Editorial: No one should have to defend the president’s indecent act

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

Cancer is not much good for anything, but it can be useful today in helping understand the stain Donald Trump has left on the presidency.

Unlike COVID-19 — a disease still in its infancy — almost all of us personally know someone who has died from cancer. So, it is easy enough to imagine sitting in an exam room with a cancer doctor. The doctor knows that you have cancer, but he doesn’t want you to panic, so he decides to not tell you that you have cancer. Or, maybe, he does acknowledge that you have cancer, but he decides — again, for your sake — to not tell you the true mortality rate for your particular type of cancer.

Is that any way for a doctor to act? Of course not. It violates an oath, but, more importantly, it violates the standards of human decency.

The president violated those standards as well when earlier this year he repeatedly and intentionally provided the public with such dubious information about the dangers of COVID-19.

He said he did so because he didn’t want to create a panic. That simply is not a credible explanation. If the president can’t figure out how to explain the dangers of a disease that has a U.S. mortality rate of about 3% without creating a national panic, then that should be a prime example of his unfitness for the job.

For heaven’s sake, COVID-19 is not an asteroid hurtling toward earth leaving the human race with no hope for survival. Even an unskilled communicator can figure out how to pass along the basic safety tips and guidance for reducing your chances of contracting the disease, while also providing hope and assurance that the American way of life is durable, adaptable and will return in full force when we certainly defeat this disease. COVID is not the end of America. The country has faced greater challenges before.

It should be worrisome that the president couldn’t figure out how to do that. Even if you are a supporter of the president, that should create worry. It was not that difficult of a task.

What also should worry everyone, including supporters of the president, is that he openly and repeatedly talked about how he was misleading the public about COVID, and he told all of this to a person whose job is to disseminate information to the public. On an audio recording. That is just a major breakdown in logic. If you are trying to not create a panic, why would you tell a reporter that this disease is really a lot more dangerous than you’ve ever told the public? If the chains of logic are working at all, you have to understand that the reporter simply is going to tell the public what you said, thus destroying your reason for hiding the information from the public in the first place.

As late night television host Jimmy Fallon said of Trump: “I’d say at this point, the dude needs to give himself some hush money.”

In all seriousness, though, there is reason to worry that the president’s mental acuity is in decline. Is there any Trump supporter who honestly thinks it was a good idea for the president to reveal this to Bob Woodward?

At this point, we can hope that two things come out of this presidential debacle. One, if there truly were people who were refusing to wear masks and take other simple precautions due to the words of Trump, hopefully they will take his true beliefs about the virus into consideration and change their ways. That’s not likely, but America still will prevail in this fight anyway. We will defeat COVID, but it will take longer and be more deadly than it should have been.

In some ways, the second prospect is more critical. Supporters of the president have a chance to simply say that on this point the president was wrong. That should not be a difficult statement. You don’t have to renounce everything the president has done. You don’t have to apologize for your vote. You don’t have to give up on the idea of “draining the swamp.”

All you have to do is say that people deserve to be treated better than that. All you have to acknowledge is a leader shouldn’t provide information to his followers that he knows puts them at greater risk of contracting a potentially fatal disease.

What the president did was indecent. Do not defend indecency. No act of loyalty should require that.


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