One day, the pandemic will end. The other malignancy in US body politic may be harder to dislodge


A US Centers for Disease Control computer rendering of Covid-19, the strand of coronavirus that’s currently wreaking economic havoc around the world

A sad and telling development in the crippling affliction that wracks America came on Easter Monday (April 13). I’m not talking about the coronavirus pandemic, though it figures in the story.

The truly malignant agent that has invaded the American body politic and is spreading fast – secondaries are in parts we might not have expected so quickly – is Trumpism. It presents as corruption, toxic treatment of decent behaviour and utter defiance of American norms.

Consider developments to do with the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Its captain, Brett Crozier, was sacked some weeks ago for daring to insist that his ship should be evacuated because of the pandemic. At the time, the Trump administration, via acting navy secretary Thomas Modly, pretended to righteous indignation at the captain’s alleged lack of judgement. Soon enough, Mr Modly’s intemperate abuse of the captain forced him to resign as well (presumably because Mr Modly had displayed a rather obvious lack of judgement). And now, news has emerged that a sailor assigned to the ship died of complications after contracting the coronavirus. It was the first death of a crew member from the Roosevelt. And it casts a quite different light on Captain Crozier’s anguished pleas on behalf of his men.

The ship had nearly 5,000 sailors in shared berths. One sailor is dead; the captain too has contracted the coronavirus and 584 of his crew have tested positive.

As The New York Times notes: “The story of the Theodore Roosevelt encapsulates, aboard a single aircraft carrier, Mr. Trump’s tumultuous three and a half years as commander in chief. The episode shows how the military, the most structured and hierarchical part of the government, has tried to adjust to an erratic president, and how in a hollowed-out leadership, acting secretaries have replaced those confirmed by the Senate.”

One day, the coronavirus pandemic will end. But Trumpism’s debilitating effects on the US body politic may be less easy to shake off.