Trump’s Fatal Failure?
Where Stoppeth the Buck? || Instead of Dealing With It . . . || Timeline of the Coronavirus Pandemic
|| Response & Previous Knowledge || Last Words: Covid and Vietnam
While Coronavirus bodies are piling up, what has been the continued response from the top, and what could have been?
Where Stoppeth the Buck ?
During the Truman administration, a small wooden sign was placed on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office reading “The Buck Stops Here”.1 What does that mean? The Wikipedia page has a precise sentence for it: “The phrase refers to the notion that the President has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions.”2
One determination of fitness for any high office is his/her duty, actions and reactions in a time of crisis.
For Truman in the closing year of WWII, the Pacific theater continued taking American lives even 3 months after Germany’s surrender. Although history may have judged him harshly for doing so, with Truman’s authorization, on August 6 & 9 of 1945, we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, taking up to an estimated 229,000 Japanese lives. Less than 3 weeks later, Japan surrendered, ending the war. The balance can be seen as having taken more lives than would have been lost in continuing the war and invading Japan, yet the American death toll in the planned invasion could been in the tens of thousands. One truly cannot know which would have been worst as far as a body count is concerned, yet certainly the decision saved American lives.
And doing this is the ultimate duty of the Commander in Chief.
Instead of Dealing With It . . .
So what is President* Trump doing during this desperate time?
What promises have been made, which opportunities have been seized or missed? Certainly during what is so far (arguably) the largest global crisis of the 21st Century, we need a singular vision, strong and enduring leadership, swift action which saves lives and sets examples.
— Threatening to sue tv networks running an ad showing the public his lack of early action on Covid-19. Early action which could have saved lives. The brilliant ad runs a statistical line of proven infections in the U.S. with his concurrent statements on the tragedy, outlining his lack of early response3.
In fairness, I have included the video below.
— He has more concerns about his ratings than the health of the public. On Sunday, March 29, Trump, calculated to have been reacting to a New York Times article (which he also stated “[he] never reads”4), showed his shallow concern about his ratings.
On that day he Tweeted
are just 2 of several Tweets on that day alone about himself and his ratings5 instead of maybe giving advice to help save American lives, communicating the efforts to get PPE to the citizenry or healthcare workers in desperate need, utilizing the national stockpile of respirators to areas short of this critical supply …. I could go on, yet instead of turning this into an Encyclopaedia Britannica Macropaedia article, I’ll let this illustrate the point.
—During his now near-daily Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefings, thanking OAN and Faux News for their questions and lambasting similar questions from CNN, calling their questions “nasty”. Here’s a perfect example: On March 30, 2020, in an outdoor briefing, came the following exchange (bold on things which should be concerning) ;
Reporter: “What do you say to Americans who are upset with you, the way you downplayed …”
Trump: [[shaking head obviously annoyed]]
Reporter: [continuing] “… this crisis we’ve had over the past couple of months, uh, [quoting Trump] “We have it very much under control in this country”, “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” “It’s going to disappear”, “It’s like a miracle, it will disappear”. March 4th …”
Trump: [[once again shaking head]]
Reporter: [continuing] “… uh, “We have a very small number of people in this country infected”. March 10th, “We’re prepared, we’re doing a great job with it, it will go away, just stay calm, it will go away.” What do you say to Americans …”
Trump: [interrupting] “It will go away, and I want …”
Reporter: [continuing] “… who say you got this wrong?”
Trump: [continuing] “… them to stay calm, but if you look at those individual statements, they’re all true. Stay calm. It will go away, y’know, y’know it is going away, and it will go away and we’ll have a great victory. And it’s people like you and CNN that say things like that, that, uh, it’s why people just don’t wanna listen to CN anymore, you could ask a normal question. The statements I made are I wanna keep the country calm, I don’t want panic in the country. I could cause panic much better than even you, I could do much, uh, it would make you look like a minor league player, but you know what I don’t want to do that, I want to have our country be calm, and strong, and fight, and win, and it will go away, and it is incredible, the job that all of these people are doing, putting ’em all together, the job that they’re doing. I am very proud of the job they’re doing, that Mike Pence is doing, that the Task Force has done, that Honeywell and Proctor & Gamble and Mike and all of these people have done, I’m very proud. It’s almost a miracle, and it is, the way they’ve all come together, and instead of asking a nasty, snarky question like that, you should ask a real question and other than that …” [[points to another reporter]] “… I’m gonna go to somebody else, please, go ahead please.”6
A question like what? The words he stated which the reporter was doing due diligence on? It is the duty of legitimate media to pose questions to people in power, especially in response to statements they make which turn out to be untrue or open to interpretation. Instead of generalizing, the reporter did the best thing he could, utilize quotes from the President* himself to make his point and get Mr Big Brain to respond.
