Throughout his decrepit life and malignant presidency, there has been one character trait which has come to define Donald Trump, and that is his vindictiveness. The man’s about as petty and thin-skinned as they come. Anyone who’s ever crossed paths with him knows full well that he never forgets a slight, real or imagined. One way or another, he’ll get even.
The country got a first-hand glimpse of just how vindictive Trump can be after his acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial. Rather than learn from the experience, Trump used the occasion to go on a revenge tour, attacking Democrats at a prayer breakfast, removing Alexander Vindman and his brother from their White House posts, firing ambassador Gordon Sondland and interfering in a Justice Department case against his crony Roger Stone.
But while all of the above represent flagrant abuses of power, they pale in comparison to the stunt Trump is now pulling. Because up until now, none of his vindictiveness has cost a single person their life. Yes, the Founders are spinning in their graves over what he is doing to the Constitution, but Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton are, as far as I know, quite dead and have been for two centuries.
The Coronavirus has now infected more than 120,000 people and claimed over 2,000 lives in the United States. The vast majority of those infections and deaths have occurred in New York – Trump’s home state – and New Jersey. It’s no secret that both states voted against him in 2016 and are likely to do so again in 2020. So guess what Ebenezer Scrooge is considering doing. Directing FEMA to send more ventilators to both states? No, that would make too much sense and would actually be helpful. No, he’s threatening to enact a federal quarantine of both states to “contain” the spread of the virus.
Let’s put aside for the moment that a federal quarantine is probably illegal, and even if it weren’t, much like his ridiculous border wall, it won’t actually work. That’s because the virus, by now, has already spread way beyond New York and New Jersey to other states across the country. Apparently Trump doesn’t know, or is too stupid to realize, that Manhattan, which is home to Wall Street and headquarters to some of the largest companies in the world, attracts millions of people annually. Before Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his stay at home order, no doubt thousands of those people likely contracted the virus while on business here and are at this very moment spreading it in their communities. Even if Trump could erect a wall along the entire length of the Delaware River, the damage has already been done.
But Trump’s threat of a quarantine has nothing to do with containment. It’s all about sending a message. And that message is that he’s in charge and if you don’t kneel before Zod, he will make you pay. Cuomo committed two cardinal sins. The first was looking far more presidential when he held his daily briefings. Trump hates being upstaged. No doubt that was the reason why Dr. Fauci was banished for several days from White House briefings. He’s not only contradicted Trump’s bullshit spin – sometimes with him standing alongside – he’s sounded ten times more intelligent while doing so. But the second cardinal sin Cuomo committed was that he criticized Trump’s response, or lack thereof, to the crisis. You just don’t do that to this president, at least not publicly. In an interview on Sean Hannity’s show, Trump questioned whether Cuomo really needed the 30,000 ventilators he says he needs.
By no means is Cuomo the only governor that Trump has gone after in the media. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Jay Inslee of Washington have both been the target of Trump’s wrath, as well. In addition to the high crime and misdemeanor of being Democrats, they have also been critical of the response from the federal government. Of the 5,000 ventilators Whitmer says her state needs, so far they have received none.
This is typical of this president. The Associated Press reported that
“Trump has kept a close eye on the coronavirus media coverage and noted which local officials were praising or criticizing him, according to three aides who spoke on condition on anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the president’s private deliberations.”
Translation: if you kiss his ring, he’ll help you out; if you don’t, you can kiss his ass.
Not only has Trump not even bothered to hide what he’s doing, he’s actually going out of his way to boast about it loud and clear. At Friday’s White House press briefing, he had this to say:
“He (Mike Pence) calls all the governors. I tell him, I mean, I’m a different type of person. I say Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan. If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”
Yep, you heard right. The President of the United States admitted in front of the entire country that if governors don’t “treat him right” they won’t even get a return call from the man who’s in charge of the Coronavirus task force. And that means the fate of potentially millions of people rests in the hands of a man who has all the maturity of a spoiled brat on a time out. In the annals of American history, no president has behaved like this. Not even George Bush in the weeks and months after 9/11, did what Trump is doing.
This kind of vindictiveness is dangerous and it will cost people their lives. If you happen to live in a blue state, or even a purple state with a Democratic governor, in addition to being very concerned for your life, you have the burden of knowing that you are nothing more than a political pawn in Trump’s sick and twisted game of revenge.
And as in any game of chess, pawns are expendable.