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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/10/19

Donald Trump and the Measles Epidemic

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On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States and many Americans were hopeful. We were in the throes of "the great recession" but we trusted Obama to guide us out of it. We'd elected our first biracial President and many of us hoped that racism would soon be gone. By the way, the U.S. was thought to free of measles -- there were only 131 cases of circulating measles reported in 2008.

Things have changed. Donald Trump is the 45th President. Although the economy is good, two-thirds of Americans are pessimistic about the future. Racism is back -- White Supremacists threaten domestic security. And there's a measles epidemic; so far, 764 cases of measles have been reported in 2019 (https://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html).

The social and mental attributes that characterize Donald Trump have promoted the measles epidemic. These same conditions have produced other epidemics, such as opiod addiction, Hepatitis A, and gun violence.

1.Critical Thinking: Donald Trump is not a deep thinker. He's hardly the first President with this characteristic -- most of us remember George W. Bush. But Trump is the first President to flaunt his lack of perspicacity. He revels in the notion that he shoots from the hit and makes no effort to learn from his mistakes -- he doesn't even acknowledge his mistakes.

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I don't believe that Trump is stupid -- although he says and does stupid things -- but rather lazy. He does not read the many reports brought to him but instead relies upon verbal briefings from a small set of advisors and the rantings of sources like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

Trump also lacks impulse control. He'll see a news item scroll across the bottom of the screen and immediately fire off a Tweet, treating the chyron as legitimate news.

Trump has no depth. He's a creature of the moment and, therefore, incapable of the thoughtful analysis that leaders typically display when they encounter complex problems. Thus, the North Korea situation is reduced to "Kim likes me."

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Many of the parents who refuse to vaccinate their children share Trump's characteristic lack of critical thinking.

2.Social Media as a news source: Donald Trump is the first President to treat social media as a legitimate news source. In this regards, he's like many Americans who do not get their news reports from conventional newspapers (books or magazines) but instead rely upon television, the Internet, or radio. (a 2018 Pew Research study (https://deadline.com/2018/12/how-americans-watch-news-study-tv-online-pew-research-center-1202512745/ ) found that 44 percent of respondents got their news from TV, 34 percent got their news from the Internet, 14 percent got their news from radio, and 7 percent read newspapers.)

Trump gets his news from Fox News, his Twitter correspondence, and to a lesser extent from Facebook -- he occasionally uses Instagram. (It appears that he uses the Internet to access certain websites such as Alex Jones' infowars.) He gets his news predigested.

As a result, Trump has a strange set of beliefs. For example, he believes that most Mexican and Central American refugees coming to the southern border are "criminals" or worse. Trump believes that Arab-Americans cheered the 9/11 attack; for this reason he thinks Muslims hate us and should not be allowed to enter the U.S. Donald describes Vladimir Putin as a "great leader" and believes that reports of Russian interference of 2016 are a "hoax." Trump thinks NATO is "a ripoff." Finally, he does not believe that global climate change is a crisis; recently he minimized it as "weather" but not so long ago described it a hoax.

A couple of years ago, Trump tweeted there was a link between childhood vaccination and autism. (However, on April 26th, in response to the measles epidemic, Trump changed his tune and urged families to vaccinate their children, "they have to get their shots.")

Many parents, who have not allowed their children to be vaccinated, share the (one time) belief of Donald Trump that childhood inoculations increases the likelihood of autism. Who knows how many of these have been influenced by Trump and from obtaining their "science" information from social media.

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3.Selfishness. Donald Trump is a profoundly selfish person; he only cares about taking care of himself, and his family. As President, he seems to have no concern for "the common good" or actions that will serve "the best interests of the country." When making a decision, his guiding principle is "what's in it for me?" (For example, Trump continues to support the treacherous Saudi regime that murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi because the Trump family has business interests in Saudi Arabia.)

Of course, parents who fail to vaccinate their children are also profoundly selfish; they care only about their "intellectual position" and not the health and safety of their children or other members of the community who might be exposed to measles.

Summary: Donald Trump didn't cause the measles epidemic but his profound character defects -- lack of critical thinking, addiction to social media, and pathological selfishness -- have made it worse. And Trump's deficiencies have worsened other epidemics such as opiod addiction, Hepatitis A, and gun violence. Trump's a menace to our health and safety.

 

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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