Has Donald Trump’s Thabo Mbeki moment arrived?

Donald Trump comments about coronavirus have sowed doubt and confusion within the public. He has suggested that there are mild cases and that people could return to work in such a condition or recover from it without realising that they had it. He has also suggested that a vaccine will be developed soon as well as suggested that the outbreak will disappear with the warm weather.

His comments run counter to the scientific evidence which informs the public health statements from his advisers as well as the government institutions, like Center for Disease Control. In this manner, Trump has been politicising the coronavirus issue by suggesting that it is a hoax promoted by the Democratic Party to weaken his presidency. Yet, the issue is whether his leadership, expressed by his comments, is undermining the response to the coronavirus outbreak by distorting the pandemic’s scale, scope, and severity within the United States and the world.

His statesmanship bears an uncanny resemblance to Thabo Mbeki’s approach to the AIDS crisis when his leadership exacerbated the AIDS crisis in South Africa. Mbeki rejected scientific evidence that showed the AIDS virus was not responsible for AIDS but that a weakened immune system brought on by poverty and malnourishment was the cause. Mbeki rejected the scientific evidence for political reasons as he had politicized the AIDS crisis for his own purposes. In a similar way, we see Trump politicizing the coronavirus. The federal government could take a decisive lead on the issue with blunt appraisals regarding the pandemic’s scale, scope and severity, but that would require the President to put public safety before politics. Instead, Trump has sown doubt, confusion, and uncertainty. In doing so, he has made the crisis worse because the public are unprepared to understand that the pandemic will get much worse before it gets better.

Were the president to show decisive leadership he would explain why the test kits are not available, when they will be available as they are the first step in understanding the outbreak’s scale, scope, and severity. Instead, he has focused on the Democrats, his own hunches about the cases as well as the disease’s morality rate, which serve his purposes but not the public’s. However, this would require Trump to display talents and characteristics he has never shown previously.

South Africa’s leaders politicized the AIDS crisis and made it worse. It appears Trump is doing the same withe coronavirus. Americans deserve better leadership in a crisis, but it will not get it so long as Trump is president.

About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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9 Responses to Has Donald Trump’s Thabo Mbeki moment arrived?

  1. Marco Andreacchio says:

    Mbeki rejected scientific evidence that showed the AIDS virus was not responsible for AIDS but that a weakened immune system brought on by poverty and malnourishment was the cause.
    Greetings Lawrence, thanks for sharing. I think you do not mean what you write in the pasting above (underlining added).
    Did Trump really suggest that the Democrat party somehow created the « virus »? All of the (few) political figures I have listened to have politicized the virus.
    At least in Europe there is a government/media-spun popular nevrosis about the virus, a nevrosis a couple of doctors I know here in France do not share in the least.
    Best regards, Marco

  2. Marco Andreacchio says:

    I listened to president Trump’s (and vice-president Pence’s and Dr. Fauci’s) recent official statement on the virus (NBC news on youtube). His appeal not to incite a panic did not strike me as an attempt to politicize the virus, aside from the obvious fact that the virus is being politicized left and right as a pretext to bash the president. The president made it clear that the “hoax” he had spoken of referred not at all to the virus, but to Democrats’ claims against what is being done to fight the virus.

    • Hi. That he chose to call it a hoax without defining it was what politicised it. He chose to use hoax and equate Democrat criticism on par with the Russia “hoax”.
      He could have defended or explained his response to the outbreak but he didn’t. He dismissed their criticism as a hoaxor even the virus as a hoax or even the threat from the virus as a hoax or the claim his response was insufficient as a hoax. Yet he did not do so.
      In the midst of a pandemic he talks of hoaxes and politicisation.
      I would point out his response has been poor. They could have restricted travel sooner, but they didn’t. They could have screen passengers but they didn’t. They could have tested passengers and anyone showing symptoms but they didn’t. They could have taken steps to quarantine but they didn’t. Instead, the outbreak is now speeding up and Trump has no understanding of its scale scope or severity. Instead here lies on his hunches, dismisses experts on mortality rate as well as the idea that it is just like flu. He has refused to accept it is a problem that needs to be addressed as a priority because he thinks the criticism is a hoax or political.
      Everything I have described is what China did belatedly, yet US cannot do it because there are not enough test kits. As of yesterday only 500 people had been tested in the USA. China was testing 10,000 a day. Thus to say he is doing a poor job is not a hoax nor is it a political attack, it is a statement of fact.

      More Americans will die because Trump did not treat it as a scientific problem but as a political issue. Now it is too late. The outbreak has taken hold and will accelerate until enough testing is done fast enough to understand scale and scope so people and areas can be quarantined to stop the spread.

      • Marco Andreacchio says:

        Your account of the president’s stance does not correspond at all to what I heard him state clearly online. His political opponents have recently attacked him, incidentally, for doing what you claim he should have done earlier. Be that as it may, it is clear that a terrible virus is spreading today around the world at high-speed : the corona psychosis (a fact, if ever there was one).

      • It seems strange that you would say there is a coronavirus psychosis when even Trump agrees there is a pandemic.
        He has failed to do his job and in that failure he has ensured Americans are unprepared for the outbreak.
        America could have contained this but it is too late. Americans will die because Trump failed to act on the outbreak’s scale, scope or severity.
        Strong, robust, decisive actions would have meant fewer deaths and a less severe outbreak. That moment is passed and we will be treated to Trump’s excuses and his efforts to blame everyone else.

      • Marco Andreacchio says:

        There is an epidemic AND a psychosis. The latter being a media spun virus.

      • That does not follow. To claim there is a psychosis in response to the pandemic is unsupported by the evidence. For it to be a psychosis it would have to be irrational such as a disproportionate response to reality. Instead, Trump’s failure to ensure proper testing or screen of passengers means that the scale, scope, and severity are unknown except by the increasing number of deaths and known infections. These justify the criticism especially as Trump’s any and varied statements about the pandemic and the government’s response have worsened not lessened the uncertainty and hampered the response as people act contrary to experts’ advice based on Trump’s hunches, claims, and statements.
        The criticism in response to his failures is justified and proportionate and above all reasonable in the circumstances.
        The attempt to characterise such criticism as a “psychosis” is irresponsible as it fails to help the public and will worsen the pandemic because it will undermine the public understanding needed to respond effectively to it.

      • Marco Andreacchio says:

        Your argument is Trump-tied, while my observation pertains to an international climate (never mind président Trump). The psychosis i spoke of is only marginally related to criticisms of the president’s administration’s stratégies.

      • World wide? It has a mortality rate that is 3.4%. “Normal” flu is about .1%. So it is right for the world to be concerned since every country runs the risk as Italy and Iran have found to their misfortune. The public are right to be concerned. In better run states, lime the UK, they have a stronger testing and response system than in the US and people do not have to fear the costs of testing.

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