A Virus of his own choosing
So the president has chosen someone to head up the administration’s effort to stave off the coronavirus. Careful to avoid a Russian connotation by appointing a czar to handle the crisis, the president of “nothing to look at here” has chosen to name a person in charge of managing the administration’s effort to combat the virus. After looking at the potential candidates to coordinate the effort opposing this deadly intruder, Trump decided that he would pick the only man he could trust to take the blame if the virus news turns ugly. Yes, Mike Pence the vice president of “nothing better to do” has accepted the job and taken on the challenge. The hypocrisy of the Pence appointment is manifest in the actions he took as governor of Indiana. The rest of us can be forgiven for asking “Are they serious?”
In a world in which there would be no Trump, the obvious choice for a position of such importance would be a trusted member of the administration who could act as an apolitical advisor to the president. Someone who could assemble a team of experts who would contribute an unbiased approach based upon their knowledge and training as medical scientists and trusted communicators. Trump, instead, chose someone else. Mike Pence’s main qualification for a position as important as this, is his unfettered loyalty to one man while abandoning his responsibility to a nation in peril. For Pence, there is no “I” in independent.
Watching the hurried and belated news conference that Trump assembled, it was clear that the virus this president was addressing was the one that would infect enough voters to reelect him. This coronavirus crisis — the one that threatened to become a worldwide epidemic, one that had to date sickened more than 89,000 humans and has left a growing death toll in excess of 3000, is being treated as an inconvenient disruption to the Trump reelection campaign. His inclination has been to try to rescue the DOW from the effects of the virus’s abilities to disrupt international economies. He is somehow incapable of understanding the crisis in human terms as he has chosen to publicly minimize its potential so as to assuage investors, even as the number of infections and death count rises.
Clearly, Donald Trump has demonstrated in the past an incapacity for the basic components of human empathy. As sick as those endangered by the devastating ailment may be, Donald Trump is sicker. As frantically as the world is searching for a vaccine to inoculate the most vulnerable among us, it searches for a cure from the narcissist who has cut funding from the very agencies that could provide one. More worried about his own reelection than he is the ominous threat at hand, his instinct is to calm the market instead of our fears.
Mike Pence may be the perfect vessel for Trump’s strategy. As an ideologue posing as a conservative, Pence’s unchristian views had led him in the past to place the lives of HIV sufferers who are just as at-risk to his religious intemperance as to the HIV virus:
According to Pence:
In the case of his decision in 2015 the Governor disregarded the advice of doctors and scientists due to his intolerance borne of religious dogmatism. He was forced to recant and declare a state of emergency two months after opposing the recommended needle exchange program that was suggested to slow the spread of infection. As 75 new HIV cases ignited the largest outbreak of the disease in the state he had sworn to protect, Pence had to abandon his decision to ban implementation of the program. According to a study published in The Lancet (October, 2018) that analyzed the impact of the Pence Doctrine regarding the HIV outbreak in Scott County, IN, during Pence’s reign:
“Our findings suggest that with earlier action the actual number of infections recorded in Scott County — 215 — might have been brought down to fewer than 56, if the state had acted in 2013, or to fewer than 10 infections, if they had responded to the [hepatisi C] outbreak in 2010–2011. Instead they cut funding for the last HIV testing provider in the county,”
Now we learn that this administration may have enabled the very breach of the virus into the nation’s lifeblood. First, through incompetence and a willful self-regard for the safety of its citizens, the Trump administration demanded that 14 virus-stricken passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan be flown home on the same plane as those passengers not infected. This action was taken after the experts within the CDC had opposed the decision based upon sound scientific evidence that this move would endanger the uninfected as well as the crew of the plane that carried them home. Then, as the first American citizen lies dangerously ill in a Sacramento hospital with who may be the first to contract the virus from “unknown sources.” The woman initially had gone to her local hospital in Vacaville feeling ill. The attending physicians had requested that she be tested for the virus due to her symptoms and out of an abundance of caution. The CDC refused their request. As the woman sickened, they finally allowed the testing which proved she had contracted the virus. The fate of the woman, and of hospital personnel who have come in contact with her because the CDC had been ordered by Trump officials to limit the testing. In a stunning revelation, it has been reported that the CDC had been told to stand down, its permanent staff ordered not to report its findings to the public. The political appointees are now running the nation’s health protection agency. In a woeful example of ineptitude, the now politicized CDC has also refused to order and supply communities with enough testing kits to detect infection. The level of panic within this administration and its disregard for ordinary caution and preparation is palpable.
This is hardly a recommendation for the role Trump has chosen for Pence, who is neither qualified nor honorable enough for the job. It suggests that Pence has been selected not to contain the virus as it threatens the nation, but rather to contain the damage that had already been caused through the inaction and incompetence of the administration.
In the end, the Trump presidency will forever be judged on the choices it made when the nation was in peril. Those who served the purposes of this president at the expense of their conscience will be footnotes in its story. Pence, on the other hand, may well have reserved for himself a special chapter in the history of this era. He has shown a distinct willingness to sublimate his conscience to a man who has none. He has replaced principle with ideology. If reports that have leaked out of this White House are to be believed, this vice president knowingly is serving a president who has placed his own interests ahead of his country’s. He is an accomplice in a plot intended to serve his own and his master’s political needs. For Mike Pence to succeed in his quest to combat the coronavirus that well may devastate the lives of many of his constituents, he must first decide to defeat the virus he holds within — the one that attacks his integrity and eats away at his conscience. Whether caused by a blind ambition or by an inner fear so deep that it threatens his very soul, Mike Pence has been handed the job of his life — and he is poised to fail.
As Thomas Paine once so eloquently wrote about the weak-willed “patriots of his time,
THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
Mike Pence has now been placed in a moment of truth by the man whose mendacity and penchant for tyranny has endangered our very freedoms. At this time of peril, it has become obvious whose needs he will shrink to serve.