COVID, New Jersey and the Deadly Lies

Small “d” democracy

By Mark Lurinsky

Thanks to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward of Watergate fame, we now know, down to the day, the key timeline of America’s COVID crisis as it relates to Donald Trump’s presidency:

  • Tuesday, January 28th, in Washington DC: National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien told Trump about the pandemic’s severity: “This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency.” Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, added that its impact on the world could become similar to the infamous 1918 influenza, which killed many millions. Later that same day, in Wildwood NJ, Trump speaks at a “Make America Great” rally where he doesn’t mention the virus’s dangers.
  • February 7: Trump admits to Woodward (on tape) that he had also learned from Chinese President Xi Jinping that COVID was five times as deadly as flu and readily transmissible through air. Meanwhile, in public Trump denied and downplayed the severity of the virus. Trump continued to freely push the false story that the pandemic was not significant, it was “under control” and would simply “go away”.


Trump Lies While People Die

Trump knew about the virus’s danger on January 28th. The most basic response to this knowledge would have been to immediately convene with the nation’s health experts to formulate an effective response and begin carefully informing and preparing the public. Any other U.S. president would have done this. Instead, he went along to the convention center here in Wildwood, as if nothing had happened, to cheerlead for himself. Due to his deliberate omissions about the virus’s severity, starting at the Wildwood event, Americans were left in the dark and lied to about the deadly disease.

The damage from Trump’s lies on COVID goes well beyond the direct result of any of the crimes for which Richard Nixon was impeached and forced from office. Trump’s lies played a significant part in the untimely and unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy noted, ‘if we had known the virus was airborne at an earlier date we would have taken action before March. We would have saved lives.’[1] The U.S. still reports tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases daily. Our daily death rates are now more than 25 times those of other wealthy countries. Yet Trump continues to lie and say, “It’s under control” and “going away.”[2] Trump’s lies downplaying the virus complemented the criminal mishandling of the emergency by his administration. The administration failed to expand and manage the supply of personal protective equipment. The administration failed to develop an effective, comprehensive national COVID testing program and national contact tracing. The administration censored scientific experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci. The administration corrupted and politicized the Centers for Disease Control, the F.D.A., and OSHA. The administration’s choices and actions have left Americans legitimately skeptical of any government response, including faith in a vaccine for COVID-19. The president’s announcements of a vaccine coming out before the election has convinced many that any such product would be potentially dangerous and rushed for political reasons.


The Republican Luminaries at Wildwood

Standing with Trump at that January 28th Wildwood rally were three Republican New Jersey Congressional candidates or soon to be candidates, including the former Democrat-now Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew, David Richter, a wealthy businessman, who later announced his candidacy in the 3rd Congressional District against Democratic Representative Andy Kim and New Jersey State Senator Thomas Kean Jr., who was then launching his run for Congress against Rep. Tom Malinowski.[3]

It goes without saying that on January 28th those three Trump-supporting Republican candidates were unaware of what their nominee was covering up concerning COVID. They had not been briefed on the looming danger. However, it’s now late September with sixteen thousand New Jerseyans and two hundred thousand in the country dead from the virus. The many Trump deceptions and cover-ups about COVID are all public knowledge. Where is the Republican outrage?   Not a single one of these politicians has so far spoken up to protest or disassociate himself from Trump’s deceptions. By not speaking out, by not telling Americans the truth, these three are complicit in Trump’s deadly lies.  New Jerseyans deserve better. We’re still waiting, gentlemen, for you to do the right thing.

Mark Lurinsky has been an activist on matters of public policy since 1968. He is currently a member of BlueWaveNJ’s Electoral Reform Working Group and is co-chair of the Healthcare Committee.

Under the blog title Small “d” democracy, Mark will continue to weigh in on the current issues that define how our country can become a more just, equal, and democratic society.

[1] Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health calculated, in fact, that if each county in the U.S. had acted just two weeks earlier to order lockdowns or other control measures, then more than 90 percent of Covid-19 deaths could have been avoided through early May.

[2] New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, explores the moral implications of Trump’s deliberate lies and cover-ups on COVID in a recent column which suggests that given that we now know the lies were intentional, his mishandling of the virus goes well beyond mere negligence, and approaches something like mass-scale manslaughter, where the criminal “didn’t specifically intend to kill someone but [their] irresponsible actions killed them all the same.”

[3] Van Drew, who embraced the Republican Party after his vote against impeaching Trump assured that he would have had an uphill primary fight if he sought reelection as a Democrat, has been pledging his “undying support” for Trump ever since, while Richter, who has never held elective office, ran in the Republican primary by boasting that he’s “running with and for Donald Trump.” In July, Richter actually told NJTV that Trump has done “a fine job” protecting us from COVID-19.

Kean Jr., the son of the former New Jersey Republican governor who was known as a moderate, has apparently made a choice to not buck the Trump tide within his party now that he is seeking a national office. While he is still attempting to claim “moderate” credentials, Kean recently further kissed Trump’s ring by holding his own fundraising event at Trump’s Bedminster golf club, one of several Republican rentals there that boosted the sagging profits of the president’s Jersey properties.