By John Micek
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump released a video of himself standing behind a podium in the White House's Diplomatic Room, where he delivered what he claimed was the "most important speech" of his presidency.
The video, released on a day when the United States lost 2,798 people to the COVID-19 pandemic, did not show Trump offering heartfelt condolences or offering an in-depth explanation of how he planned to rein in a public health catastrophe that claimed the lives of a 9/11's worth of Americans in a single day.
Instead, Trump delivered a grievance-filled, fact-free rant about his favorite topic: Himself.
A two-minute version of the video was posted to Twitter, with a link to the full, 46-minute version on Trump's Facebook page. As the New York Times reports, Twitter labeled the video "disputed." Facebook added a note that President-elect Joe Biden, who received almost 81 million votes and 306 electoral votes, is the projected winner of the election, the Times further reported.
Trump did make a glancing reference to the pandemic. But once again, it had not a whit to do with the thousands grieving absent family this holiday season, or the economic pain inflicted on millions of people because of pandemic-related shutdowns.
It was entirely about him.
"Using the pandemic as a pretext, Democrat politicians and judges drastically changed election procedures just months, and in some cases, weeks before the election," Trump harrumphed, without providing any evidence to back up his claim. "They used the pandemic, sometimes referred to as the China virus, where it originated, as an excuse to mail out tens of millions of ballots, which ultimately led to a big part of the fraud, a fraud that the whole world is watching, and there is no one happier right now than China."
Sometimes referred to as "The China Virus," only by him, and only because Trump has spent months trying to evade responsibility for the worst public health crisis in a century. It's there, in his own words.
"I don't take responsibility at all," Trump said in March, as he tried to play down an early COVID-19 testing fumble, Politico reported.
And now, nine months later, after 273,000 dead, with a record number of infections and hospitalizations, Trump has left the field, ranting madly like Charles Foster Kane in his tower, oblivious to the suffering around him.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are left to pick through the wreckage and struggle to reassemble lives shattered by death or unemployment or displacement because of the pandemic. We console our children, who are attending school remotely, and tell ourselves that seeing family over Zoom at holidays is as good as the real thing.
Two Republican Pennsylvania lawmakers who attended a charade, mask-free election hearing on Thanksgiving Eve have now come down with COVID-19. One of them is the hearing's organizer, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who has been one of the loudest opponents of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's pandemic management policies.
It's a pattern of irresponsibility that begins at the very highest level of government and filters down to every junior-grade Trump wannabe looking to fill the vacuum created by the president's looming exit from the national stage. It is no coincidence that Mastriano is often mentioned as a possible Republican contender for Pennsylvania governor in two years' time.
Meanwhile, outside this feedback loop, public health experts warn of a difficult and painful winter. There is consolation that a vaccine is on the way, but because public health workers and the most vulnerable are being rightfully prioritized, it could be a while before the general public is fully immunized. And that assumes that everyone steps up to do so.
Trump could have used his 46 minutes at the podium to talk about all of these issues - or even one of them - but he did not. And most of us have long since stopped expecting him to do so. Instead, we're looking to Joe Biden, who is weeks away from assuming power, to step up and do the right thing.
And there's no reason to think that he won't. Because Biden knows loss. He knows pain. And he understands the weight and responsibility of the power he will soon wield.
In March, Trump looked the American people in the eye and told them he took no responsibility. We should have listened the first time.
Copyright 2020 John L. Micek, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pa. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.