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The public, the personal and the utter hypocrisy of the GOP

By Robert B. Reich, Tribune Content Agency on

Donald Trump and many Republicans insist that the decisions whether to wear a mask, go to a bar or gym, or work or attend school during a pandemic should be personal. Government should play no role.

Yet they also believe that what a woman does with her own body, or whether same-sex couples can marry, should be decided by government.

It’s a tortured, topsy-turvy view of what’s public and what’s private. Yet it’s remarkably prevalent as the pandemic resurges and as the Senate considers Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court.

By contrast, Joe Biden has wisely declared that he would do “whatever it takes” to stop the pandemic, including mandating masks and locking down the entire economy if scientists recommend it. “I would shut it down; I would listen to the scientists,” he said.

And Biden wants to protect both abortion and same-sex marriage from government intrusion. In 2012, he memorably declared his support of the latter before even Barack Obama did so.

Trump’s opposite approaches — discouraging masks and other COVID-19 restrictions while seeking government intrusion into the most intimate decisions anyone makes — have become the de facto centerpieces of his campaign.

 

At his “town hall” last week, Trump falsely claimed that most people who wear masks contract the virus. He also criticized governors for ordering lockdowns, adding that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer “wants to be a dictator.” (He was speaking just one week after state and federal authorities announced they had thwarted an alleged plot to kidnap and possibly kill Whitmer.)

Attorney General William Barr, contesting Trump for the most wacky analogy, has called state lockdown orders the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history” since slavery.

Yet at the same time that Trump and his fellow travelers defend people’s freedom to infect others or become infected with COVID-19, they’re inviting government to intrude into the most intimate aspects of personal life.

Trump has promised that the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established a federal right to abortion, will be reversed “because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.”

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