May 2020 Newsletter – Worst President Ever

I wrote this for the May 2020 issue of the Urban News.

I have been trying to think of some tune that would elevate my mood. I thought of “Love Train” by the O’Jays. Of course, there’s Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” Then there’s Katrina’s “Walking on Sunshine.” But none of these tunes really seem to hit the spot. Ricky Martin’s “Living La Vida Loca,” James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” is a perennial pick-me-up, but not this time. Finally, there is “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

Well, I’m sorry, but I’m in a funk. None of these tunes is changing my mood. As of this writing, the United States has more than 1.1 million Americans who been infected with the coronavirus and more than 70,000 deaths. 70,000! That is more than three-quarters of the population of Asheville. (To put this in perspective, there were 39,773 firearm deaths in the US for all of 2017.)

This is why I am dysphoric. I know that Jared Kushner, president’s son-in-law and top aide, recently said that the administration has done an outstanding job with the coronavirus. My first response is “HAH!” That is not reality; that is political posturing. The Trump administration has done a terrible job.

Petri Dishes for the Coronavirus

Last month, in this newspaper, I stressed that I was worried about nursing homes. In nursing homes there is the perfect combination of elderly patients, close quarters, and a population with multiple comorbidities. That is the perfect environment for the coronavirus to grow, thrive, and kill.

Unfortunately, I was right. Many states did not enact any specific legislation to safeguard nursing homes. Facilities across the country became a fertile breeding ground for the coronavirus. Here in West Virginia, in Wayne County, 30 of the 41 residents at one nursing home tested positive for the novel coronavirus, as did 34 of the 68 staff—50%—in a county with a total population of less than 40,000. There were seven deaths from this one nursing home. After nursing homes made the national news, governors across the nation began enacting proclamations to make nursing homes safer, but it seems a little too late.

Unfortunately, when I was writing my newsletter last month, I didn’t even think about prisons. Prisons are overcrowded. So it’s not a surprise that at the Cook County jail, in Chicago, 276 inmates and 172 correctional officers tested positive for the coronavirus. Again, this is the perfect combination of people in close quarters who can easily and rapidly spread the virus between each other. Some prisons are trying to release some prisoners early in order to decrease overcrowding. One federal prison in Washington DC is shipping over 100 prisoners to West Virginia to decrease overcrowding. I am not sure if it is possible to do social distancing in a prison. This is a problem that no one seems all that eager to solve.

Huge coronavirus outbreaks are taking place at large meat processing plants. It appears that the owners of these plants did little to change their practices to try to decrease the possibility of a coronavirus infection. Over 20 of these plants have closed down because of coronavirus outbreaks—and now even Wendy’s is running out of hamburgers at some of its outlets! In his infinite wisdom (please understand, I’m inserting as much sarcasm as I can with eyerolling), President Trump signed an executive order ordering meat processing plants to stay open. Trump did not order these meatpacking plants to furnish all their workers with masks. He didn’t order them to begin testing all of their workers for the virus. He didn’t order frequent hand washing or social distancing. Instead, he issued an executive order which seems to make the problem worse.

Open Her Up

President Trump has been trying to open the country up for almost a month now. He declared—without any legal basis, because it’s simply untrue—that he had the authority to override governors if he decides to open the country. Of course there was a huge backlash, and he slowly stepped away from that position—without admitting that he was flat-out wrong. As far as I can tell, nothing is in place to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus—the “second wave” that epidemiologists expect, and later, in the fall, a third wave could be coming. Why would Trump be pushing to get everyone back to work? Because he knows he has no chance of reelection if we are in a recession. Donald Trump has chosen his reelection aspirations over the health and welfare of Americans. Wasn’t he supposed to protect and serve? Oh, no, that’s the police.

