The real, not-fake news remains our bottom line reality. It can’t be spun away by those who would rather deceive us than lead us.

Reality: The Mass Killer is still on the loose in America, terrorizing our cities, suburbs and rural communities. The Killer’s identity and M.O. have long been made public in APBs from the CDC, FDA and HHS. The Mass Killer is COVID-19. Its Method of Operation is clear: COVID-19 menaces most when its intended victims are massed, unmasked and defenseless in a confined space.

Reality: This pandemic Mass Killer has been aided all year by a prominent Enabler who has continued to operate in plain sight and gotten away with it. How? Because his closest allies lacked the patriotism and courage to speak out. They cowered in silent fear of losing their cushy political jobs. The Mass Killer’s de facto Enabler has been America’s 45th president, Donald Trump.

Ever since COVID-19 spread from China to the world as 2020 began, Trump has been determined to reopen America’s economy at all costs. He repeatedly pushed his followers to gather in the close unmasked venues where COVID-19 spreads fastest, moves that risked infection among his own followers. He doesn’t wish them harm. But he’s convinced America’s strong economy is his surefire ticket to re-election. That fueled every move in which he ended up enabling the spread of the deadly virus.

As Trump’s reelection prospects plummeted in the polls, his panic grew and he doubled down: (1) He pushed a fake reality that the virus would soon vanish; and (2) He kept creating new crises to divert us from focusing on America’s COVID-19 reality.

After Oregon’s formerly fine city of Portland coped poorly with protests of police brutality, Team Trump created one of the most frighteningly dictatorial scenes ever witnessed in the World’s Greatest Democracy. Trump sent troops in unmarked military camouflage uniforms to break up the protests violently. They arrived in black SUVs, jumped out and began clubbing, shooting with pellet guns and tear-gassing protesters. They grabbed a number of the demonstrators and shoved them inside the SUVs and drove off.

Later we were told those Stormtrooper-like operations were done under the auspices of Trump’s Department of Homeland Security, and approved by Attorney General William Barr. They reminded me of scenes I saw in Leonid Brezhnev’s Soviet Union, and viewed in videos from numerous dictatorships. But never in my own country. We don’t title our leaders Comandante-in-Chief Trump or Attorney Generalissimo Barr.

Then we saw a number of the former Republican officeholders we have long admired speak out to strongly condemn those actions — and the fact that those troops were costumed to impersonate some sort of U.S. military forces. Those Republican patriots included first Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and second Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

This week, Trump played his political card. He began speaking on TV about how he was going to protect our cities and suburbs. He was trying to win back the wavering support of those swing-vote suburban women voters who were for him in 2016 but weren’t now, according to the polls.

His TV appearances this week were billed as reports from his COVID-19 Task Force. But he wouldn’t let Dr. Anthony Fauci, the task force’s famous teller of tough truths, or the more cautious, less truth-telling Dr. Deborah Birx, brief America from his White House.

Then, on Thursday, Trump made two more TV appearances. First, under increasing pressure from his own Republican elders and Jacksonville, Florida, officials — as the pandemic raged in the Sunshine State, Trump yielded to the inevitable and canceled August’s scheduled Republican National Convention events there. Then, at his COVID-19 press briefing, Trump separately still insisted children everywhere should be going back to schools in September. Why? After insisting things were improving in America, Trump said added that COVID-19 doesn’t affect children nearly as much as it affects adults and especially seniors. So few kids die from COVID-19, he said.

Trump was not asked — and did not volunteer — to give you his specific number of how many children being infected by COVID-19 he thinks is an acceptable cost for achieving his political goal. Or how many children being killed by COVID-19 is an acceptable cost for that move toward reopening America’s economy.

Just minutes before he spoke to you — in words you were definitely not supposed to know about — Dr. Birx told a task force briefing for officials some far-from reassuring news. And her words were recorded and obtained by the outstanding journalists at the Center for Public Integrity:

“There are cities that are lagging behind and we have new increases (of COVID-19 cases) in Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Jose, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Baltimore. So we’re tracking this very closely.”

Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive.

Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive.

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