Hopes are high that we will see a COVID-19 vaccine soon. But it will be a long time before America recovers from the Trump administration’s monumental mismanagement of the pandemic, and its efforts to evade responsibility for that mismanagement.
Those efforts included Trump’s attacks on the news media leading up to the election and his bizarre (and patently unconstitutional) insistence that there should be a law to keep the media from focusing on the COVID pandemic.
It is certainly true that stories about the pandemic have occupied significant space in the national conversation, but despite general condemnation of the administration’s lack of leadership, I’ve seen few detailed explanations of the mechanics of that mismanagement.
It can be hard to help the public understand how obscure bureaucratic decisions have undermined the national response. One of the many such moves was described by Heather Cox Richardson in one of her Letters from an American:
The administration’s changes to the reporting system for coronavirus have hampered our ability to combat it. In July, the administration shifted the way hospital data is collected, taking the project away from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and giving it to a private contractor. CDC experts no longer check and analyze the data. Information on hospitalizations is no longer publicly available, so states cannot see what is happening elsewhere. This hides the picture of what is happening nationally, making it impossible for public health officials to plan for spikes.
Multiply this sort of thing by dozens if not hundreds of difficult-to-detect decisions, and then add the utter lack of visible national leadership, the administration’s repeated assertions that a national–nay, international–pandemic was somehow a state-level problem that they couldn’t be bothered addressing, and you have…Covid, Covid, Covid, and thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Many of those deaths could have been avoided, had Trump just not turned mask-wearing into a political litmus test.
And of course, there were the dangerous quack “cures” Trump promoted. Bleach. Hydroxychloroquine.
The White House decision to set aside the mandatory safety controls put in place by the Food and Drug Administration fueled one of the most disputed initiatives in the administration’s response to the pandemic: the distribution of millions of ineffective, potentially dangerous pills from a federally controlled cache of drugs called the Strategic National Stockpile.
The House of Representatives recently issued a blistering report on the administrative failures involved, labeling them “among the worst failures of leadership in American history” and an “American fiasco.”
The report, by the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, says the administration has consistently misled the country about the severity of the pandemic and that its lack of a national plan has hampered the ability to track, test for, treat and contain the virus. Efforts to provide economic support to Americans have been stymied by a lack of safeguards and policies that favored corporations over small business owners and failed to ensure that workers kept their jobs, the report says.
“President Trump’s decision to mislead the public about the severity of the crisis, his failure to listen to scientists about how to keep Americans healthy, and his refusal to implement a coordinated national plan to stop the coronavirus have all contributed to devastating results: more than 227,000 Americans dead, more than 8.8 million Americans infected, and a dangerous virus that continues to spread out of control nine months after it reached our nation’s shores,” the report’s introduction reads.
If we have learned anything over the past four horrible years, it is that national leadership matters. Expertise matters. Experience in and understanding of the government you are elected to administer matters. And needless to say, character, honesty, mental health and intellectual capacity matter.
That said, on November 4th, we learned that to a shocking number of Americans, none of those things matter as much as their animus to minorities and their desire to “own the libs.”