Just yesterday he once again made a plutocratic, antidemocratic response to one of the main components of the job he ran for and got. His loathing of all but the most adoring news media outfits (OAN, Newsmax and similar) clearly shows his disdain for the Fourth Estate, something I described in another post. In a briefing on Apr. 6, “was asked repeatedly during Monday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing about a new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) inspector general report detailing the federal government’s failure to provide hospitals with the testing and equipment resources they need. His contemptuous responses spoke volumes about his disdain for oversight, as well as for any reporter who has the gall to ask him questions he doesn’t like.”7
With Faux News — usually not the subject of his disdain — reporter Kristin Fisher, Trump once again berated a female reporter (this time, at least, not a black woman) on camera. She had the gall to ask (again, my transcription, with bold on things which should be concerning):
Fisher: “I know you don’t want to talk about the Inspector General’s report, but testing is still a big issue in this country, [so] when can hospitals expect …”
Trump: [interrupting] “[unintelligable] again please.”
Fisher: “… [continuing] when can hospitals expect to receive a quick turnaround …”
Trump: [interrupting, again] “Are you ready?”
Fisher: “… of …”
Trump: [speaking over reporter] “Are you ready?”
Fisher: [continuing] “… the test results?”
Trump: “Hospitals can do their own test results also. States can do their own testing. States are supposed to be doing testing, hospitals are supposed to be doing testing, do you understand that? We’re …”
Fisher: [attempting to clarify] “Why …”
Trump: [continuing] “… the federal government, listen, we’re not supposed to be standing on street corners doing testing. They go to doctors, they go to hospitals, they go to the state, [in a condescending tone] the state is a more localized government, you have 50 of them, and they can go 50 … within you, you also have territories as you know, and they do the testing and if you look at the chart, if you take a look [looking to his left]… did they put it up? Yeah. Just take a look, and these are testing and the results are now coming in very quickly. Initially speaking, the tests were old, obsolete and not really prepared we have a brand new testing system that we developed very quickly and that’s your result. And you should say ‘Congratulations, great job’ instead of being so horrid in the way you ask a question.”
The question she was asking was in reference to Trump’s statement “Anybody who wants a test can get a test.”8 It seems like an important follow up. Apparently, the person who made that statement didn’t think so.
Recently, the [female] Inspector General issued a report which did not support the statements coming from the Trump soundstage. So of course when ABC’s Jon Karl tried to ask about the report, Trump rudely interrupted him and implied that because she was given the position during the previous administration her results were unreliable (hint, they aren’t). Mr Thin-Skin’s retarded retort ended with an insult: “You’re a third-rate reporter. What you just said is a disgrace,” and closed his anti-Obama ramble with “You will never make it.”7, yet in journalism, working for ABC is “making it”.
“Donald Trump rose to power with the determined assistance of a movement that denies science, bashes government and prioritized loyalty over professional expertise. In the current crisis, we are all reaping what that movement has sown.”
— Fired or allowed the firing of a Navy Captain who had been asking for help to save the lives of his crew and was ignored. Capt. Brett E. Crozier was responsible for the roughly 5,680 crew members of his enormous floating city, the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Worried about the growing number of cases among his crew, one of his warnings/communiques leaked out, and subsequently, he was relieved of his command. After being relieved of his command, as he was leaving the flight deck, the remaining crew gathered his applaud his efforts at saving their lives.
It was a send-off for the ages, with hundreds of sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt cheering Capt. Brett E. Crozier, the commander who sacrificed his naval career by writing a letter to his superiors demanding more help as the novel coronavirus spread through the ship.10
President* tRump, of course — as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces — refused to step in, allowing an honorable Captain be discharged from his duty (although he is retaining rank) for doing his honorable best to save the lives of his noble crew.
— Continues to deny history and foresight. Despite repeated warnings of a likely upcoming scenario of epidemics spreading death and destruction across the planet and our immensely wealthy country, DJ Trump repeatedly lies and discounts the plethora of top scientists and influential thinkers have warned us openly and often of exactly this scenario.
Although Trump is an avid viewer of Faux News, and they have been steadily reporting on the virus’ spread in China and other countries, the most powerful and resourceful and connected person on the planet did nothing to guard Americans against the coming pandemic, and soon America was number 1 in something; though it was not something to be proud of.
Timeline of the Coronavirus Pandemic
It would be excusable to skip to the next section. This section is a timeline of the worldwide spread of the pandemic. Click to open.
