Did "distracted" Trump simply "miss" pandemic warnings? That's the story press is telling
The media let Trump off the hook
One month into America's pandemic and the Trump administration's staggering incompetence is coming into sharper focus, as the federal government continues to stumble along with an erratic strategy that's littered with failures, confusion, and falsehoods.
News organizations are drilling down on the colossal breakdown with in-depth investigations. They portray a president who relied on his "gut," which apparently told him to do virtually nothing to prepare for the health emergency. It has now claimed tens of thousands of American lives.
The media deep dives present White House behavior that's never before been seen in U.S. history. They depict a president constantly opting not to protect the American public as the health crisis loomed — a president who steadfastly refused to heed the advice of a wide array of senior health and national security officials, who were all ringing alarms as loudly as they could, starting back in January. Yet Trump remained unmoved, perfectly willing to allow the virus to hit this country untouched. ("When it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away," he predicted.)
"When the pandemic finally came, the team that had prepared their careers for it were working for a president unwilling and unready to act," Politico concluded. "Global health experts increasingly view the U.S. response as among the worst in the developed world."
That's borderline treasonous behavior. It's not just that Trump has refused to provide national leadership in a time of crisis. He's actively and purposefully making everything worse, starting with spending most of the winter downplaying the risks and making misleading and false proclamations. ("Anybody who wants a test will get a test.")
Yet the press prefers to suggest Trump was merely distracted, and that he was "slow" to respond, and "missed" the Covid-19 warnings — he just didn't "see" it coming. Trump "ignored" crucial warnings, the Associated Press recently concluded, noting that key aides were unable to "redirect the president's attention" to Covid-19 in January, as Trump's impeachment trial unfolded this winter.
The message from the AP seemed to be that if Trump's attention had been directed towards the looming pandemic, the government's response would have been entirely different, and far more robust. That's the comforting explanation, because it would suggest Trump is merely inept, albeit on a staggering scale. But that doesn't match reality, which is far more disturbing — Trump allowed the government to stand down for a virus invasion that has claimed the lives of more than 25,000 Americans.
Meanwhile, the New York Times provided a superb, detailed look at the Trump pandemic failures. But when it came to explaining the lack of action, the Times suggested "factionalism" and "impulsiveness" were to blame: "From the time the virus was first identified as a concern, the administration’s response was plagued by the rivalries and factionalism that routinely swirl around Mr. Trump and, along with the president’s impulsiveness, undercut decision making and policy development."
Politico explained the unprecedented failure as "Trump’s willingness to disregard evidence and stick with his gut as the coronavirus threat menaced the nation."
But again, that doesn’t come anywhere close to explaining what has transpired. Having the worst pandemic response among all developed nations doesn't just happen — it's not just because Trump relied too heavily on his instincts, or was distracted. It takes a lot of hard work to screw up that badly.
It takes a concerted effort to:
- Fail to stockpile life-saving medical equipment.
- Ignore urgent warnings from health and security officials, dismissing them as alarmist.
- Pit states against one another as they scramble for respirators.
- Spread constant misinformation about the virus.
- Rage against the media during public briefings.
- Refused to order a national lockdown.
- Make empty promises about testing.
- Delay national social distancing guidelines for a crucial month.
After a while, explaining this away as Trump being unfocused, or not having a plan, or being shortsighted just doesn't add up. The failure to protect has been so thorough and so complete, it's difficult to suggest it’s happened coincidentally.
"There is still no concerted plan for getting vital medical supplies to states, which are left to fight among themselves or seek favors from Trump," the Washington Post reports. "There is also no developed plan for what happens if cases or deaths spike as people begin to return to work, or how to respond if the coronavirus surges again in the fall, as many public health experts and administration officials fear."
We may never know why Trump essentially ordered the government to do nothing to help prepare for the pandemic. But the narrative that he was distracted doesn't do justice to the epic malpractice.
The New Yorker's Jane Mayer continues to be one of the best political journalists in America. Her recent feature on Mitch McConnell is another must-read. Yes, we know he's corrupt. Yes, we know his legacy will be the senator's complete supplication to Trump. But Meyer provides all kinds of additional, infuriating reporting and insights.
🎸 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK:
Chris Martin, "Shelter from the Storm"
Coldplay's Chris Martin was the musical guest on "Saturday Night Live's" at-home episode over the weekend. For me, he was the highlight of the show, offering up a beautifully reassuring and soulful take of Dylan's classic, "Shelter from the Storm."
Blood on the Tracks, where that song first appeared in 1975, is still my favorite Dylan album. I didn't discover it until many years after its release, but it was the first Dylan record I became completely obsessed with. To this day, the iconic effort, which was recorded in Minnesota over the span of a few days, maintains its loose, timeless quality. Of course, it also features some of Dylan's best songwriting ever, and certainly his best songwriting of the 1970s.
Suddenly I turned around and she was standing there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns
Come in, she said
I'll give ya shelter from the storm