By Robert Reich
Trump has refused to act to contain the coronavirus, opting to sit on the sidelines as the pandemic ravages the country. But when it comes to waging violence against his own people, he’s quickly risen to the occasion.
Here are 6 ways Donald Trump has failed to attack the coronavirus, but instead has attacked Americans.
Trump has said he has “no responsibility” for the coronavirus pandemic, fobbing it off on governors and mayors whose repeated requests for federal help he’s denied.
But when it comes to assaulting Americans exercising their right to protest in defense of Black lives, Trump is quick to assert strong “leadership.” He called the NYC Black Lives Matter mural a “symbol of hate” and has sent federal agents to terrorize protestors even as mayors and governors urged him to stay out.
Trump has never offered a national strategy for testing, contact tracing, and isolating those who have the virus. He has provided insufficient funding for the schools he’s trying to force open, abysmal standards for reopening the economy, purchasing critical supplies, or helping the unemployed, and no clear message about what people and businesses should do.
But he has a strategy for attacking Americans. He deployed unidentified federal agents against protesters in Portland, Oregon, where his secret police pulled them into unmarked vans, and detained them without charges. Federal agents have since left the city, causing violence to go down almost immediately, but Trump has threatened to send agents to Kansas City, Albuquerque and Chicago. He also said he’ll send them to New York City, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland – not incidentally, all cities with Democratic mayors, large Black populations, and little violent unrest.
Trump can’t find enough federal personnel to do contact tracing for the coronavirus.
But Trump has had no problem finding thousands of agents for his secret police, drawn from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.
Public health authorities don’t have adequate medical equipment to quickly analyze coronavirus tests.
But Trump’s police have everything they need to injure protesters, including military style armored vehicles, teargas, and tactical assault weapons – “the best equipment,” Trump boasted obnoxiously.
5. LEGAL AUTHORITY?
There is ample legal authority for Trump to contain the coronavirus.
But he’s likely exceeded the legal authority for him to send federal troops into cities where mayors don’t want them. The framers of the Constitution denied police power to the national government. The local officials in charge of public safety have rejected Trump’s troops. (The mayor of Portland was tear-gassed. The mayor of Kansas City called them “disgraceful.” Albuquerque’s mayor announced: “There’s no place for Trump’s secret police in our city.” Chicago’s mayor said she does “not welcome dictatorship.”)
6. THE TRUTH?
Trump has tried to suppress the truth about the coronavirus. The White House instructed hospitals to report cases to the Department of Health and Human Services rather than to the CDC. Trump muzzled the federal government’s most prominent and trusted immunologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, while the White House tried to discredit him.
But the Trump campaign ran fictitious ads portraying cities as overrun by violent leftwing mobs, and Trump’s shameless Fox News lackeys have consistently depicted protesters as “rioters” and the “armed wing of the Democratic party.”
More than 160,000 Americans have already died from the coronavirus — tens of thousands more than would have died had Trump acted responsibly to contain it. And the economy is in freefall.
No matter how hard he tries, we can’t let Trump shift public attention from his failure to attack the virus to his attacks on Americans protesting to create an America where Black lives matter and everyone can thrive.
In fewer than 90 days, we must hold him accountable at the ballot box.