Trump’s erratic behavior ignores worsening pandemic and its victims

(CNN) – A defiant President Donald Trump is chasing his own political goals while ignoring the human and economic toll of the pandemic, with his super spreader White House in chaos and top Pentagon generals in quarantine.

With uncertainty still clouding official bulletins of the President’s condition as he battles Covid-19, there is increasing bewilderment in Washington at some of his tone deaf and erratic moves since leaving the hospital on Monday. Trump suddenly blew up congressional negotiations on a Covid-19 economic rescue package. And in a fresh assault on public health strategies needed to quell a now-accelerating pandemic, Trump claimed falsely that it was no worse than the flu, as he portrays himself as a hero leader who conquered the virus.

By reinforcing his denial of a national emergency that has killed more than 210,000 Americans, Trump is adopting a high-risk strategy that potentially offends bereaved relatives of those who died from the disease and almost everyone else who has seen their lives, schooling and family life shattered. By squelching economic rescue talks, he leaves himself open to charges of indifference to the plight of millions of Americans thrown out of work during the pandemic and who relied on now expired federal unemployment benefits.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden seized on the sense that the Trump White House is running off the rails to pledge to restore national unity and to lead the nation out of the pandemic, following in Abraham Lincoln’s footsteps in warning America was again a “house divided” on the battlefield at Gettysburg, the scene of the Civil War’s bloodiest clash.

Trump’s latest attempts to downplay the virus — even as he is on a regimen of strong and experimental drugs to fight his own infection — are sure to be a centerpiece of Wednesday night’s debate between Vice President Mike Pence and the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

The President on Tuesday also made his most flagrant public attempt yet to force regulators to accelerate the approval of several Covid-19 vaccines that are currently being trialed in an effort to help his own reelection prospects. The move followed a CNN report that the President had been personally pressuring drug companies to deliver on a vaccine before Election Day.

“New FDA Rules make it more difficult for them to speed up vaccines for approval before Election Day. Just another political hit job!” Trump tweeted at US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn. FDA rules require several months to elapse after patients are administered the last dose of a prototype vaccine to ensure there are no serious side effects. The practice is designed to maximize public trust in a vaccine — the best hope of ending the pandemic — that polls show has already been dented by Trump’s politicization of the issue.

Trump’s own administration meanwhile is becoming a glaring symbol of his own irresponsible approach to the crisis.

White House domestic policy adviser Stephen Miller is the latest top official to test positive, bringing the number of Covid cases among White House officials to at least 11. A fourth press aide to White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany, who is at home with Covid-19, also has the virus. After blazing through the West Wing, Trump allies on Capitol Hill and in his campaign, the virus has reached the highest echelons of the US military.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, and several other senior members of the Pentagon’s leadership, are quarantining after the vice commandant of the US Coast Guard Adm. Charles Ray tested positive on Monday. Ray was at the White House on September 27 and later met other top military officers.