Robert Delaney
SCMP Columnist
Robert Delaney
Robert Delaney

Donald Trump is a bigger threat to the US than coronavirus or China

  • His retweeting of dubious claims about an unproven Covid-19 treatment was no miscalculation. It fits his pattern of undermining US institutions for personal gain, and his priority now is to win re-election at all costs
“This president led on the development of remdesivir,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on July 31. And nary a mention of hydroxychloroquine.
In the months of distraction and misinformation from the White House about all aspects of the pandemic since Donald Trump banished respected health authorities like Dr Anthony Fauci, this one was a shocker.
To Trump and his supporters, hydroxychloroquine was our way out of a pandemic that has now killed more than 150,000 Americans, to the stubborn exclusion of everything else that health authorities have been pleading for, including face masks and social distancing.
Trump, his son Donald Jnr, and many others within the president’s hardcore base, apparently preferred the solutions on offer by Stella Immanuel, a registered doctor in Texas who insists, among other dubious claims, that hydroxychloroquine is a Covid-19 cure.

Earlier in the week, Trump retweeted a video of Immanuel – who is stridently anti-LGBTQ and occasionally spouts odd ideas such as the negative health implications of having dream sex with demons – speaking to the media as part of a group called America’s Frontline Doctors, all sporting lab coats, on the steps of the US Supreme Court.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro answers media questions on July 29. Navarro is among those in Trump’s inner circle touting hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus, even though the Food and Drug Administration has determined that it is unlikely to be effective. Photo EPA-EFE
The blowback against Trump was apparently too much to keep up the show of support for Immanuel and her cohorts. That’s why McEnany was prepared on Friday to veer back into the lane of reality, where most US voters are driving, and continue the efforts to distract attention from everything Trump did and said about the pandemic in the time between his late-January order to block travellers to the US from mainland China and his eventual admission a couple of weeks ago that Americans should wear face masks.
That period included what sounded like calls for insurrection against state and local leaders trying to follow the advice of his own public health advisers, one of many moves that prevented the US from controlling the spread the way most countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific have done.

To those not looking closely enough, Trump’s support for Immanuel and other cranks might appear to be a miscalculation. But it’s not. Nor was the choice of the Supreme Court as a backdrop for “America’s Frontline Doctors” incidental. Trump and some of the people whispering in his ear are determined to undermine the institutions on which the US government stands.

It would be easy to attribute Trump’s bizarre and contradictory positions to a strategy that recognises a stark truth: his re-election hopes are fading. Trump is far behind in the polls, as public opinion moves further towards accepting the measures that other countries adopted to lower infection rates.


Six months after WHO declared Covid-19 a public health emergency, what more do we know now?

Six months after WHO declared Covid-19 a public health emergency, what more do we know now?

If there’s very little hope of winning in November, this line of logic goes, may as well cause as much chaos as possible. When a crowded room is full of smoke, foul play is much easier to pull off.

But Trump has had a proclivity for upending the traditions of American governance even when the economy was soaring and his re-election seemed all but assured. That started with the firing of former FBI chief James Comey in 2017 and on to the firing of Geoffrey Berman, the Manhattan US attorney who was investigating Trump’s inner circle.
Why else would he have trusted President Vladimir Putin more than Washington’s intelligence community, when they warned about Russia’s election interference? Why else would he have defended President Xi Jinping’s assurances that China had the coronavirus under control?

Biden eyes major foreign policy shifts if he beats Trump

The biggest threat America faces is not the coronavirus or China. Science and common sense will bring the pandemic under control within the next year.

China is a much bigger challenge as Beijing tries to export its model of surveillance-enabled totalitarianism, but its bullying of Taiwan, herding of its ethnic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang into internment camps, and efforts to crush democracy in Hong Kong have finally forced more countries to stand up to Beijing.
To keep this momentum intact, the White House will need to stop antagonising allies and supporting autocrats. We all know this won’t happen unless Trump is thrown out of office. Trump will continue to attack anyone not supporting his re-election bid and try to undermine confidence in the November 3 poll’s result.

Putin and Xi will be cheering him all the way.

Robert Delaney is the Post’s North America Bureau Chief