A common defense of the bungling of our country’s top-down response to this disaster through lack of official foresight and preparedness can be summed up by the President’s* own words: “Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion.”16.
I call bullshit on a galactic scale.
Many public health experts, and even Bill Gates, have been warning for decades of such an upcoming epidemic. Gates17 himself for nearly a decade, and gave what should have been an influential and alarming TED talk. There, he warned “There’s no need to panic … but we need to get going.”18
The first thing to consider is President* tRump’s predecessor, and what President Barack Obama did in response to the possibility for an upcoming pandemic on a national level (since Trump sure loves blaming the previous administration for his administration’s follies), and what opportunities and warnings the current administration had in preparation for this; and what was done by it in response.
Major Warning # 1; 2012: The non-profit Rand Corporation, funded by the U.S. government, private corporations, non-profits and public interest NPOs, is a think-tank that, according to its Website, does “research and analysis [to] address issues that impact people around the world including security, health, education, sustainability, growth, and development. Much of this research is carried out on behalf of public and private grantors and clients.”19 In a 2012 survey of threats to American interests, they publicly warned that a viral pandemic, if not responded to in an expeditious manner, could change the American way of life20.
Major Warning # 2; Dec. 2, 2014: On December 2, 2014, a prescient and intelligent member of government said:
“There may — and likely will — come a time in which we have an airborne disease that is deadly. And in order for us to deal with that effectively, we have to put in place an infrastructure, not just here at home but globally, that allows us to see it quickly, isolate it quickly, respond to it quickly. … So that if and when a new strain of flu like the Spanish flu crops up, 5 years from now or a decade from now, we’ve made the investment, and we’re further along to catch it. … I cannot think of a better example of an area where we should all agree than passing this emergency funding to fight Ebola and to set up some of the public health infrastructure that we need to deal with potential outbreaks in the future. How do you argue with that? That is not a partisan issue. There’s a basic common sense issue that all Americans can agree on. … For the most part people have recognized that’s not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, it’s about the safety and security of the American people.”21
During the previous administration, a bureau was added to the National Security Council — the Global Health Security and Biodefense section — under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), led by Jeremy Konyndyk, currently the Senior Policy Fellow for the Center for Global Development.
Konyndyk’s words are very illustrative, and it is worth 6:35 minutes to see his interview in full by clicking the video to the left. Or read the un-toggled complete transcript below. He describes the proactive and forward-looking nature of the administration, and the challenges of saving lives during an upcoming pandemic. Part of the complexity is due to “… all those parts, it’s Homeland Security, for the immigration and border stuff, it’s the FAA for the airlines, and the air travel, it’s of course, the CDC and Health and Human Services, it’s USAID for the overseas part. You know, it’s a very complex operation, and you need that core of expertise at the White House that know where those capabilities sit, and the government knows how to make them work together.” Or at least it used to.
“Then that new team at the White House pulled together what we called ‘the playbook’. That was a document that laid out the different stages of readiness that the federal government would need to go through …” in response to a pandemic. The office stressed the need for testing, PPE, supply coordination, and “It was very explicit in the document that that sort of scenario needed to trigger great concern and a lot of active preparation.” The full transcript of the above video is below, and it is full of interesting information which was given to the incoming administration. See Major Warning # 5.
Major Warning # 3; 2015: Bill Gates, who had been making the case for many years that such a pandemic would be extremely disruptive to American economic interests and create piles of bodies buried surreptitiously if we didn’t respond right, became one of the leading advocates for a forward thinking pandemic response. Ezra Klein’s efforts at getting this information to the public did a commendable job of warning those who would listed and learn.
In Vox, Klein wrote about Gates’:
… algorithmic model for how a new strain of flu could spread rapidly in today’s globalized world, wrote that “a pandemic disease is the most predictable catastrophe in the history of the human race, if only because it has happened to the human race so many, many times before.” If there was anything humanity could be certain that it needed to prepare for to prevent the deaths of a lot of people in little time, it was this.22
Major Warning # 4; March, 2015: Bill Gates gives his TED Talk on the upcoming pandemic and what we, as a (supposedly) civilized society needs to do to prepare and prevent major catastrophic consequences.
Thus, the next.
Major Warning # 5; Jan. 13, 2017: Officials of the incoming administration held, with top officials of the Obama administration — including Lisa Monaco, the Homeland Security Adviser — a meeting regarding a rapidly spreading virus. Raging hard in London and Seoul, countries were restricting travel. Trump’s aides were informed cases had come to California and Texas, and that this could rival the 1918-20 flu epidemic which took the lives of 50 million people.
