As the pandemic rages, Trump indulges his obsessions

    President Trump

    With the pandemic exploding and setting record infection rates, President Donald Trump spent the weekend on his own often divisive obsessions, piling up new evidence for detractors who say he’s not fit for office.

    The President largely ignored the implications of the disastrous US government response to the worst public health crisis in 100 years, even though it emerged late on Friday in CNN reporting that the White House is taking vigorous efforts to protect him from infection at rallies that contravene social distancing and masking guidelines, and that put even his own supporters at risk of getting sick.

    Trump did, however, find time to defend a statue of former President Andrew Jackson, who retired to his slave plantation in 1837, and to retweet a video in which a supporter chanted “white power.”

    Trump denied reports that he was briefed that Russia offered a bounty for the killings of US and UK soldiers by the Taliban — but didn’t say how he would respond and stand up for American troops if the story was true.

    And Trump, who lambasted his predecessor Barack Obama for his less prolific golf hobby, made two trips to his Virginia course, despite boasting that he canceled a weekend trip to his New Jersey resort to make sure “law and order is enforced” in Washington, DC.

    Trump’s weekend represented yet another sign that he has moved on from a pandemic, which has killed more than 125,000 Americans and threatens to claim tens of thousands more, that he initially ignored, then mismanaged and politicized and has now has grown tired of talking about as his reelection fight looms. 

    His negligence came despite his Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar delivering an alarming warning on CNN that appeared to contradict Vice President Mike Pence’s claim of “truly remarkable progress” in the battle against coronavirus and false statements that the US had “flattened the curve.”

    “This is a very, very serious situation and the window is closing for us to take action and get this under control,” Azar told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” But like other members of the administration, Azar insisted that the story of the pandemic is one of great success, in terms of making hospital beds, protective equipment and testing more available than they were two months ago.

    Since Pence spoke on Friday, the United States racked up record numbers of new coronavirus infections, with more than 40,000 on Friday and more than 42,000 on Saturday. States like Florida, Texas and Arizona, which embraced Trump’s demands for a swift economic opening and failed to satisfy the administration’s own benchmarks to do so safely, are discovering that the virus is rampant.

    New cases are now rising in 36 states, are steady in 12 and are going down in just two, suggesting that the pandemic is close to raging out of control — even as some US counterparts, like the European Union and Asian countries have been far more successful in reducing the virus.

    The Vice President traveled to Texas on Sunday and appeared alongside Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, and appeared to make a significant shift — calling on Americans to wear masks if they cannot observe social distancing guidelines — a step that Trump, who refuses to wear a mask and says that those who do are trying to hurt him politically, refuses to take.”Wearing a mask is just a good idea and it will, we know, from experience, will slow the spread of the coronavirus,” Pence said.

    The vice president’s comments, however painstakingly he tried to avoid putting Trump in a difficult position, will hike political pressure on the President to publicly call on Americans to cover their faces and to model a face mask himself. That political heat had intensified that morning when Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, effectively called on Trump to show leadership on the issue.

    “If wearing masks is important, and all the health experts tell us that it is in containing the disease in 2020, it would help if from time to time the President would wear one to help us get rid of this political debate that says if you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask, if you’re against Trump, you do,” the Tennessee Republican said on CNN’s “Inside Politics.”

    -This is part of an article originally posted on the CNN

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