Trump, not coronavirus, is our worst enemy
Hit & Run
I had another column entirely in mind when I sat down to write this week.
But our country’s pathetic, disorganized and deadly reaction to the ongoing global pandemic changed my mind, and here’s why.
This horrible lack of adequate response was predictable and, in fact, inevitable, mostly because President Donald Trump has done everything he could to destroy our government in general and our pandemic-response capabilities specifically.
As of Monday morning, according to various sources, the number of confirmed infection cases in the U.S. was in the mid-30,000s, and the number of deaths in this country from the virus was heading toward 500. And we still are horrendously short in coronavirus testing compared with other countries around the world, so we really have no idea how many people have been exposed.
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A few weeks ago, our president was telling us that the novel coronavirus was “not a big deal” and falling back on his longtime position that everything is the media’s fault, and that the media was overemphasizing the pandemic.
Now, he’s claiming he’s a “wartime president” and that “no president has ever done better” in helping the nation make it through the coming weeks or months of a virtual lockdown of people, businesses and governmental agencies.
At the same time, state governors have concluded that, with Trump in charge, our federal government is all but useless in actually dealing with the pandemic, at least for now, and have taken over the helm of the virus-response effort.
Of course, anyone who had been paying attention to Trump’s dismantling of huge parts of the federal government in his three-and-a-half years in office was well aware that the country was disastrously unprepared to deal with any kind of global health crisis.
This preparedness deficit exists partly because Trump has massively defunded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and has completely wiped out the federal pandemic response team that had been carefully put together by the administration of President Barack Obama — an action Trump took primarily because, well, because Obama did it, and he can’t stand to have anything going on that can be attributed to Obama, regardless of how shortsighted or idiotic that attitude might be.
Which made it even more ludicrous for him to declare, at a recent news briefing on all the “wonderful” and “beautiful” things his administration has done to safeguard the U.S. population, that “no one had any idea this would happen.”
In fact, although it got scant mention in the news stories about last week’s press briefing, the Obama administration specifically arranged, while Trump was still president-elect and had not taken office, to provide Trump with a briefing about the need for a standing pandemic response team.
The briefing, according to several reports, included specific cautionary discussions about a viral pandemic that eerily presaged exactly what the world is going through right now.
The worst part of this tale, unfortunately, is the reaction by the Trumpsters. According to the news stories, when Obama staffers went in to clear up the clutter after the briefing, they found the material they had prepared for the Trump transition team, neatly gathered in binder folders, dumped into trash cans around the room.
As pointed out in an article on the Vox news site, our nation’s response to pandemic outbreaks had been handled pretty well in the past (pre-Trump), most recently with H1N1 and Zika, leading to a high level of surprise and disgust among experts watching the Trump administration completely fumble the U.S. response to the coronavirus.
But under Trump and his one-time national security adviser, John Bolton, in 2018, the administration began firing key leaders of Obama’s National Security Council’s Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, set up by Obama following the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak. The directorate, itself, was dismantled and never replaced.
And the likelihood of global pandemics undermining the nation’s and the world’s economy was known, and publicized, long before that. The Atlantic online magazine (theatlantic.com) reminded us last week that in 2012, the Rand Corporation surveyed the array of international threats that could affect the U.S., and concluded that pandemics were the chief danger “capable of destroying America’s way of life.”
In 2018, the 100th anniversary of the flu pandemic of 1918 that killed more than 50 million worldwide, we were warned again when health experts here and abroad served notice that we should expect pandemics to increase in severity and frequency in the coming years.
So for Trump to say no one knew this was coming is a complete lie, a fabrication intended to salve his insecurities and blind the public to the fact that his incompetence, and that of those around him, are directly resulting in the deaths of U.S. citizens.
Some might say I’m unfairly badgering our president, who is just trying to do the best he can in a difficult world.
But I say that incompetence, in the form of presidential misconduct and mismanagement, is something that matter deeply to all of us.
And as much as Trump, his supporters, his administration and his “base” would like us to forget his duplicity and lies, well, that is just the point.
We must not forget. We must remember and we must vote him out of office in November, if only to get this country back on its feet and moving toward recovery from what I am now calling “the novel Trumpism virus.”
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