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The U.S. has the worst trajectory for the corona virus in the entire world. This represents a catastrophic failure of national leadership. The warnings were all there. There’s no excuse.

Trump: Incompetence You Can Count On

As I’ve discussed in a previous post on March 20, it was the incompetence of the Trump Administration that has made everything worse in connection with the corona virus pandemic. Even though Trump didn’t cause the current crisis, his shambolic response has made it much worse. It didn’t have to be this bad. Just look at South Korea for a comparison.

Just to recap the highlights from that post:

  • Trump shut down the White House’s pandemic response unit bequeathed to him by President Obama.
  • Trump resisted efforts to expand and expedite testing.
  • Trump ignored specific warnings about the dangers of the virus.
  • Trump’s failed for weeks to order FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other government agencies to build up health-care and other necessary infrastructure.
  • Trump delayed invoking the Defense Production Act to marshal U.S. industries to ramp up production of ventilators, personal protective equipment, and other necessary items that are in dangerous short supply.
  • Trump cut CDC funding.
  • Trump waited for months to declare a national emergency and wasted critical time unleashing the federal government’s resources.
  • Trump ignored warnings from the Obama Administration during the transition in January 2017 about a possible international pandemic.

Since I wrote that post, even more evidence of the Trump Administration’s inept response has come to light.

The NY Times reported over the last weekend that delays in testing cost the U.S. approximately one month in responding to the pandemic and allowed it to spread undetected for several weeks. Dr. Anthony Fauci recently informed some members of Congress that this unnecessary delay in testing was “a failing” of Trump’s response to the outbreak of the corona virus.

Another early failure by the Administration was when it authorized the shipment of more than 2 million respirator masks, 11,000 protective suits and 280,000 pairs of rubber gloves to Communist China on February 2. Two days later, Secretary of State Pompeo praised the non-profit groups that donated the valuable PPE to China.

On February 5, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) attended what turned out be a fateful meeting at the White House with several senators who informed Administration officials that local governments weren’t ready to deal with the gathering storm. Nevertheless, Trump foolishly rejected a supplemental emergency appropriation for supplies, training and more staff. According to Murphy: HHS Secretary Alex Azar said they “didn’t need emergency funding, that they would be able to handle it within existing appropriations.”

Shortly after this crucial meeting, Murphy posted the following on his (informative) Twitter account: “Just left the Administration briefing on corona virus. Bottom line: they aren’t taking this seriously enough. Notably, no request for ANY emergency funding, which is a big mistake. Local health systems need supplies, training, screening staff etc. And they need it now.”

Senator Murphy unloaded on the Trump Administration in a recent interview with the Washington Post: “That briefing was chilling to me. It was crystal clear that the Administration was not taking this seriously. Administration officials just didn’t think that it was ultimately the federal government’s responsibility to solve the problem. What an awful, horrible catastrophic mistake that was.”

The current failure by the Trump Administration is a failure of conservative ideology. Movement conservatives simply don’t believe that disaster relief is a responsibility of the federal government — they believe it should be left up to state and local governments. However, that academic, ivory tower theory doesn’t work in the real world. National problems require national solutions.

We have tried this conservative approach before in the U.S. — with disastrous results. Hoover didn’t create the Great Depression but his belief that only big business and that state and local governments should end the economic crisis made it much worse and much longer. Similarly, the Bush Administration was of the belief that it was largely up to state and local governments to solve the massive problems created by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

American history indicates that a key feature of conservatism is how almost all of its bedrock policies melt under the light of personal experience. It’s interesting to note how rarely strict conservative principles survive direct personal experience with a social problem. The problem for the GOP is that many conservative ideas are unpopular once they aren’t entirely abstract.

Former George W. Bush speech writer David Frum said it best: “This crisis is not of Trump’s making. What he is responsible for is his failure to respond promptly, and then his perverse and counterproductive choice of how to respond when action could be avoided no longer…More people will get sick because of his presidency than if somebody else were in charge. More people will suffer the financial hardship of sickness because of his presidency than if somebody else were in charge. The medical crisis will arrive faster and last longer than if somebody else were in charge. So, too, the economic crisis. More people will lose their jobs than if somebody else were in charge. More businesses will be pushed into bankruptcy than if somebody else were in charge. More savers will lose more savings than if somebody else were in charge. The damage to America’s global leadership will be greater than if somebody else were in charge.”

It is time for all Democrats to pledge to vote blue no matter who this November. The Democratic Party is the only check and balance on a radicalized GOP and an out of control president. If Trump is re-elected (God forbid), thousands of Americans will die. The stakes are that high! United we are strong! United we will win!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.

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