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3 Mar, 2020 00:26

Coronavirus is just more grist for the political mill in 2020 US election

Coronavirus is just more grist for the political mill in 2020 US election

While most Americans see coronavirus as merely a viral epidemic threatening their lives, the 2020 presidential candidates are focused on what’s really important – using the virus to attack one another.

Sure, some in government have concerned themselves with pedestrian matters like ensuring hospitals are adequately supplied to deal with the epidemic and advising Americans on tips for staying healthy. But Trump and his Democratic nemeses are asking the more important question: “how can I use this epidemic to score points off my enemies?

US President Donald Trump met his critics with an ‘I told you so’ on Monday, pointing out he had “closed the Country down to China many weeks ahead of what almost everyone recommended. Saved many lives,” while his opponents were “working the impeachment Hoax.” He seized the opportunity to get in a dig at his predecessor Barack Obama, tweeting a poll that ranked public support of his administration’s ability to contain coronavirus significantly higher than the Obama administration’s ability to handle Zika virus and Ebola.

Trump lamented on Friday night that Democrats were “politicizing the coronavirus,” expanding on his earlier complaint that the media was doing its best to “make the caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible.” His handling of the epidemic – and the accompanying economic panic throwing up the worst market performance of his presidency – have been excoriated as inept, cavalier, even racist by his political nemeses, who have the luxury of armchair-quarterbacking the crisis.

Never one to pass up an opportunity to slam the president as a bigot, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill last week to divert “all funding” for Trump’s “racist border wall” to the Department of Health and Human Services and USAID. Wall construction has never looked more health-conscious – countries that have sealed their borders at the first sign of an epidemic, like Israel, have been largely untouched by coronavirus. But maintaining the appearance of tolerance is apparently more important than protecting Americans’ health for the candidate that has tried to position herself as the most ‘woke’. Otherwise, Warren might have tried to divert some of the fiscal waste lurking in the Pentagon’s vast reserves, next to which the few billion in the budget earmarked for wall construction is a rounding error.

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Billionaire businessman Mike Bloomberg seized the coronavirus moment to playact his version of the presidency, releasing an ad in which he deployed his best responsible-statesman voice to accuse Trump of “failing to lead” or properly reassure Americans. “We deserve better,” another ad snarked after a clip of Trump claiming the virus would go away in warm weather. But the billionaire’s claim that Trump had left the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention denuded of cash with budget cuts that put the nation’s ability to fight coronavirus in danger was exposed as false – Trump did propose cuts to the agencies, but Congress threw it back in his face by actually increasing the budgets of both, even creating a designated fund for “health emergencies.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden showed a breathtaking lack of insight when he slimed Trump for “making the coronavirus about him” in a tweet on Sunday, seemingly oblivious to the fact that literally every candidate in the race (including Biden himself) had used the coronavirus to condemn the president. Biden had previously called out Trump’s comment that coronavirus had become the Democrats’ “new hoax” as “dangerous” and “disturbing” – even though the president appeared to be referring to the virus being pressed into service as a political bludgeon along the lines of Russiagate and Ukrainegate, not actually calling it a hoax. He also piled on Bloomberg’s budget-cuts falsehood.

Even Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders hasn’t been immune to the coronavirus-politicization epidemic, lobbing his critiques at the US healthcare system and the Trump administration’s appointment of a former Big Pharma lobbyist as HHS secretary. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a candidate who has made Medicare for All a central part of his platform, Sanders focused on how a lack of healthcare had put Americans at risk. He also threw shade on Vice President Mike Pence’s abysmal handling of an HIV epidemic while governor of Indiana, though the decision to appoint Pence to oversee the US’ response to coronavirus came in for mockery from the entire Democratic field.

While Right and Left lob coronavirus barbs at one another, the media has more than anyone else facilitated the transformation of the epidemic into just another campaign weapon, seemingly unable to stop politicizing current events in the never-ending quest for ratings. The hypocrisy of calling for the American people to unite to combat the virus on one hand – something nearly every politician and pundit has done – and arguing over ‘who started’ the political squabble over the epidemic doesn’t bode well for the national response to future emergencies.

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