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Updated: Aug 21, 2020

May 23, 2020

By now its undeniable: Americans are failing to rise to the occasion of coronavirus. This Memorial Day weekend or very soon thereafter, the U.S. death toll from corona is expected to reach 100,000.

To think South Korea, the country that discovered its first case the same day we did, has still had only 266 deaths.

Here in the America, there are 1.6 million cases of coronavirus as of today, May 23.

In Iceland, there are still only 10 deaths total. Just three new infections in May.

There are many explanations for our towering numbers. It’s probably not fair to say “this is all President Trump’s fault” or “the White House Administration’s fault.” There’s also our national character, which is independent, risk-taking (we’re a nation of immigrants, after all), and yeah, a little cocky.

Those qualities have served us pretty well in our 243 years of existence as a country. But apparently they’re not great for surviving a pandemic.

I'd say Congress, too, has a few things to answer for. The fact that we’re still seeing gridlock as they attempt to help us is shameful and embarrassing. Yes, the Democrats keep charging at the entrance to the Senate. But the Senators, to their everlasting shame, slid a few crumpled bills under the door, then sat back to see how this whole messy thing would play out.

And what about the aw-let's-just-wing-it policies of some of our state governors? Georgia. Texas. South Dakota. Places where the denial and defiance are so pronounced, they almost seem to be daring the virus to dish out its worst. (Which it is always glad to do.)

So maybe a lot of us have some responsibility for our terrible numbers … though I have to say it appears to me that Americans, overall, have already been chastened. Poll after poll shows that most of us would keep staying home, if only we could afford to.

But no matter how future historians may allocate the blame for our abysmal response, I think the lion’s share goes to Donald Trump. Fair enough, right? We, the People, fund the government, we elect the leaders, and they are answerable to us. As the Big Daddy in government, the President is answerable above all.

But this President has never seemed to get that, has he? He’s not acting like an adult at all, much less a responsible parent. He keeps wanting to sit in the back of the classroom, like a kid who hasn’t done his homework. But Presidents can’t just sort of curl themselves over their desktops, and gnaw on a pencil, and hope they don’t get called on. Right?

Trump’s “I’m in charge, but don’t blame me” philosophy has so far led him to put Mike Pence in charge, then form a task force that he used to actually push between himself and the podium at pressers before he realized he wasn’t getting any camera time.

When people started asking him hard questions, like “How come we can’t get tested?” and “What about the federal PPE stockpile?” he put the governors in charge, a cringe-worthy move that he remains committed to today.

Sort of.

When it suits him, Trump defers to the “experts,” his committees, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. Or he used to, at least. While scrambling for cover last month, he tried using his son-in-law as a human shield, and if the results hadn’t been so awful, Jared would surely still be there.

But no matter who Scared Daddy appoints, they’re supposed to say what he wants them to, leaving him really still in charge. Kind of. In the ways he wants to be.

By now all of us know that if any of the people positioned at the risk points speak from their own convictions, or contradict him based on the expertise he chose them for, they stop appearing at press briefings. It happened to Fauci. It’s happened to many.

One of the most extraordinary aspects of the entire crisis is how this President keeps the federal government “a backup” for the states. For the, y’know, actual doing-something-about it part of the crisis.

“Governors, get your states[sic] testing programs & apparatus perfected,” he thundered bravely (across Twitter) on April 12. “No excuses!”

And in fact the governors have stepped up, or anyway tried to. Many have done a phenomenal job. They’ve been forced to assume the disaster response of a federal government — everything from publicly mourning the dead to deciding when their states will re-open — just as if there were a federal-sized budget at their disposal, or a pandemic preparedness plan such as the one left to Trump by Obama.

One enterprising governor, Larry Hogan of Maryland, whose wife is a South Korean immigrant, even used her homeland contacts to secure test kits from that nation.

It really reminds me of how children whose dads keep drinking up the paycheck figure out ways to earn money on their own. They teach themselves to cook, make the younger kids take baths, and even sign their own report cards. We’ve all seen families like that, right?

Meanwhile, having famously declared “a President’s power is total” (April 14,) and announcing “I take no responsibility” (March 13), our President nevertheless threatened to overrule states whose governors refused to open churches this week (May 22).

And his very personal preference for obtaining PPE by free market methods keeps getting tangled with authorizing FEMA to outbid states — or even commanding that federal agency to swoop in and seize shipments ordered by governors. Seems a lot like big government to me.

His ardent supporters don’t mind that he’s walking on both sides of the line. Propelled as always by their own raging Daddy complexes, they choose to believe he’s providing rugged leadership in these uncertain times. Maybe they figure being in charge means … delegating? And, um … talking?

His detractors, on the other hand, insist that this is Trump’s baby. We’re in the midst of The Trump Presidency. In the future, these years will be known as The Trump Years. Trump has been outspoken about the recently-booming stock market belonging to him, and often brings up some of his signature legislation, for instance the “Trump tax cuts.”

Well, he can’t just claim some of it, can he?

It ALL belongs to him. Coronavirus, too.

This is one crisis he can’t outrun. He can’t distract from it, lie about it, deny it, or any of the other things he keeps trying to do, because it’s like a real baby. Daddies in real life know what I mean by that. With a real baby, if you plop it down on, say, a park bench, people will tend to run after you, yelling, “Sir! Your baby!” until you come back and get it.

Trump’s problem right now — and ours — is that he still hasn’t figured out that the baby has his eyes, his jawline, his name, and his blood type.

It’s screaming at the top of its lungs, and it belongs to him.

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