What Else Does He Know?

The pandemic would have been different under anyone but a madman

Andy Slavitt
Medium Coronavirus Blog


Photo: Pool / Getty Images

I don’t like writing Covid threads about Donald Trump. But sometimes there is no choice. Today there is no choice.

Now we know Trump wanted to “play it down” when he heard the coronavirus spread through the air and could kill upwards of 5% of people. So he thought (wrongly) that 5% of people — including “not just old people” would die from Covid-19. And what he decided to do about it?

“Play it down,” Trump said of the virus. So he decided to lie. And he decided to cover up that lie by publicly attacking anyone who disagreed. The CDC, HHS, Anthony Fauci.

I know we are used to lies. I know we are used to ducking responsibility. I know we are used to incompetence, but something struck me as soon as I heard this. His excuse: “I didn’t want to panic people.”

When you have a novel pandemic, before there is a vaccine, the only medicine there is is public reaction. With a disease that spreads through the respiratory system, not telling them they could avoid catching the disease by taking simple precautions is psychopathic.

The man is a pyromaniac. He knew an invisible fire was coming here and he let the fire rage. And the people around him knew he knew. And they too did nothing.

It’s not like he had a plan for dealing with it while he denied something he knew. He let the fire rage all the time telling us it would be gone by April. 15 cases would become zero. It spread through the air, but was “going to zero?” It killed people but was “like the flu?”

Trump’s defenders like to say “It wouldn’t have been any different under Obama.” It would have been different under anyone but a madman.

Imagine a world under which the president holds a press conference in the first week in February. He tells people the virus is coming here. It spreads through the air. It’s lethal. Even if he screwed up everything else he screwed up, the world would be different.

People would have been prepared. They would have protected their families. We would have begun to study this. And we would have looked a lot like other countries in the world.

Think about it this way. If a corporation had knowledge that they had a product that killed people and said and did nothing, it could be considered negligent homicide. The CEO and the entire management team would be fired. Some would go to jail.

A movie would be made about the evil. It would win an academy award. For Trump and team, it will have a news cycle of under 48 hours.

What else don’t we know that he knows? What else is his team protecting him on? If he doesn’t care about American lives — soldiers with bounties or our health, what could we count on him to care about besides himself?

You can play table top exercises about what happens when a pandemic comes to our country 100 times with 100 scenarios and never play out the scenario where the president decides not to tell the country and his team backs him up.

Thankfully Republicans in Congress are loudly denouncing him. OK, thankfully they are silently denouncing him. Because that’s important.

Yesterday I announced a new book called Preventable about all the ways we could have prevented the death toll here. I have interviews here, mind-blowing, with the former heads of the CDC and FDA on the politicization of those agencies. A Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday complimented Trump for dealing honestly and bravely with this virus. But so much of this we are going through we did not need to.

I always thought his shin splints were an ultimate act of cowardice. Now I wonder how many lives they saved. I think it’s time for him to come off the playing field. We have a lot to rebuild.

This is pulled and lightly edited from my Sept. 9 Twitter thread.