Former GOP strategist Steve Schmidt blasted President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday.
Schmidt made the remarks while appearing on the latest edition of Deadline: White House on MSNBC, telling host Nicolle Wallace that Trump’s negative character traits had been “magnified” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[Trump] is someone who is clearly interested in himself, in his re-election,” said Schmidt. “The lack of discipline, the lack of focus, [its] just extraordinary to see the American president attacking political foes, to attacking the senior Democrat in the House, to attacking governors who are on the line in the states. It’s a ship of fools being run from that White House in a deadly moment.”
Schmidt rejected the notion that politics could be put on hold during the crisis, saying that Trump’s “incompetent” handling of the virus had led to thousands of American deaths. Critics have accused Trump of causing damage by repeatedly minimizing the danger posed by the virus before the U.S. outbreak began to rapidly multiply in March.
“It’s certainly a moment for politics because we understand the deadly consequences of having people that are incompetent, that are ignorant, that are completely unprepared for decision making,” Schmidt said. “We see the deadly missteps accumulating now for a month, month and a half and the consequence will be a lot more dead Americans than there otherwise would be.”
He went on to compare the U.S. COVID-19 death toll to major disasters and wars from history, noting that domestic deaths from the virus were about to eclipse the almost 3,000 who died on 9/11. By the end of Monday night, the total did reach that milestone, with the virus causing more than 3,100 U.S. deaths out of over 164,000 cases.
“Very quickly we’ll see all of the totals that exceed the total casualties for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 20 years,” he said. “The scale of the tragedy that we’re in the front edge of is really hard to overstate. This is a historic moment. This is the biggest moment that’s occurred in this generation. And the government has shown itself completely outmatched by this crisis.”
Schmidt was a key figure in Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential run and worked on the 2004 re-election campaign for former President George W. Bush. Wallace also worked on the McCain campaign and served as White House communications director during the Bush administration.
Although he had been a lifelong Republican, Schmidt renounced the party in 2018 after complaining that it had been taken over by Trump.
“29 years and nine months ago I registered to vote and became a member of The Republican Party which was founded in 1854 to oppose slavery and stand for the dignity of human life,” Schmidt tweeted on June 20, 2018. “Today I renounce my membership in the Republican Party. It is fully the party of Trump.”
Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.