Worst American Presidents

Warren Harding seems to be perpetually on the list of worst presidents ever. It doesn’t appear that he passed one bit of meaningful legislation during his presidency. He is known mostly for an administration that was terribly corrupt; the Teapot Dome scandal was the worst in American history, until Watergate. (And in fact, it was in response to that scandal that Congress passed legislation, enduring to this day, that gives subpoena power to the House and Senate for review of tax records of any US citizen without regard to elected or appointed position, nor subject to White House interference. Trump is fighting that subpoena power in the Supreme Court this month.)

Millard Fillmore is known for the compromise of 1850, which postponed the Civil War but prolonged slavery. His other claim to fame was not being nominated for another term by his own Whig Party, and the party died out after his administration.

James Buchanan was the president immediately before Abe Lincoln. He did nothing to end slavery. He also did nothing to truly appease Southerners. Like Nero “fiddling while Rome burned,” Buchanan watched idly and allowed tensions to rise so that a Civil War was almost inevitable.

After President Lincoln’s assassination, Vice President Andrew Johnson took over as president. He was no Abe Lincoln. Johnson worked hard to keep newly emancipated African Americans as second-class citizens. He opposed the 14th Amendment giving citizenship to former slaves, and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. He flat-out ignored Congress, broke laws, and was the first president to be impeached. (Notice how Obama, like Lincoln, was preceded and followed by utter incompetents?)

Worst President Ever

Yet I would argue that Donald Trump is worse than all these guys.

Donald Trump asked for and got foreign assistance with the 2016 election. Donald Trump is circumventing Congress in building a wall on our southern border. I’m not sure that the corruption of Warren Harding’s presidency is anywhere close to what Donald Trump has been doing. He has been basically lining his pockets with taxpayer money. His hotel in DC housed tons of foreign diplomats and US lobbyists wanting favor with the Trump administration, which violates the Emoluments Clause.

Trump has surrounded himself with lairs and criminals. This is just a short list of those who have been convicted of crime. Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn. Michael Flynn lied to the FBI on at least 2 occasions. He admitted to lying and pleaded guilty. Then he withdrew his guilty plea. The justice department has dropped all charges. I guess lawlessness pays in the Trump White House. Well when you think about all of the high profile criminals that Trump has pardoned (Rod R. Blagojevich, who tried to sell Obama’s senate seat; Edward DeBartolo Jr, former owner of the San Francisco 49ers; Michael R. Milken, junk bond king who ripped off thousands of Americans; Bernard B. Kerik; Joe Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff who wanted to arrest anyone who didn’t look like him; Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Dick Cheney who leaked an undercover CIA agent’s name to the press and there are many more). Trump loves lawlessness.

Trump started a trade war with China which is hurting the American farmer. In a deal that should make the average American nauseated, China awarded Trump and his daughter’s businesses 18 exclusive Chinese trademarks. He tore up the nuclear agreement, which was working, with Iran. He has talked about pulling out the NATO alliance. He insulted France and England, our closest allies and made nice with dictator of North Korea. He labelled with North American Free Trade Agreement was the worst in history then he rewrote the agreement between Canada, the US and Mexico. It was the exact same agreement. The comma’s are the exact same place! He’s given tax cuts to the rich while ignoring the poor. He is using the EPA to dismantle decades of environmental regulations. He promised more coal jobs. He promised to bring back manufacturing jobs. He just told bold-faced lies to the American people. He may not be the worst president of all time, but he is clearly the worst president of my lifetime.

Now What?

As we are talking about opening our state and our country again, we must keep in mind that we all need to be safe. We need tests: we need to be testing everyone for the coronavirus. We need tracking and contact tracing. We need to support vaccine research and provide PPEs for all Americans.

But the federal government, as long as Donald Trump’s president, is not going to look out for you or me. We must look out for each other. Social distancing has worked. Continue to use it. Wash your hands frequently. Don’t touch your face. Keep hand sanitizer in your purse or in your pocket and use it frequently. Avoid big meetings and large crowds for another month or so. Avoid travel if you can. Wear a mask when you’re in public; it probably doesn’t protect you, but it does protect those around you.

Above all, be safe. It’s up to us to protect each other. Be safe!


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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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