Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Trump's Mishandling of the Coronavirus is a lot like his Climate Strategy

U.S. President Donald Trump did not cause the Coronavirus just like he did not invent hate or the climate crisis, but he does have an extraordinary aptitude for making bad situations worse. More than 1000 Americans are known to have the virus but that number is likely far higher as tests are in short supply. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) only slightly more than 8,000 Coronavirus tests have been administered in the U.S. to date. The WHO offered the administration a test a month ago but Trump refused it. This has led many people to conclude that this administration may be trying to minimize the number of tests available to keep the numbers artificially low.


The liar-and-chief


Trump lies about everything and examples of his Coronavirus deceptions are no exception. Trump said we have enough tests, his vice president Mike Pence says we do not. "They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful. Anybody that needs a test gets a test...and the tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect, right? This was not as perfect as that, but pretty good." This is not true, tests are not available and nor was the letter that got him impeached.

Trump said that the situation is "getting much better in Italy" just as new cases and deaths spiked in the country.  The administration also commented on the number of cases, saying that "within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done." "We’re going very substantially down, not up," Trump added. 

Trump's propensity for mendacity mean in moments of crises, he has no credibility. Even if he does manage to tell the truth, people have every reason to disbelieve him.

Anti-science


Trump has repeatedly expressed disdain for science, and yet at moments like this, political leaders desperately need science-based information to inform their decisions. However, as is typical of this president, when his failings are exposed he doubles down.

This is an administration that is at war with science.  As the U.S. is feeling the effects of a growing pandemic the E.P.A. has hatched a plan to limit the consideration of scientific studies used in making environmental rules. This would allow the administration to ignore research that shows the link between pollution and health.

Trump is using his climate denial strategy to make light of the Coronavirus. He disagrees with the science and dismisses media who report the facts as "fake news". Trump also derides those who refer to science, as illustrated by his recent reference to Washington Governor Jay Inslee as a "snake".

Initial response


Just as he did with climate change, Trump dismissed early warnings about the Coronavirus calling it "a hoax". He then shared his "hunch" about the Coronavirus saying he does not believe experts like the director general of the WHO who reported a 3.4 percent fatality rate. Trump said, "I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number". 

Trump failed to heed early warning and he opted not to begin preparations last year. On February 25th health officials at the CDC said Coronavirus is "likely" to continue to spread throughout the United States and the American public should "prepare for the expectation that this is going to be bad". His efforts to deny the reality of the pandemic continued in the face of spikes in new cases and more deaths in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Dismantling of infrastructure


Just as his dismantling of environmental protections make Americans unsafe, he got rid of federal government infrastructure designed to manage pandemics. In 2018 Trump ordered the shutdown of the White House National Security Council's entire global health security unit. Disolving the NSC's pandemic response team, like the 96 ways he has weakened environmental protections, endangers the health of Americans.

So while he did not invent the Coronavirus, he is responsible for failing to address the crisis. In a bumbling series of missteps Trump has actively diminished the country's ability to manage this outbreak.

When he was asked why he disbanded his global health team two weeks ago he said "we don't need them", more recently he changed that to "you can never really think is going to happen," (scientists have been saying for years that it is not if but when the next pandemic will strike). Here is the rest of Trump's bumbling response:

"You know, who -- I've heard all about, 'This could be...' -- you know, 'This could be a big deal,' from before it happened. You know, this -- something like this could happen.... Who would have thought? Look, how long ago is it? Six, seven, eight weeks ago -- who would have thought we would even be having the subject? ... You never really know when something like this is going to strike and what it's going to be."

Economic messaging


Even as he launched a response plan he spent more time talking up the economy than he did addressing the health concerns of Americans. He continued to play down the threat while scientists flatly refuted his revisionist narrative.

He tries to rally the stock market in free fall instead of focusing his energies on restricting the spread of the virus.   Trump's messaging is focused on propping up a faltering economy which was expected to see only 1.25 percent growth in the first half of 2020 even before the virus hit.  As the number of those afflicted increases and the death toll doubles Trump urged people  "to feel comfortable" and "have a good time".

This president may not care about the health of Americans but he does appear to be looking into offering assistance to the dirty energy industry. Rather than being a national leader at a time of crisis, Trump's fossil fuel powered presidency is doubling down on efforts to provide federal assistance for oil and gas producers as they struggle with plummeting oil prices. 

Callous insensitivity and self-interest


Trump does not appear to have much empathy for average Americans, nor does he seem to care about those who have died, or will die from this pandemic. This is far from the first time he has shown callous disregard in the face of Americans suffering from hardships. Trump's handling of Hurricane Maria comes to mind. He will always be remembered for handing out paper towels as people were dying in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

His handling of the Coronavirus is a reflection of his narcissistic personality. Like almost everything that he does, he puts his self-interest ahead of the national interest. On the way to Mar-a-Lago, Trump visited the CDC in Atlanta where he touted his performance and his intelligence. When asked about the dangers of community spread at his rallies he replied by saying "I haven't had any problems filling them."  He then bragged about his TV ratings from his town hall interview on Fox News. "I heard it broke all ratings records."

Self-described expert


Trump is infamous for saying he knows more than the generals. He has tried to infer that he is also an expert on Coronavirus.  When reporters asked about his administration lack of preparedness, he referenced his uncle at MIT as though having an uncle who is a scientist somehow equips him to understand the issue.

"You know, my uncle was a great person. He was at MIT. He taught at MIT for, I think, like a record number of years. He was a great super genius. Dr. John Trump."

He also said, "I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, 'How do you know so much about this?' Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for President."

The response from the White House at the end of February has proven to be patently false. Top White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said the U.S. economy is "holding up nicely" and that the coronavirus in this country is "pretty close to air-tight’ containment."

Fox and other Trump mouthpieces are somehow trying to blame "the left" and "the media" but this is just another installment of their endless spin. They say that reporting on Trump's handling of the Coronavirus is like the Mueller probe or his impeachment as though these were baseless allegations. It is not merely that Trump lacks moral character, or even his rampant corruption, what troubles many
Americans is his flagrant incompetence. Some people will not consider the facts, but thinking people know that Trump has no one to blame but himself.

Trump's failure to respond to the Coronavirus is akin to his failure to act on the climate crisis. His presidency is a threat to the health and well-being of Americans. 

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