The President's Column: Donald Trump is Destroying Our Planet

April 21, 2020

ggresham_520_feat.jpgWhen I started this column in late February ahead of the Super Tuesday primary elections there were still a half-dozen Democratic candidates. I wrote that no matter which candidate you preferred among those in the running or the 20 who had already dropped out, the most important thing all of us need to do this year is defeat Donald Trump in November. We have no higher priority in 2020.

And then COVID-19 became a pandemic. So much in our lives—especially as healthcare workers—changed. But if anything, it is clearer now than before that we have to assure that Donald Trump is a one-term president. What he has done in his mishandling of the pandemic is nothing short of criminal negligence. It’s emblematic of his entire presidency and he’d likely be imprisoned were he not the president.

Early in Mr. Trump’s term, he destroyed the global health security and biodefense directorate that the Obama administration put in place to help prepare for emergent diseases. In November 2019, the coronavirus first appeared in China. The World Health Organization sent out its first alerts.

Some countries had already begun to prepare for pandemics, complete with testing facilities, ventilators, protective gear for healthcare professionals and workers. America’s own intelligence apparatus warned of the impending pandemic as early as January. Even as it was revealed that tens of thousands of Chinese and South Koreans were infected with the coronavirus, the Trump administration did nothing. Worse, it denied the threat, calling it a hoax invented by the media and Democrats. The administration then wasted several weeks denying or downplaying the impending crisis, and doing little to prepare the population. Americans are now likely paying with their lives for this disastrous posture.

A basic tenet of the Hippocratic Oath is, “First do no harm.” Trump is neither a doctor nor a caregiver, but as president, he is responsible for protecting the health and welfare of the American people. In that, he has been a complete failure. It is outrageous that medical professionals and healthcare workers don’t have the equipment and protection they need to save lives. Trump has shown that he neither knows nor cares what the purpose of government is, other than his own self-enrichment and self-glorification.

As a healthcare worker, president of the largest healthcare workers’ union in the country, and father and grandfather, I take Trump’s failure personally. New York, where I live alongside hundreds of thousands of 1199 caregivers, has become the epicenter of the pandemic. After the September 11 attacks, police, firefighters and other first responders (including 1199 EMTs and other emergency personnel) who put their lives on the line were rightfully considered heroes. With the pandemic, thousands upon thousands of our sisters and brothers, understaffed and without sufficient protective gear, work long hours to protect, treat and care for our frail elderly in their own homes and in nursing facilities, and in our overwhelmed hospitals. New Yorkers by the millions—and not just New Yorkers of course—count on us healthcare workers. Every 1199 sister and brothers should be rightfully proud as the people of our communities come to recognize your heroism.

The Trump administration’s complete failure in face of the greatest public health crisis in modern history is only the most glaring example of how dangerous his presidency has been. We have all witnessed the damage he has caused day after exhausting day these past three years. We have all seen the outright corruption—not only his personal corruption in looting our tax dollars to make millions from his hotels and golf courses—but his corruption of the government itself. He is turning the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, into an arm of the Trump Organization. He has waged war, including actual billions of Defense Department dollars, against immigrant workers from Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as Muslims, Asians and Africans in our communities.

From the day he took office, he has made no attempt to be the President of the United States, only the president of his far-Right base.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the fate of our planet is at stake.

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, his dismantling every important environmental safeguard, and his efforts to turn the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior into fossil fuel industry lap dogs endanger human civilization. An additional four years of his “policies” may set the stage for more pandemics and put out of reach humanity’s ability to halt melting ice caps, rising sea levels, drowning coastal cities, wildfires, and the fight for the survival of our children and grandchildren.

Our mission in November is clear: We must defeat Donald Trump.

No More Years. Failure is not an option.

1199 Magazine | March / April 2020