Friday, September 11, 2020


Truth be told, I am not a great fan of what you may call it a “sounding-good politics”. To me it’s a rather superficial way to navigate the political discourse, as if every analysis is reduced to whether what the politician said was “polite” or “politically correct” or even “nice” and not whether what they said has substance. It is a superficial politics. It distorts the discourse from debating the actual merits and policies to a mere pageantry. A personality contest, if you will. When you think about it, a “sounding- good politics” is kind of an infantile way to view politics, akin to watching a celebrity feud or infotainment.

So, when I was asked to write an article about how President Donald J. Trump insulting the troops, I’m not feeling it. It sounds like when the POTUS himself said about the victims of Covid-19 “it is what it is.” I would rather examine it substantively not whether it sound nice or otherwise. I would try my best to examine what kind of policy he has made or going to make.

Oh, but Trump just said something rude and tasteless, didn’t he?” Well, in other news, water is wet and the sky is blue.

Be honest with yourself. At this point you’re done clutching your pearls in outrage and shock at whatever rude or tasteless thing he said or did. This is the guy who won the presidency after calling for a Muslim ban, insulting a Gold star family, calling Mexicans rapists and got caught on tape bragging about committing sexual harassment. At this point, we all know he’s a rude and uncouth man. Just because he got elevated to the presidency didn’t mean those behavior and attitudes were going to change.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m NOT condoning anything he said or did. Like so many people out there, I think he’s a vile bigot, but I viewed it from a different lens than most people: the policy lens. I like to evaluate politicians on what they actually do in office, rather than what they say or whether they’re nice or not. Got it?

What are Trump’s policies that I think are worth criticizing him for then? Chief among them are:
1. Violation of the emolument’s clause, which basically states that no presidents or public office holder should hold any interest in a business or company to prevent corruption or influence-buying from foreign interests. Since he never put his business interests in a blind trust and repeatedly used taxpayer money to pay for fees and services rendered at his hotels and golf resorts, that’s a clear case of corruption.
2. Vetoing the War Powers Resolution, which seeks to limit a president’s reach in declaring and launching acts of wars unilaterally, without the approval of Congress.
3. Increasing the frequency of drone strikes, which previously have been alarmingly high and have a civilian casualty death rate of 90% in the Obama Administration, up to 432%.
4. Pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and the Paris Climate Agreement.
5. Unyielding support for the brutal siege warfare on Yemen by Saudi Arabia.
6. Regime change attempts in Venezuela.
7. Deposing President Evo Morales of Bolivia.
8. Calling for military use to quell protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
9. Downplaying the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
10. Ratcheting up tension with multiple nuclear-armed nations (China and Russia), ushering in a new Cold War which brings the rest of the world closer to a nuclear catastrophe.

The list can go on, actually, but I think this article would be too long and then nobody would want to read it. If you want to criticize Trump, just look at this list of things and you’ll see that you can easily criticize him on things that don’t have anything to do with his personality, but has everything to do with how his actions have made the world we live in a dangerous place.

His latest “blunder” comes in the form of a bombshell recording released by veteran journalist Bob Woodward (who broke the Watergate story) in which he (Trump) admitted to downplaying the severity of COVID-19 pandemic in the early days. While to many of us this might seem like such a “non-news” but this new revelation shows clearly that Trump was in contact with President Xi Jinping and have been briefed of how deadly and easily transmissible the virus is, vis-à-vis, its airborne mode of transmission.

Yet, in those early days there were multiple tweets from him likening the coronavirus to a flu virus, even saying that it was nowhere near as fatal as the flu. This is compounded by various public health officials telling the public that masks aren’t necessary nor effective in a misguided attempt to reserve masks for frontline healthcare workers. Not to mention, the fact that no economic relief has been given to the rest of the US citizenry, apart from the paltry one-time $1200 check and an as-of-now expired $600 addition to the unemployment checks.

It’s no secret that Trump, his administration, and basically the entirety of the US state apparatus have not been handling this pandemic well, evident in the US boasting the highest case number in the world and at least 190,000 Americans have died because of this virus. The revelations of these comments were seized on by Trump’s re-election opponent, Joe Biden, who said that Trump’s attempts to downplay the severity of the coronavirus threat as “downright criminal”. And for once, I agree with Joe Biden.

Trump’s attempts to downplay the coronavirus as a public health emergency led to the deaths of more than a hundred and ninety thousands of American people, not to mention millions of people who have lost their livelihoods and have their lives destroyed by that. To date, millions of Americans are now without a job and, as a result, many have been evicted or foreclosed upon, since the eviction ban have now been lifted. About 50% of unemployed people reported in the month of August that they do not have the necessary means to buy food. Recent data from an extensive mental health survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) showed that at least 25.5% of the respondents aged 18-25 have “seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days”. Meaning 1 in 4 young Americans are so severely depressed and hopeless that death seemed a more palatable alternative to the situation they are currently living in!. The proportion who answered the same is lower in the older demographic (30-45 years) at 16%, but this is still an alarmingly high number.

In a healthy and functioning society, where the basic needs of its citizens are met, these numbers would be much, much lower. But in a society where the average citizenry were forced to fend for themselves, where government has been captured by corporate power so as to render the consent and will of the governed null and void, where the citizenry are living under what Sheldon Wolin call “inverted totalitarianism”, these numbers are inevitable.

From the vantage point of policy-making, what Donald Trump did, by hiding the facts and misleading his citizens in the early days of the pandemic and still to this day is a total mess. His is a clear evident of how mismanaged the whole policy on the pandemic is. Ethically speaking, not offering any hope and any relief to the American people is criminal and, in my book, unforgivable.

And yet as I write this, I know that there will still be some people who vote for him in the upcoming Presidential election for various reasons, and they are within their rights to do so. I’m not in the business of shaming people for who the vote for. To paraphrase the great Nina Turner, the former spoke person of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign, I shall leave that to the professionals.

In my opinion, the American people shouldn’t forgive him for hiding this one very crucial fact that have upended their lives and the lives of many of their fellow citizens. As to whether or not this will harm Trump’s chances in the upcoming Presidential election, who knows? Joe Biden seemed to seize his moment in the wake of this disastrous revelation. His (Biden’s) campaign rhetoric have started to include messages of economic populism, which was also the one issue that gave Trump an edge over Hillary Clinton in 2016 and, ultimately, won him the votes of the people residing in the Rust Belt.

Maybe the same thing would happen with Biden, and maybe the American people are just so sick and tired of this whole situation that they would just like somebody, anybody to replace Trump regardless of whether they agree with this person or not. And since in American politics one only has 2 choices, Biden might come out on top to put an end to the presidency that, according to some, is an aberration in American politics.

Whether a Biden presidency would ultimately be better for the American people and the rest of the world, is anybody’s guess. IMHO.

*) PhD in Biochemistry
Dept of Biochemistry
School of Medicine
University of California at Irvine


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