Press: Election is now referendum on how Trump handled COVID-19

It’s an image Americans haven’t experienced for over 40 years: seeing the president of the United States airlifted to a hospital for treatment for a serious illness. Forget politics. This is a moment of national anxiety. It puts all Americans on edge. It concerns the health and safety, not just of the president, but of the entire nation. It impacts the economy. It raises serious questions about national security.

And here’s the worst part: In the case of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpState Department revokes visa of Giuliani-linked Ukrainian ally: report White House Gift Shop selling ‘Trump Defeats COVID’ commemorative coin Biden says he should not have called Trump a clown in first debate MORE, it was entirely self-inflicted. We could have been spared this national crisis. It could all have been avoided — if only Trump had listened to health officials and taken the necessary precautions. Instead, he recklessly and irresponsibly ignored their warnings. And now all of us are paying the price.

Of course, as Americans, Republican and Democrat, we wish the president a speedy recovery. But, still, it must be said. The coronavirus didn’t just happen to strike Donald Trump. He almost invited him to strike him. For months, he refused to take the virus seriously, dismissed its threat, insisted it would soon go away, refused advice of health experts to wear a mask and social distance, and, ignoring CDC guidelines, scheduled dangerous, super-predator crowd events on the campaign trail and at the White House — most recently, his Rose Garden gathering to announce the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

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In so doing, Trump not only exposed himself to the disease, he put countless others in jeopardy. Including Herman CainHerman CainGrowing number of top Republicans diagnosed with coronavirus Lady Liberty dons the mask of shame Twitter criticizes Trump after he says indoor rallies had no ‘negative’ effects: ‘Ask Herman Cain’ MORE, who died of COVID-19 after attending Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa on June 20. And, more recently, first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpWhite House Gift Shop selling ‘Trump Defeats COVID’ commemorative coin Hillicon Valley: CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter to testify before Senate | European Union police agency warns of increase in cybercrime | Twitter to remove posts hoping for Trump’s death White House not contact tracing Rose Garden event considered possible ‘superspreader’: report MORE, White House aides Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksWhite House not contact tracing Rose Garden event considered possible ‘superspreader’: report Republican COVID-19 outbreak rocks the 2020 race Fox’s Gillian Turner reveals testing positive for COVID-19 in September MORE, Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayWhite House not contact tracing Rose Garden event considered possible ‘superspreader’: report Watchdog group says top Trump trade adviser should be fired for Hatch Act violations Republican COVID-19 outbreak rocks the 2020 race MORE and Nick Luna, three White House reporters, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisHillicon Valley: CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter to testify before Senate | European Union police agency warns of increase in cybercrime | Twitter to remove posts hoping for Trump’s death Republican COVID-19 outbreak rocks the 2020 race Senate leaves town for two weeks amid coronavirus outbreak MORE (R-N.C.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter to testify before Senate | European Union police agency warns of increase in cybercrime | Twitter to remove posts hoping for Trump’s death Republican COVID-19 outbreak rocks the 2020 race Fox’s Gillian Turner reveals testing positive for COVID-19 in September MORE (R-Utah), campaign manager Bill Stepien, RNC Chair Ronna McDanielRonna Romney McDanielCornyn: Trump ‘let his guard down’ on coronavirus White House reporters slam McEnany for not wearing mask during briefings: ‘Recklessly endangered lives’ Trump campaign scrambled by president’s hospitalization MORE and Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins — all of whom tested positive.

Not only that, according to the Wall Street Journal, last Thursday morning, even after Trump learned that Hicks had tested positive for COVID, Trump insisted on proceeding to his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., for a fundraiser and campaign rally with supporters: eating lunch with donors, taking photographs, traveling with White House staff, Secret Service agents and military personnel — exposing another 206 people, not counting staff and security, to the disease.

Even while at Walter Reed, Trump continued to mock the disease, sending the hapless White House physician out to lie about his condition and putting brave Secret Service agents at risk by forcing them to drive him outside the gates so he could wave to supporters.

In the end, no matter how quickly he recovers, it will be Trump himself who’s hurt most by his diagnosis. For months, while downplaying the threat of coronavirus, he’s desperately tried to change the subject: to “law and order,” Hunter Biden, mail-in ballots, anything but COVID-19.

No such luck. By his own reckless disregard for safety, Trump’s made sure the coronavirus will be at the top of the news every day from now through Nov. 3. How is Donald Trump doing? What are his symptoms? Who else in the White House has been infected? And how many more Americans have died?

There’s no escaping it now. This election is only about one issue. It’s a referendum on how Donald Trump handled the worst public health crisis in our lifetime. Did he rise to the occasion? Did he take it seriously? Did he pull Americans together? Did he tell the American people the truth? Did he set the right example? The indisputable answer is a resounding NO.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”