We are witness to a miserable failure of executive leadership. The Chief Executive of our federal government is responsible for an organization that should provide him (or her) with the best and broadest curated assessment of what is happening in the world and what it means. Instead, our Chief Executive, deeply suspicious of the motives of anyone with whom he disagrees, has presided over an executive branch he disdains, governing with a series of “acting” administrators he fires as soon as they utter a peep of dissent. He listens more to the guidance of the unqualified and unvetted talking heads of Fox News (the “everybody says” of many of his statements) than he listens to the qualified voices of the demeaned bureaucracy he is supposed to oversee. In contrast, as the videos referenced below vividly show, the correlation between Trump and his favorite news source, Fox News, is so close it is hard to tell who leads whom.
Remember when Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers lauded Trump as her “positive disruptor.?” How has our Trump’s penchant for disdain and disruption played out in the ramp up of the Covid-19 pandemic?
The magnitude of pandemic threat was laid out in detail in a now viral video (23 million views) in a TED talk given by Bill Gates in 2015 in the wake of the Ebola epidemic. The Trump administration’s effort to prepare a response for future outbreaks of pandemic disease was non-existent. In May of 2018 the administration jettisoned the top White House official in charge of pandemic response and disbanded the global health security team he oversaw, presumably part of the overriding Republican/Libertarian credo to “shrink” government.
Trump’s budgets consistently threatened to cut funding for our Centers for Disease Control. Congress balked at the shrinkage, but the intention to cut and Trump’s disdain for the organization and the scientists it employs was clear.
Trump and his ragtag, shrunken, and partially blinded administration missed the early warning. The threat was already clear in early January: Read the story of Li Wenliang, the Chinese ophthalmologist in Wuhan, China, who warned his colleagues using WeChat on December 31, 2019, of a SARS-like virus cluster. His warning, intended for a limited medical audience, instead went viral on electronic media (where the U.S. should have seen it and paid attention). Li Wenliang was promptly questioned and reprimanded by the local police of the Wuhan Public Security Bureau for “making false comments on the Internet.” Tragically, Li Wenliang died of Covid-19 on February 7 at age 33 despite modern and heroic attempts to save him. His illness and death were prominent news in China. The Chinese government launched an investigation into the reprimand.
Alarm bells were clanging loudly in China even before the China CDC Weekly (the Chinese also have a CDC) published Vital Surveillances: The Epidemiological Characteristics of an Outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Diseases (COVID-19) — China, 2020 on February 21, 2020. Click and read. It’s sobering in its clarity. Rapid person-to-person spread of Covid-19 was abundantly clear. The implications for the world should have been obvious to any functional, world-wide information gathering apparatus. Instead, on February 27th, Trump (in a White House briefing) offered ignorant reassurance, “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” A full month later, on March 24, at a Fox News virtual town hall, Trump likened the expected impact of Covid-19 to that of the flu or automobile accidents.
Our leader failed. He failed to nurture the information gathering culture a President needs. He failed to listen to medical opinion. He failed to understand the threat. He failed to prepare the country from what many knew was coming. He took refuge in denial of reality. He offered platitudes, not preparation.
Worse, sensing electoral danger, he and his propaganda wing, Fox News, now want to re-write history. On March 17 Trump abruptly contradicted himself, bizarrely asserting, “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic…. I’ve always viewed it as very serious.”
He and Fox cannot be allowed to re-write the history of their denial. Not everyone will take the time to assemble a mental timeline of the failure of the Trump/Fox News leadership. Fortunately, a video is worth thousands of words. I recommend: “Saluting the Heroes of the Coronavirus Pandumbic, The Daily Show” on Youtube or Twitter. It would be funny–if we weren’t suffering the deadly consequences of the ignorance and denial these people display.
For a shorter (ad length) chronicle of Trump’s words watch on Twitter; https://twitter.com/prioritiesUSA/status/1242193904553865216?s=20
or Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hl6T2XxNtM0
For a written version: https://www.factcheck.org/2020/04/trump-pence-and-reassessing-coronavirus/
The most detailed account I have read comes from the April 4th Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2020/04/04/coronavirus-government-dysfunction/?arc404=true
No president with this absymal failure of executive and leadership deserves either trust or re-election.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. On the subject of Trump as a leader of our response to the pandemic, I encourage you to click and read Frank Bruni’s devastating opinion piece in the April 6, New York Times: Has Anyone Found Trump’s Soul? Anyone?
P.P.S. What else is happening while all our bandwidth is taken up with Covid-19? Click and read Noah Bookbinder’s piece, also in in the April 6 New York Times or Heather Cox Richardson’s assessment of the same events, click here.