The briefing was intended to hammer home a new, terrifying reality facing the Trump administration, and the incoming president’s responsibility to protect Americans amid a crisis. But unlike the coronavirus pandemic currently ravaging the globe, this 2017 crisis didn’t really happen — it was among a handful of scenarios presented to Trump’s top aides as part of a legally required transition exercise with members of the outgoing administration …23
The Obama and Bush II admins had dealt with similar except somewhat smaller pandemics, from swine flu and Zika to Ebola. The hypothetical situation covered disruptions to travel, the stock market, global supply chains and limitations in the health care situation which could all occur without a strong response.
Major Warning # 6; 2018: With the 100th anniversary of the Spanish Flu pandemic — one of history’s worst24 — many scientists and researchers warned the public, industry and governments about the deadly toll which could be exacted on an unprepared population from certain respiratory viruses.
Major Warning # 7; Jan. 18, 2020: Alex Azar, the Health and Human Services Secretary, briefs Trump on the upcoming threat of the virus during a phone conversation25. Four days later, Trump makes his first public remarks about the virus. On Jan. 22, saying he states he is not concerned about the pandemic and that “we have it totally under control.”
Major Warning # 8; Jan. 27, 2020: During his sliver of time as the acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney discusses with WH aides an effort to get senior officials to consider the looming and expanding threat more seriously. The head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Joe Grogan, “… warned it could cost Trump his re-election”26. The idea that this avoidable pandemic wiping out tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans unnecessarily is what it takes to avoid a 2nd term of the Orange Menace is just befuddling.
Major Warning # 9; Jan. 29, 2020: Peter Navarro, Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, warned the National Security Council, a bureau within the White House, that Covid-19 could take more than 500,000 lives and cost $6 trillion in economic harm to the American economy. In a memo which was a request for supplemental appropriation, he discusses the “increasing probability of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic”27.
Major Warning # 10; Jan. 30, 2020: Once again, Alex Azar warns Trump during another phone call that the virus could become a pandemic. Trump dismisses him as an alarmist.
Major Warning # 11; also on Jan. 30: The WHO declares a Global Health Emergency, its highest alert level.
Major Warning # 12; Feb. 5: “Once again, Alex Azar warns Trump during another phone call that the virus could become a pandemic. Trump dismisses him as an alarmist”28.
Major Warning # 13; Feb. 14: Health officials working with members of the administration’s National Security Council draft a memo recommending the targeted use of “quarantine and isolation measures”. With the plan to present the memo and discuss the looming numbers upon Trump’s return from India, the meeting was canceled.
Major Warning # 14; Feb. 21: Officials in the administration conduct a mock exercise of the pandemic. Using statistics and computer modeling, they conclude aggressive social distancing, despite economic consequences, were needed.
Major Warning # 15; Feb. 23: Peter Navarro — again, the Trump-appointed Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy — once again tried to make the President aware, “doubling down on his warnings” with another memo (pic below) that 2 million Americans could die of the burgeoning crisis29.
Major Warning # 16; Feb. 25: The Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Nancy Messionnier, M.D., publishes with the CDC a warning that the Covid-19 crisis could be a great threat and “we need to be preparing for significant disruption in our lives.” Reportedly, Trump called Alex Azar complaining that Messonnier had scared people unnecessarily in public interviews with media, whic caused the stock market to plunge over the next few days30.
Does anyone else here think Trump cares more about the stock market than human lives?
Last Words: Covid and Vietnam
As of April 18, 2020, Americans have been dying for 1 month and 20 days of Covid-19. Despite Trump’s promise on March 6 that “Anybody that wants a test can get a test”, still, less than 1% of the country’s population has been tested.
As of this day, also, this contagion has claimed 37,938 American lives31. During America’s entire 14 year involvement in the Vietnam War, we lost 58,220 lives32. Yet one fact should terrify you: By the end of this month, the Covid dead in 2 months will exceed the KIA number from 48 months in Vietnam.
America has a greater percentage of its population — based on wealth — dying of Covid-19 than any other country. In the richest and most powerful country in the history of our planet, that is ridiculously inexcusable.
If you were to tell me that Trump’s administration has done a good job in implementing the policies, testing and production needed to prevent the catastrophe this has been, I will come knocking at your door: no matter what I have, you are credulous enough to buy it.
There has been a growing call to investigate the early missed opportunities to greatly reduce the death toll with early action. Several other countries have done so, with President* Trump recently complimenting S. Korea on their response. So what should happen to Trump at the very moment he steps out of office? The image below should tell you what I think, and I’m not alone.
And an argument can be made that it shouldn’t have to wait that long.
