to die, but I do want them taken off the road. President Trump is a danger to us all, and he gets away with it because Republicans allow him to weave in and out of traffic and barrel down the sidewalks.
Shockingly, my hometown paper is one of few to endorse this madman. And for the first time, I’m ashamed to say I worked there. ♦
Gary Crooks is the former editorial page editor for the Spokesman-Review.