White House fraud worsened pandemic, eroded trust

Misleading Americans about both the severity of a pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and the measures that most certainly would have saved many of them is an act of fraud.

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A traveler passes through O’Hare Airport on Nov. 24 in Chicago.

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The past year that we’ve all been struggling through has been described as the most tumultuous one in America since 1968. 

There were multiple crises that contributed to the 2020 mess, but there is no question that it was made worse by two massive frauds that were perpetrated on our country. 

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If you look up the word “fraud” in the dictionary, you will find the following definition: “deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage.”

The first national fraud consists of two oft-communicated suggestions from the White House: 1) The wearing of masks might not mitigate the contraction of COVID-19, and; 2) The country has been “rounding the turn” toward ending the pandemic for several months. 

There is so much evidence of the president saying this — and it being false — that I wasn’t sure how to select just one reference link. I ended up providing two nonpartisan fact-checkers. But you could also walk into any hospital and ask the thousands of doctors and nurses who are fighting to save lives every day. It would take you quite a while to find one who agrees with either statement. 

Would universal mask-wearing end the pandemic if you could actually enforce it? Of course not. But we’re talking about mitigation. Not only did the president repeatedly question the effectiveness of masking, he also organized, promoted and performed at mass rallies across the country where his minions did not wear masks. He could have made it a requirement. He did not. 

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Misleading Americans about both the severity of a pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and the measures that most certainly would have saved many of them is an act of fraud. 

Not only has this fraud contributed — and is still contributing — to a worsening spread of the disease, it also further undermines our trust in government. We had already been hovering at historic lows in America over recent administrations. 

The second major fraud being perpetrated on the American people in 2020 is almost the definition of ironic: a president fraudulently claiming that there was massive fraud in a general election he lost (and that hundreds of Republicans won). 

The claims are literally laughable. In other words, I have laughed out loud after them. And similar to the task of offering proof of the effectiveness of masking, there’s just too much evidence out there refuting the president’s lies to reference just one source. 

However, this week the Supreme Court released a statement saying that they would not hear the “case” filed to nullify Pennsylvania’s election results. Three of the nine Justices were appointed by this president. Not one member of the Court noted their dissent. 

If you go back to the dictionary and read the rest of the definition for “fraud,” you’ll find that the word also refers to the actual perpetrator of the act: “a person who makes deceitful pretenses; sham; poseur.” 

In citing this definition, you might think I’m just taking another easy shot at a defeated president. But here’s the thing: It still matters to me who our president is — and what he or she publicly says.

To be sure, “trusting” government is a tricky thing in and of itself. Nearly all non-elected officials in our government are selected, hired or appointed by the people whom we do elect. And nearly all of the people we elect want to get re-elected. So by nature, they’re solicitous of us. They don’t always tell the truth. Raw politics often requires candidates to do what they need to do in order to get elected. 

But somewhere in there is a line. It may be different for different officials in different situations, but it’s in there. And I would argue that it matters most to our country when it comes to the one office where we all get a vote; the one office where the occupant is the most powerful person in our entire government. 

It is axiomatic by now to say that President-elect Joe Biden faces the steepest of uphill climbs to try to even slowly move the needle on our trust in government. It’ll be a long slog, but here’s rule No. 1: Do not say or do anything that will allow any reasonable person to label you a fraud. 

Michael Golden is the author of Unlock Congress and is a senior fellow at the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy.

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