My local hospital, one of the largest healthcare institutions in the Washington, DC metropolitan area (400 beds), told me on March 11 that they do not have any Coronavirus test kits despite desperate pleas for them to the U.S. government. Nearby Johns Hopkins Medical Center, one of the world’s premier hospitals, also could not get any test kits, so it went ahead and developed its own alternative kits.
This Federal ineptitude is unacceptable. Especially because, had the Trump administration had its act together months ago when it was apparent a pandemic might be looming, we would be in a much better position now to manage this scourge. Led by Donald Trump, it was asleep at the switch. His gutting of the offices put in place by his predecessors for precisely this purpose—to protect us from pandemics—along with his delusional denial that there was even a problem—“We only have 15 cases and soon we will have zero”—make this debacle worse than the Hurricane Katrina response times a factor of ten.
Had the government operated competently like it did when SARS, MERS, H1N1 and Ebola threatened and been prepared to test widely before the horse left the barn, we would have been able to identify and isolate individuals who tested positive for Coronavirus, thus offering a high degree of protection to everyone else. That’s what Americans have a right to expect. And what presidents have a Constitutional duty to provide.
Instead, our President visited the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) and likened his “perfect” response to his “perfect” phone call where he shook down the President of Ukraine in an attempt to dig up dirt on a political opponent. Moreover, he passed himself off as a medical expert (sure!) and he came to CDC crudely sporting one of his campaign hats (probably not a Hatch Act violation, but appalling just the same).
He wastes his time finger-pointing at Democrats, China, Europe and anyone not named Donald Trump instead of manning up and accepting blame for his monumental screw-ups. And the capstone? His March 11 Oval Office speech replete with his customary lies, exaggerations and shocking omissions that also tanked the stock market and made Americans nervous:
- He blamed the crisis on a “foreign virus.” Who knew viruses had a nationality?
- He announced a Europe travel ban that might have been effective two months ago, but no longer. The virus is here and skyrocketing. Interestingly, Great Britain and Ireland, home of Trump’s golf courses, are exempt from the ban. Hmm.
- He said no trade or cargo would be allowed in from Europe for 30 days, a stunning bit of misinformation walked back by the Tweeter-in-Chief himself minutes after the speech.
- He said insurance companies agreed to no co-pays for Coronavirus treatments—also walked back by the White House.
- He claimed that testing was widely available, a blatant lie he continues to spout. He doesn’t want testing because it will drive the infection numbers way up and his poll numbers way down.
This was bar none the worst Oval Office speech to the nation in our history. That’s what we can expect from the worst president who has no idea what to do.
Trump’s lies and pie-in-the-sky flim-flammery will do nothing to (1) slow down the spread of the virus, (2) keep victims alive, (3) put a viable vaccine in place quickly, or (4) turn around an economy in free-fall. This is intolerable.
While governors and mayors are stepping into the Trump void and doing what they can in their jurisdictions to compensate for his abject failure and inability to respond rationally to this crisis, their powers are limited. Kudos to Governors Jay Inslee of Washington State, Andrew Cuomo of New York and Andy Beshear of Kentucky for stepping up to the plate and taking intelligent, aggressive action while Trump golfs and tweets out Nero-fiddling memes (thus unwittingly but accurately depicting his callousness). The governors show the importance of having adults in the room.
To paraphrase Samuel F.B. Morse’s first-ever telegraph communication: ”What hath God [and the Trump base] wrought?”
There is something we can do other than wait more than ten months to put someone in office who knows how to manage and lead. That’s much too long a time to have to put up with someone whose every utterance and act puts us more in harm’s way.
The Constitution mandates an election every four years. But the timing of the election is a matter of statute law. Congress posited a November election because it allowed time to get through the harvest. That is no longer an issue. I urge Congress to move up the election so that we can get this fiasco behind us before the Trump Apocalypse does even more damage.
If and when Trump’s base finally realizes how badly he is hurting them, even congressional Republicans might abandon him and finally act in the national interest.
March 13, 2020