Agree? Disagree? Have a different perspective? Leave a comment below.
header image c. 2020 https://media.newyorker.com/photos/5f1091ef3075b61a6e553443/master/pass/Gessen-Goya.jpg
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- https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/education/trivia/buck-stops-here-sign ↵
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buck_passing#%22The_buck_stops_here%22 ↵
- https://www.theroot.com/trump-hates-this-ad-so-much-his-campaign-has-asked-net-1842510698; https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-camp-threatens-local-tv-stations-over-democratic-ad/2020/03/26/22706ed8-6f84-11ea-a156-0048b62cdb51_story.html ↵
- https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/24/business/media/trump-subscription-new-york-times.html ↵
- https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1244309931874017280 ↵
- https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2020/03/30/trump_vs_cnns_acosta_on_coronavirus_its_people_like_you_why_people_dont_watch_cnn_anymore.html; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFWyWGpe8yc ↵
- https://www.vox.com/2020/4/6/21211345/trump-coronavirus-briefing-hhs-ig-report-jon-karl-kristin-fisher ↵
- https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/mar/11/donald-trump/donald-trumps-wrong-claim-anybody-can-get-tested-c/ ↵
- https://www.vox.com/2020/4/6/21211345/trump-coronavirus-briefing-hhs-ig-report-jon-karl-kristin-fisher ↵
- https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/03/us/politics/coronavirus-brett-crozier-theodore-roosevelt.html ↵
- https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3074991/coronavirus-chinas-first-confirmed-covid-19-case-traced-back ↵
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/03/23/coronavirus-count-confirmed-testing ↵
- https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa2001191 ↵
- https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/virus-missteps-trump-declares-i-don-t-take-responsibility-all-n1160236, see also https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/13/trump-coronavirus-testing-128971 and https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2020/03/2020-time-capsule-3-i-dont-take-responsibility-at-all/608005/. For the video see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOcY3XlzPzs ↵
- This timeline was assembled from articles from the South China Morning Post, New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian UK, Vice News, Vox, Reuters, Forbes, Statista.com, Worldometers.com, Worldometers.info, medscape, coronavirus.jhu.edu/us-map, the CDC and various WHO and other intergovernmental agencies. ↵
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/03/19/trump-keeps-saying-nobody-could-have-foreseen-coronavirus-we-keep-finding-out-about-new-warning-signs/ ↵
- https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-bill-gates-epidemic-warning-readiness/ ↵
- https://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates_the_next_outbreak_we_re_not_ready?language=en ↵
- https://www.rand.org/about.html ↵
- https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/occasional_papers/2012/RAND_OP360.pdf ↵
- That was, of course President Barack Obama. See https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2020/04/10/barack-obama-2014-pandemic-comments-sot-ctn-vpx.cnn for the video. ↵
- https://www.vox.com/2015/5/27/8660249/bill-gates-spanish-flu-pandemic ↵
- https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/16/trump-inauguration-warning-scenario-pandemic-132797 ↵
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/local/retropolis/coronavirus-deadliest-pandemics/ ↵
- https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/11/us/politics/coronavirus-trump-response.html ↵
- See https://www.axios.com/trump-coronavirus-warnings-46ea8006-2e19-4810-82c1-0f10f4f9aa97.html and https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/us-intelligence-reports-from-january-and-february-warned-about-a-likely-pandemic/2020/03/20/299d8cda-6ad5-11ea-b5f1-a5a804158597_story.html ↵
- https://www.axios.com/exclusive-navarro-deaths-coronavirus-memos-january-da3f08fb-dce1-4f69-89b5-ea048f8382a9.html and https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/us-intelligence-reports-from-january-and-february-warned-about-a-likely-pandemic/2020/03/20/299d8cda-6ad5-11ea-b5f1-a5a804158597_story.html ↵
- https://twitter.com/chrismurphyct/status/1225073987639705600?lang=en; quote is from https://www.axios.com/trump-coronavirus-warnings-46ea8006-2e19-4810-82c1-0f10f4f9aa97.html ↵
- https://www.axios.com/exclusive-navarro-deaths-coronavirus-memos-january-da3f08fb-dce1-4f69-89b5-ea048f8382a9.html ↵
- https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/27/opinion/coronavirus-tech-facebook.html; see also a medical news Website https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/09/coronavirus-spread-could-last-into-next-year-but-impact-could-be-blunted-cdc-official-says/; and https://www.npr.org/2020/03/05/812645018/cdc-vaccine-expert-on-coronavirus-outbreak-in-the-u-s ↵
- See the running statistics at systems.jhu.edu ↵
- https://www.archives.gov/research/military/vietnam-war/casualty-statistics#category ↵