The United States is approaching a staggering 200,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic over the past six months, with no end in sight. That’s comparable to 67, 9/11-sized tragedies.

How did America get to this point?

I had the privilege of working to elect George W. Bush in 2000. At the time, I was a recent college grad, who believed that being a Republican meant making the “American Dream” the envy of the world. To lay the groundwork for the American people to achieve their potential and expand the reach of opportunity.

Twenty years later, the Republican Party is unrecognizable. It can no longer claim executive proficiency or any moral high-ground. Rather, what used to be a culture that placed a premium on excellence has been replaced with a reverence of instinct and an amateurish disregard of experts under Donald Trump’s stewardship.

When the planes struck the twin towers in New York City, and it became evident America was under attack, our country immediately took action. Following long-developed national security protocols, airspace was summarily closed and coordinated emergency crews rushed to help the victims. Fighter jets were dispatched and ordinary citizens took down a hijacked plane.

In contrast, what did Donald Trump do in the early days of the pandemic?

He wasted critical time denying its seriousness, blaming others, dismissing it as a hoax, and ignoring the literal manual that was handed to his administration when they took office: “Playbook for Early Response to High Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents.”

These are not the actions of a leader whose top priority is to protect and defend his country. These are also not the actions of a leader who comprehends that until the pandemic is under control our economy, jobs, and way of life will languish.

Over eight months into this crisis Trump has still not provided an effective national strategy to stymie the spread of COVID-19 to keep Americans and the economy safe. Because of Trump’s ineptitude, the virus has ravaged our country resulting in one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world.

Prior to Trump’s administration, the United States had the most respected public health agency in the world, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When other nations faced communicable disease challenges, like SARS and Ebola, they consistently turned to the CDC for credible guidance. However, when faced with our own emergency, its advice was dismissed and then politicized by the president.

Dr. Peter Hotez, an internationally recognized virus and vaccine expert, has persistently implored the federal government to implement a comprehensive, systematic plan, stating,

In late July, Dr. Hotez even provided his own “October Plan” so that, if immediately executed, by October schools and businesses across the country could safely reopen. We could enjoy football season and we’d have a firm handle on tracking and mitigating each and every new coronavirus case.

Trump’s fecklessness is the reason the United States has experienced 22 percent of COVID-19’s worldwide deaths, while only comprising 4.25 percent of the world’s population. This level of death is the equivalent of our country experiencing 9/11 every four days since January 1st of this year. It didn’t have to be this way, and it doesn’t have to continue this way.

Trump has consistently refused to acknowledge and acquiesce to data and scientific guidance, instead behaving as if his repeated proclamations that the virus will simply vanish, or that the number of Covid-19 deaths has been overestimated, will magically make these things true.

This poppycock has made us the laughing stock of the world (when people aren’t crying out of pity for us) and continues to yield disastrous consequences.

As a result, our economy has not had a chance to recover in any meaningful way. The July unemployment rate in the US is over 10 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while both Germany’s and South Korea’s are roughly 4 percent.

According to McKinsey & Company, ”There was no federal directive or visible champion for implementing a national strategy. In its place, our federal government ceded control to the states…The result was predictable: A fragmented, arbitrary, and broken COVID19 response. The consequence: The US is the epicenter of the global COVID19 pandemic, and we will maintain this status in the future.”

Trump has completely missed the basic point: the virus is the economy. Just as we did on September 11, 2001, our country is in urgent need of competent, steadfast leadership. It needs a president who won’t deliberately mislead the American people about the severity of the threat.

It needs someone who will redirect our country in the right direction, clearly, that direction is away from Donald Trump.