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Susan Estrich

We are now officially dealing with a pandemic. No one but the president thought a $2.5 billion program would be enough to address the threat. Congress — not only the Democratic House but also the Republican Senate — nearly quadrupled the appropriation, even as health officials around the country are warning about shortages of everything from masks to skilled nursing care.

No one except the president thinks the virus will just fade away with the warm weather. No one except the president disputes the mortality rate of the new coronavirus. The president has a "hunch" that the numbers are wrong. Who needs science when the president has a "hunch" — based on nothing — that the World Health Organization is wrong? No one but the president is claiming that a vaccine is around the corner.

European leaders are taking the pandemic seriously. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told her fellow citizens that 60% to 70% of the German population could end up infected; the government's goal is to slow the spread enough so health care facilities will not be overwhelmed. English and French leaders have offered similar scenarios.

In Italy, where hospital conditions in hard-hit Lombardy are already desperate, the association of anesthesiologists and intensive care physicians has recommended that respirators should be prioritized for those with the best chance of survival — meaning young people with no preexisting conditions, rather than those over 65 who are most likely to die.

In America, according to President Donald Trump, what we are facing is not a pandemic but a political "hoax" engineered by Democrats to defeat him.

After three years, we should all be used to a president who sees everything that happens in the world only as it impacts him. Everything that goes wrong is the fault of Democrats trying to beat him in November — "fake news" being spread to undermine him. The Democrats, according to the president, are encouraging people to panic, which would hurt the economy, which would — and for him, this is the critical piece — hurt his chances of reelection. 

The president's decision to treat a global pandemic as a Democratic hoax is not only stupid and self-serving but also terribly dangerous. We were not prepared. The president actually fired the team that would have been in place to address a pandemic. In California, the numbers are still much lower than they would be if tests were more widely available. At the lab of my local hospital, where I went for a blood draw on Tuesday, not a soul was waiting in line in front of me. I was shocked — I had expected crowds and masks and gloves — until the lab technician explained to me that the hospital lab had no test kits at all; that the only place a person could be tested was the emergency room, and "you certainly don't want to go there." 

In times of national crisis, Americans usually come together, as we did after 9/11, as we did after the Challenger crashed with a teacher on board, as we have done under every president except this one. This president is not a unifier, not a scientist, not a calming voice. He is an angry man who can't make a deal with a pandemic and can't find anyone to blame.

From the beginning, the presidency has been Donald Trump's to lose. It's not the Democrats or the press who are doing him in; it's Trump himself, with his ugliest side in plain view, threatening our health because of his selfish preoccupation with himself.

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