Don't Worry, I've Got It All Under Control
As if we weren't already questioning our President and his administration, Donald Trump is now faced with his first national health crisis, the coronavirus. And, true to form, his response inspires and calms the fears of no one. In 2018, the President fired the government's pandemic team of experts. And when Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), declared the coronavirus a global public health emergency on January 30, 2020, the federal government had no one in place to respond to the emergency.
By contrast, during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, President Obama recognized the impact this might have on our country and abroad. He appointed Ronald Klain, a former Vice Presidential staffer, to organize the efforts of the many departments and agencies of the government. His job was to coordinate the roles and budgets of various agencies. There was no concerted effort by the Trump Administration to do something similar. Rather than appoint a person with experience in health-threat triage, he selected Vice President Pence to oversee planning, a man who, as Governor of Indiana, prolonged an HIV outbreak by refusing to institute a needle exchange program.
In the spring of 2018, the White House pushed Congress to cut funding for Obama-era disease security programs, proposing to eliminate $252 million in previously committed resources for rebuilding health systems in Ebola-ravaged Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Under fire from both sides of the aisle, President Donald Trump dropped the proposal to eliminate Ebola funds a month later. But other White House efforts included reducing $15 billion in national health spending and cutting the global disease-fighting operational budgets of the CDC, NSC, DHS, and HHS. And the government’s $30 million Complex Crises Fund was eliminated.
— Laurie Garrett, Foreign Policy
One of the Trump Administration's first acknowledgements of the virus was anything but calming. Instead of addressing the health threat, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appeared on Fox Business to suggest the outbreak in China might improve the United State's job prospects. While at the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos the third week of January, Trump suggested Americans had nothing to worry about, since the outbreak was half-a-world away. By February, a number of cases had been reported in this country and they continue to rise. But, as late as February 26, the President was taking credit for making some "very good early decisions" he felt had kept the virus at bay. And, on March 4, in a meeting with airline executives, he appeared to turn aside criticism of his chaotic and slow approach by blaming the Obama Administration for rules that limited states' abilities to conduct coronavirus screenings, rules, he said he had just changed.
Meanwhile, the stock markets suffered their biggest loses since the 2008 bank crisis on pandemic fears, including the largest drop of the DOW in one day on February 27, 2020: 1191 points. Trump, who has touted his economic policies, feared this drop would negatively affect his chances for re-election. And, the next day, his son, Donald Trump, Jr., accused the Democrats of hoping the pandemic "kills millions of people so that they could end Donald Trump's streak of winning...." (Pence defended Jr.'s statement). CNN's Chris Cillizza responded by saying, "What Trump Jr. is doing here then is using rhetorical hyperbole for the political benefit of his father."
Rush Limbaugh, who Trump recently awarded the Medal of Freedom, called the pandemic a "deep state plot" to bring down the President and Trump agreed. On his radio show, Limbaugh said, "It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump... I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus. Yeah, I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks." Donald tweeted, the media is "doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible." He referred to criticism his administration was not prepared nor doing enough to contain the virus as a Democrat "hoax."
Once again, Donald Trump feels he is a shining example of a capable leader. People are sick and dying and his sycophants continue to enable him. He has done everything to downplay the severity of this crisis, while at the same time, looking like he's got this completely under control.
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