Have any President’s decisions and actions led to more American civilian deaths than Trump’s?

June 26, 2020 by Joshua
in Leadership

From the CDC, so far:

United States before Covid-19

With institutions like the CDC, Harvard, and Mayo, the United States had the world’s most knowledgeable medical researchers.

With institutions like our hospitals, National Guard, and military, the United States had the most ability to respond to health crises.

Our entrepreneurs and business people can produce goods and services as effectively as any in the world, arguably the best.

The American people want to live as long and healthily as anyone.

The world has known how to respond to pandemics.

Am I missing something about the people and institutions the US had as team members to face a pandemic? Did the US not have the best potential to handle a pandemic? President Trump’s quotes below imply we did.

If not, how can we see a team responding poorly except as a leadership issue? If a leadership issue, a natural question seems:

Has any President’s—or any person’s—decisions or actions led to more American civilians dying than President Trump’s?

I pose this question openly. I don’t know the answer. People I ask tend to mention Lincoln, FDR, or Johnson going to war, but their decisions mostly led to military deaths. Even counting men drafted, Johnson’s numbers were smaller.

One could argue that the virus’s existence meant it would infect a certain fraction of humans, the only question being how fast, though a vaccine or treatment could change that result. But that reasoning doesn’t explain the rate of increase of cases America has relative to other nations. It doesn’t explain President Trump’s statements, actions, and inactions and their results.

I can’t think of any President or person who contributed to more American civilian deaths than President Trump. Am I ignorant? Can someone suggest someone who led to more? Or how President Trump lacked resources or influence to respond as other authorities did?

Sample statements by President Trump


  • January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” Taken from a Trump interview with CNBC.
  • February 2: “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.” Taken from an interview with Fox News.
  • February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA … Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” Taken from Trump’s Twitter.
  • February 25: “CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus.” Taken from Trump’s Twitter.
  • February 25: “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away.” Taken from a press conference Trump delivered in India.
  • February 26: “The 15 [US COVID-19 cases] within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero”; “We’re going very substantially down, not up.” Taken from a press conference led by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
  • February 27: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” Taken from remarks Trump gave during an event commemorating Black History Month.
  • February 28: “We’re ordering a lot of supplies. We’re ordering a lot of — a lot of elements that, frankly, we wouldn’t be ordering unless it was something like this. But we’re ordering a lot of different elements of medical.” Taken from remarks Trump made to reporters.
  • March 2: “You take a solid flu vaccine, you don’t think that could have an impact, or much of an impact, on corona?”; “And we’re going to be very successful. A lot of things are happening. A lot of very exciting things are happening, and they’re happening very rapidly.” Trump made these remarks during a public meeting with leaders from pharmaceutical companies.
  • March 4: “If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better.” Taken from another Trump interview with Fox News.
  • March 5: “I never said people that are feeling sick should go to work.” Taken from Trump’s Twitter.
  • March 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country at keeping it down … a tremendous job at keeping it down”; “Anybody right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there”; “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it”; I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.” Taken from a press conference Trump gave at the Centers for Disease Control. 
  • March 8: “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus.” Taken from Trump’s Twitter.
  • March 9: “This blindsided the world.” Taken from Trump’s remarks at a press conference.
  • March 9: 959 confirmed cases in US: “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!” the president tweeted.
  • March 10: 1,300 confirmed cases in US: “Well, this was unexpected. This was something that came out of China, and it hit us and many other countries. You look at the numbers; I see the numbers with just by watching you folks. I see it — it’s over 100 different countries. And it hit the world. And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away,” the president said on Capitol Hill after meeting with Republican senators
  • March 11: 1,700 confirmed cases in US: “To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.” — Televised Oval Office address to the nation
  • March 12: 2,200 confirmed cases in US: “I mean, think of it: The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point. Other countries that are smaller countries have many, many deaths. Thirty-two is a lot. Thirty-two is too many. But when you look at the kind of numbers that you’re seeing coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it. So, that’s it.” — Trump meeting with Irish prime minister at White House.
  • March 13: 2,700 confirmed cases in US: “We have 40 people right now. Forty. Compare that with other countries that have many, many times that amount. And one of the reasons we have 40 and others have — and, again, that number is going up, just so you understand. And a number of cases, which are very small, relatively speaking — it’s going up. But we’ve done a great job because we acted quickly. We acted early. And there’s nothing we could have done that was better than closing our borders to highly infected areas.”  — Rose Garden press conference.
  • March 16: 6,400 confirmed cases in US: “I’ve spoken actually with my son. He says, ‘How bad is this?’ It’s bad. It’s bad. But we’re going to — we’re going to be, hopefully, a best case, not a worst case. And that’s what we’re working for.”
  • “They think August, it could be July,” he said at a press briefing Monday, referring to members of the White House task force. “Could be longer than that.”— White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing
  • March 24: 65,800 confirmed cases in US: “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” the president said of easing social distancing guidelines in parts of the country.” 
  • “I think Easter Sunday — you’ll have packed churches all over our country.” — Fox News town hall.
  • March 29: 161,800 confirmed cases in US: “The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end. Therefore, we will be extending our guidelines to April 30th to slow the spread. … We can expect that, by June 1st, we will be well on our way to recovery. We think, by June 1st, a lot of great things will be happening.” — White House Rose Garden press conference.
  • March 31: 213,400 confirmed cases in US: “This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is gonna be a very bad two — or maybe even three — weeks,” the president said. “This is going to be three weeks like we haven’t seen before.” — White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing.
  • March 31: 213,400 confirmed cases in US: “But it’s not the flu. It’s vicious. When you send a friend to the hospital and you call up to find out, how is he doing, it happened to me. Where he goes to the hospital, he says goodbye, sort of a tough guy, little older, little heavier than he’d like to be, frankly. And you call up the next day, ‘how’s he doing?’ And he’s in a coma? This is not the flu. — White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing.
  • April 3: 273,880 confirmed cases in US: “I said it was going away – and it is going away.” — White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing.

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2 responses on “Have any President’s decisions and actions led to more American civilian deaths than Trump’s?

  1. This is an excellent record for history!

  2. Not sure how the president contributed to the deaths. A more appropriate question is how many people have survived this pandemic put on us thanks to China. It’s easy to blame the president as oppose to really looking into the question asked.

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