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RICHMOND — For the president, 200,000 is six digits in a row, like 100,000 or 600,000. For hundreds of thousands of other Americans, 200,000 spells an obit that can't say the father, mother, grandparent died "surrounded by loving family."

It's six numbers that mean funerals without friends; calling hours without people; an empty chair at the table; an unused jacket on a hook, no longer needed; an ever-optimistic dog that wanders the house, looking and looking.

Perhaps, if those six digits had a $ sign in front of them, the president would perk up and pay attention. But keeping people alive is not on his agenda. Instead, he puts thousands of followers at risk by inviting them to crowd around and listen while he bombards them with stories of hoaxes and witch hunts and how abused he has been by legions of conspirators.

And they flock in, defying the advice to wear masks and avoid droplets of virus, not giving a thought to those empty chairs, those unattended graveside services. And he put all Americans at risk because he decided in February to conceal the deadly virus that attacked us.

When interviewed, some of the rally-goers say it's a matter of freedom — no one can tell them to wear a mask. Some say they are protected by their Christian faith. None seem to acknowledge that the president at these affairs is in a bubble as secure as that of an NBA basketball player. And unlike his fans, he's constantly tested to make sure the bubble hasn't burst.

As he fails to sympathize with the bereaved or rally the nation to adopt a united antivirus stance, he is busy turning heads and keeping the media occupied with distractions by the dozen, including issuing executive "orders" that are beyond his power as president.

It's a technique every parent of a 2-year-old knows — if the kid won't stop crying in the supermarket, give him/her a slice of the bread from the cart. Divert, divert, divert.

If someone wants to discuss the nation's failure to face the virus, he causes an uproar by attacking mail-in ballots, which our own Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, defended vigorously last week. And then the president mails his own to Florida.

In the meantime, in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell daily steals the power of once-prestigious senators and, in fact, has absconded with much of the president's veto power. If he disapproves of a bill submitted by the House of Representatives, McConnell doesn't put it up for a vote, so the senators have no say. It's been essentially vetoed by the senator from Kentucky.

The Republican majority in the Senate apparently has no problem letting McConnell think for them, casting his one nay on 400-plus bills that sit on his desk.

He's denying the House its place in Congress by leaving its power on his desk, thus flaunting democracy and snuffing out discussion from his cohorts and opponents. So, anyone who lives in a state with two Republican senators is virtually represented not by the people they put in office but, instead, by the voters in Kentucky.

The three branches of government can stop each other from going out-of-bounds, and you'd think senators would treasure their ability to be part of that. Instead, the majority of them have put on their blinders and covered their ears.

Come to think of it, if you were to put a $ sign on the loss of 200,000 Americans, the number would have a lot more than six digits.

Ruth Bass is an award-winning journalist. Her website is www.ruthbass.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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