President Trump has gone from claiming that 15 coronavirus cases would be going away to announcing on Tuesday that this pandemic will kill between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans. I believe he came up with this staggering death toll because he believes that the final number will be significantly lower than this range. He will then brag about the great job he did managing the crisis. Of course, we all hope the U.S. experiences far fewer deaths than this estimate. But those who will deserve the credit for saving American lives are several of the nation’s governors – Democratic and Republican alike – along with the heroic workers in health care facilities.
The federal government is grossly failing in its response to this crisis and there’s a good reason why. Over the past three plus years, Trump has fired or otherwise replaced most of the officials who were in a position to influence his erratic performance, particularly former Chief of Staff John Kelly, former Chief Economic Advisor Gary Cohn and former National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, to name a few. All were replaced by “yes” men, more or less, who rarely if ever challenge the president’s flawed reasoning and decisions.
By demanding total loyalty and savaging those who say things or make decisions that he doesn’t like, Trump has stymied independent thinking and actions by officials all across the executive branch of government. Knowledgeable, skill bureaucrats have been replaced by Trump “loyalists” – turnover in his administration has been head spinning – and many agencies have been left with weak and inexperienced “acting” heads. The bottom line – Trump’s administration wasn’t prepared for ANY national crisis, let alone a pandemic.
Now, while governors seek solutions, the president looks for someone to blame for his mistakes. Without evidence he questioned the requests for masks at medical facilities: “Are they going out the back door?” And alleged that, “We have that happening in numerous places.” This spurious accusation by Trump is simply disgusting.
The president has even refused to take charge of the production and distribution of medical supplies, leaving states to bid against each other and even the federal government. This lack of coordination by the Trump administration drives up prices and leaves some U.S. hospital systems with severe shortages. And there is good evidence that Florida – a state which is critical to Trump’s reelection – is receiving the medical supplies its officials requested from the federal storehouse while other states, both Republican and Democratic, are receiving only a fraction of their needs.
Most U.S. presidents would have been coordinating a response to this pandemic with U.S. allies but it’s always “America First” with Trump. Consequently, China has been taking the lead in helping Italy and other nations fight the coronavirus. Asia’s richest man, Jack Ma, co-founder of China-based Alibaba, used his charitable foundation and the Alibaba Foundation, to ship testing kits and masks to the United States and other countries. And Russian President Vladimir Putin scored a huge propaganda coup by sending an enormous transport plane full of medical supplies to the U.S.
Coronavirus cases reached one million on Thursday, having doubled in a week. The speed with which this disease has spread in a little over three months highlights Trump’s gross negligence in downplaying the threat for eight weeks. And after finally admitting it was a problem, he has failed to bring the full power of the federal government to bear on protecting the American public.
A Boston Globe editorial on Monday went so far as to state that the president has “blood on his hands”. The same accusation could be leveled against many conservative media personalities who minimized the coronavirus threat, including talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and numerous other Fox News commentators. Fox’s Tucker Carlson was one of the few to sound an alarm.
No thinking person with knowledge of how the coronavirus spread in China and the drastic measures required to quell it would minimize the threat from this disease. Anyone not living in a cave for the past thirty years had to be aware that millions of Chinese are constantly visiting the U.S. Yet, Hannity and some other conservative commentators chose to ignore the facts and the obvious logical conclusions. Their unbounded zeal to protect Trump and denigrate Democrats caused them to frame the news about the coronavirus as an attack on the president and downplay its veracity. It seems they were blinded by their far-right ideology.
Trump has frequently benefitted from the fast-moving news cycle to avoid scandals that would have destroyed most politicians. Shortly after the nation was shocked by hearing Trump brag about grabbing women by the crotch on an Access Hollywood video, this sensational story was quickly overshadowed when Wikileaks released a tranche of emails that Russians had stolen from Democrats. Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels, his positive comments about the Charlottesville white supremacists and his obstruction of justice as detailed in the Mueller report, all faded from public attention relatively quickly.
Well, neither Russian hackers nor exculpatory legal opinions from Attorney General Bill Barr will shield Trump from blame this time. The coronavirus pandemic will dominate the news for months and Trump’s indefensible two-month hiatus in responding to it will come under intense scrutiny as the number of deaths rises, the economy falters and this disaster escalates.
MAGA is becoming a cruel joke – and Trump is the punchline.