These “famous last words” should be engraved on the political tombstone of Donald J. Trump:
Feb. 26: “So we’re at the low level. As they get better, we take them off the list, so that we’re going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So we’ve had very good luck.” — Trump at a White House briefing.
Feb. 26: “And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” — Trump at a press conference.
Exactly one month later, after the Trump team failed to follow NSC’s pandemic playbook which provided a step by step list of priorities, and consistently downplayed the threat from the pandemic, the U.S. Now Leads the World in Confirmed Cases of coronavirus:
Scientists warned that the United States someday would become the country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. That moment arrived on Thursday.
In the United States, at least 81,321 people are known to have been infected with the coronavirus, including more than 1,000 deaths — more cases than China, Italy or any other country has seen, according to data gathered by The New York Times.
A series of missteps and lost opportunities dogged the nation’s response.
Among them: a failure to take the pandemic seriously even as it engulfed China, a deeply flawed effort to provide broad testing for the virus that left the country blind to the extent of the crisis, and a dire shortage of masks and protective gear to protect doctors and nurses on the front lines, as well as ventilators to keep the critically ill alive.
The Axios “coronavirus dashboard” this morning shows:
U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 85,996 — Total deaths (i.e., Trump Body Count): 1,300 — Total recoveries: 753.
So much winning! Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post writes, Trump made us No. 1 — in the spread of a deadly disease:
The United States reached two grim milestones on Thursday: Fatalities from covid-19 topped 1,000, and it became the country with the most confirmed cases of coronavirus, surpassing China with more than 82,000. (Keep in mind, there is reason to doubt that China’s tally is accurate, absent a free media or independent verification from an international organization.)
We are only at the beginning of the deadly pandemic that President Trump once promised would “completely disappear.” Trump once promised that 15 initial cases would go down to zero but, of course, that was either a deliberate untruth or ignorance magnified by denial. (The apex in New York City won’t be here for about three weeks, according to the state’s governor.)
Despite at least two months warning, Trump’s disastrous missteps and willful blindness have stripped away our defenses and set us back in mitigation efforts. The New York Times recounts, “A series of missteps and lost opportunities dogged the nation’s response. Among them: a failure to take the pandemic seriously even as it engulfed China, a deeply flawed effort to provide broad testing for the virus that left the country blind to the extent of the crisis, and a dire shortage of masks and protective gear to protect doctors and nurses on the front lines, as well as ventilators to keep the critically ill alive.”
Politicians resistant to universal health-care coverage never tire of telling us that we have the world’s greatest medical system. Even in normal times, the claim is questionable; now it is absurd. “The United States, which should have been ready, was not,” the Times report noted.
Trump’s failures are personal (e.g., lying; relying on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s assurances) but also entail the failure to install competent people in key positions or to follow established protocols his predecessor provided to him. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director, Robert Redfield, bollixed testing. The administration ignored the advice of the outgoing Obama team that had gained experience with Ebola and Zika. (The Times reported, “In 2016, the Obama administration produced a comprehensive report on the lessons learned by the government from battling Ebola. In January 2017, outgoing Obama administration officials ran an extensive exercise on responding to a pandemic for incoming senior officials of the Trump administration.”)
Moreover, in an administration in which credible and competent people do not survive and only weak yes-men remain, it was impossible to get Trump’s attention when it mattered. Now defensive, he refuses to stop peddling false and dangerous information or to fully take charge of the response, shifting as much responsibility as he can onto the states.
The Post reports, “Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) clashed with President Trump during a conference call with governors on Thursday, pleading with him to take more dramatic action to secure medical supplies for his state as it suffers from the coronavirus pandemic, according to four people familiar with the call.” Trump vaguely threatens that governors need to be “nice” to him to get what they want. It seems the effort to extort a foreign country, Ukraine, to drum up a fake scandal involving his potential 2020 opponent was a warm-up for an effort to treat our country like a mob boss’s territory. Nice state you have there. Would be a shame if anything happened to it.
Trump fundamentally sees himself as president only of his supporters. However, as the pandemic spreads to Florida, Louisiana and other states he considers on “his” side, the full impact of an incompetent and uncaring president may finally hit home. The virus does not differentiate between blue and red states; the former are simply sequentially ahead of the latter.
At some point — When unemployment hits 30 percent? When deaths double and double again? — even Trump’s cultists may come to wonder how this could have happened to them. The answer is that the president they enabled was not up to the job of protecting the country against a deadly pandemic.
These Trump cultists will never learn. Their last dying breath from the coronavirus disease will be “But, but Trump said it was just a Democrat hoax!”