When it comes to politics, this has been a week for the record books, especially to the immediate south of our border. Yes, I have read the comments that we should ignore President Donald Trump and everything that goes on in the United States and concentrate only on Canadian politics, but I simply disagree.
Our two countries are intrinsically entwined. There is no getting around it. What happens in the United States has far more impact on their neighbours to the north than on any other country in the world. It is why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau almost visibly bites his tongue and chooses his words particularly carefully every time he or his government is compelled to respond to a shot across the bow from the president of the United States. Some people criticize him for that, but in reality he has little other choice. It is just the way it is.
The really big news, of course, is that President Trump and many of his senior officials have tested positive for the coronavirus. I am not as surprised at the conspiracy theories that have arisen from this as I am at the level of vitriol directed at the president, many hoping he does not recover. One wit on Saturday Night Live yesterday, when referring to the news that Trump had COVID-19, quipped that he felt very sorry…for the virus!
There are some things you don’t make fun of, or treat maliciously, and being infected with the coronavirus is one of them. To me, it says something not very nice about people who do that. Heaven knows I am no fan of Donald Trump, but I do not wish him ill. I hope he fully recovers along with his wife and others who may have been affected by his condition.
I believe, however, that Trump’s illness and its spread to those around him sends a huge message to Americans and to the rest of the world as well. That message is that his reluctance to not take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously enough, to downplay its significance and to virtually ignore scientific advice and the importance of wearing masks and respecting social distancing, is wrong and it didn’t work.
It was a huge mistake and if it was an actual strategy, it was a disastrous miscalculation not just for him but for the millions of people who were affected by the virus, many of whom have died due to the lack of informed leadership and the resulting ineffective management of the virus. Donald Trump needs to be held accountable for that. When he emerges from his illness, it will be interesting to see if he has learned anything other than how to spin it all to his advantage. Sadly, probably not.
I do find some of the conspiracy rumours interesting, but not particularly credible. Although when President Trump’s doctors and his chief of staff give two very different versions of the state of his health, one does tend to wonder what is really going on there.
I believe that Donald Trump is genuinely ill although clearly the extent of it is still up in the air. In addressing this, George Conway, one of his greatest critics (ironically married to one of Trump’s greatest supporters, Kellyanne Conway), pointed out that Donald Trump treated illness as a weakness and would never admit to it if he did not have to.
However, I also expect that after they got over the initial shock, Trump campaign organizers were rubbing their hands with glee at the opportunity fate had handed them. The timing, from their perspective, could not be better. The onset of his illness was a perfect excuse for Trump’s disastrous performance at Tuesday’s presidential debate. They have a good reason to duck future debates and they have a reasonable chance of gaining some public sympathy for the president given his current circumstances. They will milk that all the way to election day. And as a bonus, they have cramped Joe Biden’s ability to aggressively attack the president for the remainder of the campaign. Polling a few days after the presidential debate showed Biden ahead nationally by 13 points. My guess is that will now narrow considerably.
So, why should all of this be of interest to Canadians? Frankly, I think all other issues and reasons aside (of which there are many), the COVID-19 pandemic, all by itself, should be enough. Few countries have managed the current pandemic as poorly as the United States of America and much of the blame for this falls at the feet of Donald Trump.
The United States has a population of close to ten times that of Canada. To date they have had 7.41 million cases of COVID-19 resulting in 209,000 deaths, the worst known record, world-wide. The Americans have about four per cent of the world’s population and are closing in on 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections. This behemoth is sitting on our doorstep, where in this country on a per capita basis our ability to control the COVID-19 virus is more than twice as effective as that of the United States.
If we want to keep it that way, we have every reason to be wary and every reason to be aware of the Trump administration’s political behaviour, especially in relation to COVID-19, and every reason to keep our borders closed until they get their act together. What has happened in the United States could easily happen here. We cannot ignore U.S. politics.
We need to watch them like a hawk.
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