How Long Will We Continue to Excuse the Inexcusable?
Today we learned that President Trump, in his own words, admitted that he repeatedly and consistently lied to us, We the People of the United States, about the coronavirus. On tape, in voluntary interviews with Bob Woodward, President Trump admitted on February 7, 2020, that he had known as early as late January that the virus was deadly and highly transmissible and then lied about it to the American people. This is no mere partisan “gotcha,” parsing words of a political opponent to score political points. This is a self-admitted stream of lies that unnecessarily cost (and will continue to cost) tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of American lives, and unnecessarily devastated (and continues to) devastate our economy, our jobs, our livelihoods.
The lies, the admission to the lies, and their consequences are clear and indisputable. They cannot be “gaslighted”: we were all there, we know what he said and did and when he said and did it. Is there any reasonable dispute that if Trump had told us, the American people, the truth about the virus at the end of January that we could have avoided most of these horrific consequences?
Too many have excused Trump’s previous lies and blamed them on the media and his political opponents. Too many have cried “wolf” about these lies and sought the ultimate political retribution against him to obtain political advantage for themselves. As a result, each of the partisan extremes has diluted the effect of those lies and caused us to ignore them as just part of the divisive political sparring in Washington.
We can no longer ignore our President’s lies, his intentional actions, and his breach of trust. This is not about politics anymore. This is about us, who we are as humans and Americans. This is America’s test of character: will we continue to support and defend a president who knowingly and deliberately, based on his own admission, repeatedly lied to us to serve his own interest, even though those lies cost us our lives and livelihoods?
Some may claim this is overstated, just another “hair on fire” moment about a minor political infraction.
That is a lie, just as big as the President’s lies. And we all, down deep, know it:
The President knew that the virus was highly transmissible and deadly, but he repeatedly denied it and mislead us. He did not take all necessary and appropriate actions based on that knowledge to prevent further entry of the virus from abroad or to control the virus that had entered our country. Even worse, he resisted reasonable, science-based actions (wearing a mask, social distancing) to prevent its spread, mocking those who did so, politicized taking those actions in a failed attempt to support his re-election, and blamed others for the consequences of his lies and deception. Now, based on those self-serving lies and deceptions, almost 200,000 Americans are dead — more than in any other nation. More than 6 million of us have contracted the virus, and millions of us are unemployed or face imminent loss of our jobs and livelihoods.
Even now, he continues to lie and deceive us, insisting that schools and colleges re-open without requiring those science-based actions. He continues to intimidate others into not wearing masks or social distancing. He promotes so-called “cures” (like ingesting bleach or taking unproven medicines) which have killed those who have been deceived into believing him. Not only has he politicized masks, he has also politicized potential development and approval of vaccines against the virus, claiming — without basis — that they will be launched prior to the upcoming election and falsely claiming that his political opponent is attempting to prevent their launch.
This isn’t just “political incorrectness” or just “breaking political rules or norms” or violations of obscure laws like using public facilities for political purposes. This is gross, if not criminal, negligence and a breach of trust that has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and economic ruin for millions of Americans.
Yet again, his supporters have already come to his defense, using the worn-out responses that they haven’t heard what he said, blaming the media who recorded his lies, and casting this as a political battle and castigating his political opponents. It is more than shameful. They are co-conspirators in his deadly lies and deception.
So now the choice is ours: will we, too, excuse the President for this lethal breach of trust? Will we stand with the partisans and believe their lies, too? Or will we stand for each other, and for the nearly 200,000 of our fellow Americans who have died, the millions of our fellow Americans who are financially hurting as a result of Trump’s lies and deception, and hold Trump accountable for these knowing and deliberate lies? Will we excuse the inexcusable?
H. Edward Wynn is the author of We the People: Restoring Civility, Sanity and Unifying Solutions to U.S. Politics