The COVID-19 crisis has had massive effects on our country: A massive economic shock precipitated by a rampaging pandemic has now pushed some of our political leaders — starting with President Donald Trump, into unthinkable places — even for him.

Despite intelligence community warnings as early as January that the coronavirus was exploding in the Wuhan province of China, this administration did nothing. When new infections inundated Italy and South Korea, Trump and his advisors downplayed it.

As recently as the beginning of March, the president was telling everyone that COVID-19 is not that bad, is really only affecting very old people and that it’s no worse than the annual flu. In the face of overwhelming empirical evidence and public health experts pleading for him to take the pandemic seriously (and literally) Trump belatedly agreed to go along with shutting down international travel from Europe and agreeing that “social distancing” and closure of much of the economy was the best way to “flatten the curve.”

He never bought any of it, though. For a president whose personal barometers are adulation and the level of the Dow Jones index, fighting an enemy who he can’t see, doesn’t understand and harms the things he values most was a bridge too far.

Despite no clinical evidence that utilizing the anti-malaria drug Chloroquine to combat COVID-19 is recommended, Trump tweeted out that it might actually work. This week in Arizona a man died, and his wife remains in critical condition because they took Trump’s medical advice. Have we heard a word of contrition or condolence from the White House? No. And we won’t.

Along with his house organs at Fox News and Medal of Freedom recipient Rush Limbaugh, the Trump message machine, once focused on downplaying the issue, then swinging to feigned concern, has pointed itself in an unholy and amoral direction: The economy must be reopened, it must be reopened now and if older Americans, those most at risk, suffer for it, so be it.

On his radio show recently, Limbaugh said that, even if COVID-19 has ten times the mortality rate of the flu, “Who cares!” Given that Limbaugh himself is battling pancreatic cancer, a deadly form of the disease, one would think he would be more worried about personal well-being, at least.

At his press conference on Sunday, Trump’s response to learning Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is in isolation was, “Gee, that’s too bad.” The callousness alone would be startling from anyone but Trump. It’s made all the more grotesque when one remembers that Ann Romney suffers from MS. Utah’s senior senator, Mike Lee, is also in self-quarantine.

During an appearance on Fox News Monday night, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that it was more important to get the economy going than protect seniors. As a grandparent himself, Patrick said, he believes it’s more important for older Americans to “take care of themselves” and protect the economy.

It’s never been a secret that Donald Trump and his newly constituted GOP hold those who disagree with them in low regard. For his entire career, Trump has been a bareknuckle brawler and serial liar. As president, when faced with the greatest crisis in generations, it took him a while, but he’s finally come up with a solution. The price? American lives.

Reed Galen

Reed Galen is an independent political strategist and advisor to The Lincoln Project. He lives in Park City. You can follow him on Twitter @reedgalen.