President Trump made a quick pivot following his announcement that the White House Coronavirus Task Force would be dismantled. Just 24 hours after that statement he said the scientific work of the team would continue indefinitely.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board accurately characterized Trump’s mixed messages as a “whiplash turnaround that should worry a country looking for direction as the pandemic rolls on. Trump clearly wants to change the tone from death counts and an overwhelmed health care system to something more positive. Henceforth, the message will be about reopening the nation to business and freer activity. The task force will be redirected to work on ‘Vaccines and Therapeutics’ he said in a tweet. It’s all about spin, but in a way that underlines the White House’s confusion and shaky leadership.”
President Trump and the Protestors
The Miami Herald’s Leonard Pitts wondered about President Trump’s reaction to the gun-wielding, obscenity-shouting protestors in Michigan. The president tweeted that they were “very good people.”
Pitts asked us to imagine a “similarly armed, similarly behaved group of Muslims” descending on the Capitol. Would they “be similarly praised as ‘very good people.’ by the president?” He answered his own question: “That’s going to be a NO.”
How about black protestors? Would they, Pitts asked, “receive presidential praise? This is the same Trump who thought Colin Kaepernick was an SOB because he quietly took a knee during the national anthem in protest of police brutality, so that will be another NO.”
If You Don’t Have the Facts, Try a Conspiracy Theory
As the US death toll from COVID-19 continues to mount (approaching 80,000 as of May 9), right-wing groups allied with President Trump are escalating their attacks on the number. It is fabricated, they say, just another attempt to damage the president. Naiomi Oreskis, a scientific historian at Harvard, put this conspiracy theory into perspective.
The New York Times quoted her as saying, “It’s, ‘I don’t like what this implies; therefore, I’m going to question the model and I’m going to question the motivations of the people who do it.’” Of course, when the source is from Harvard and she is quoted in the NYT, the fringe-dwelling knuckleheads will see it as part of the conspiracy.
Arrogant, Irresponsible Stupidity
The United Nations Security Council put forth a resolution calling for the end of armed combat during the pandemic. Apple pie and motherhood? No, it was blocked by one country: the United States. Why? Because it contained a clause urging support of “specialized health agencies of the United Nations.”
Fight Against Covid-19: Many Countries are Winning, But America is Losing
Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post that “Around the world, countries are winning the battle against the coronavirus and beginning a responsible return to work, school and leisure, confident that their governments have the deadly virus in check. But the United States plays the loser. Unwilling to do the hard work needed to beat the pandemic, we are forcing people back to work without the protections people in other countries enjoy. The most powerful country in the world is failing.”
Milbank is correct. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, announced this week that her country had eradicated Covid-19. They accomplished the feat with what she described as a “Go hard, go early” strategy of severe lockdowns. The government had cooperation from the populace and across the political spectrum. They invested heavily in testing and tracing. Ardern announced this week that there were no new cases, but she also she stressed that the people should not stop adhering to lockdown rules. “Stay the course. We cannot afford to squander the good work to date when our end goal is so close and within reach.”
Germany, Australia, Greece, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan and Hong Kong are not far behind New Zealand. The United States is not close.
Trump’s response to this dangerous pandemic is to spin out endless and confused bundles of misinformation, and then blame others for his lack of early response. But, as Millbank wrote, “Trump can lie all he likes about the adequacy of testing and supplies, and blame his predecessor, his opponents and the media for his incompetence. It doesn’t matter to the virus. As we progress toward what could be the autumn of our agony, he owns all of what comes next — politically and morally.”
Josh Gohike, an editor with The San Francisco Chronicle, wrote, “The coronavirus pandemic is a horrible natural experiment in which every world leader’s competence may be gauged against the same crisis. Guess how our guy is doing. Students of the Ukraine affair, and the million-of-illegal votes hypothesis, will know what is coming next…No set of facts is so plainly damning to President Trump that it can’t be attributed to some non-existent conspiracy of foreigners.”
The Economist: “You would have to be a political nihilist to take the view that there is no relationship between this President’s (Trump’s) leadership and the death toll from COVID-19 in America.”
Politico: “International alliances have been broken down. Treaties and laws torn up. Social programs frayed. Norms erased. The Russia investigation partially rolled back. And now a once electric economy–––which bolstered Obama and gave Trump political currency––– has been short circuited and left dark.”
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.