Donald Trump has continued to politicize the coronavirus pandemic on a daily basis at his attention-grabbing press conferences — both by denying personal responsibility for his inaction and minimalization of the dangers of COVID-19 early in the course of the spread of the disease and by attacking any Democratic politician, from congressional legislators to state governors, who dare criticize his handling of the federal government’s response to the national health emergency.
Now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has struck back at the president and his proxy in the GOP leadership — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — during an interview with CNN‘s Anderson Cooper.
Pelosi was responding to McConnell’s intelligence-insulting claims yesterday that the reason that Trump didn’t act more quickly to respond to the pandemic threat was on account of the president being distracted by the Democrats’ impeachment efforts — efforts that McConnell himself torpedoed by refusing to allow the proffered testimony from former National Security Advisor John Bolton and others.
Speaker Pelosi told CNN that McConnell’s finger-pointing was not just an unjustified excuse for Trump’s failures, but was also a powerful admission of those failures.
“I think that’s an admission that perhaps the President and the majority leader cannot handle the job,” Pelosi told Cooper in the interview.
“We have a life and death situation in our country and they should not try to hide behind an excuse for why they did not take action, but it does admit that they did not take action,” Pelosi said, adding, “Right now we have to work together to get the job done.”
As the death toll from the pandemic mounts in this country after devastating China, Italy, Spain, and so many other countries around the world, Trump has desperately tried to back peddle on his early statements that minimized the risk of a virus that he erroneously compared to the ordinary flu.
As the president has finally recognized the danger to which the televised scenes of healthcare workers pleading for desperately needed protective gear and of even Republican governors contradicting his claims that there are enough tests available for everyone who needs one may subject his reelection campaign, his tone and demeanor have changed markedly in the past few days.
He abandoned his calls to set Easter as the target date for reopening the country for business and for rescinding the advisory for people to stay in their homes and instead began pointing to the numbers — projections that that had been widely available for weeks — that predicted up to two million deaths in the U.S. if no mitigation efforts like social distancing had been implemented.
Likely this was to be able to use them as a source of comparison to the actual death toll — now predicted to be between 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities — when the crisis winds down and he can then claim to have saved hundreds of thousands of lives with what he is already mischaracterizing as his quick action to prevent the spread of the disease.
Trump has also tentatively endorsed Senator McConnell’s idea that he was too distracted by his impeachment woes to pay attention to the looming crisis, all while refusing to actually admit that he did anything wrong at all in a seemingly paradoxical position.
“I think I handled it very well, but I guess it probably did (distract me),” Trump said at yesterday’s coronavirus press conference. “I mean, I got impeached. I think, you know, I certainly devoted a little time to thinking about it.”
More than a little, if the record of his tweets during that period is any indication.
Still, any potential distractions didn’t lower Trump’s own estimate of his performance during the crisis.
“Did it divert my attention? I think I’m getting A+’s for the way I handled myself during a phony impeachment, OK? … But certainly, I guess, I thought of it and I think I probably acted — I don’t think I would have done any better had I not been impeached, OK?”
In fact, that last statement is a powerful indictment in and of itself as to why Trump should immediately resign and hand the presidency to anyone else who can manage the crisis in a way that puts the health and safety of the American people above their own political interests, even his sycophantic Vice President Mike Pence who can at least better pretend to have a bit of competence and empathy from time to time.
Speaker Pelosi’s statement puts the president’s and the senate majority leader’s excuses in the proper perspective as politically-motivated exercises in gaslighting the American public to divert blame for the federal government’s failures away from where it squarely belongs — at Trump’s leaden feet — and away from the people who would have removed the incompetent fool from the White House in time to have potentially avoided many of Trump’s multiple missteps during this unprecedented crisis.
You can watch a clip of Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s interview on CNN in the video below.
Original reporting by Clare Foran at CNN.
Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.