Trump’s supporters claim that he did everything he could to fight COVID, but can only name two things: a travel ban from China, and Operation Warp Speed.
The problem is that any competent president should have done a hundred things right. Instead, Trump only did two things partially right (the travel ban was full of holes, and Warp Speed was an obvious move that Trump waited too long to institute), he failed to do the other 98 things at all, and he did another 50 things horribly wrong.
Here is a look at just the first few months of the pandemic and how miserably Trump failed, repeatedly and inexcusably, to respond correctly to the pandemic. It is estimated that as many as 400,000 Americans died needlessly because of Trump’s utter failure.
From before the virus was first noticed, Trump dismantled much of our ability to detect and study such viruses as part of his blind hostility to anything Obama did (Obama beefed up our pandemic prevention measures after the Ebola outbreak). Trump slashed CDC staff in China by 2/3rds and shuttered an international program to detect emerging pandemics just months before COVID was recognized.
When initial indicators of the Ebola outbreak started reaching Obama, he acted well before the WHO moved on the outbreak. In contrast, Trump received information on COVID in mid-January, but did nothing. At this point in time, he should have mobilized teams to begin investigating the virus, and appointed staff members to begin working on contingency plans on how to stem entry of the virus into the US and how to prepare businesses for a potential crisis. Trump, instead, ignored the warnings, and repeatedly told reporters that the virus was unimportant and was “totally under control.” On Jan. 21, the virus was identified in a U.S. patient who had traveled to China. Trump should have limited travel from anyone having visited Wuhan or even anyone traveling from China. He failed to do so for ten days.
In late January, when Trump should have had an emergency response team making extensive plans for dealing with the virus (like Obama did for Ebola, or like South Korea was doing at that time), Trump failed to act. At least three times from Jan. 27-30, Trump was warned of the extreme consequences of failing to act by his own people, and Trump did nothing. The WHO declared a global emergency. Trump fails to react, instead repeatedly praising China for doing such a great job.
Trump takes his only action for months that his supporters can claim as a victory: his travel ban from China. Except it came 10 days after we knew that the infection was spreading from there, and Trump’s ban was only partial, allowing more than 40,000 travelers from China to come to the U.S. after the “ban” was instituted. In January, before the partial ban, more than 4000 travelers were allowed to enter the U.S. directly from Wuhan as Trump dawdled on his response.
February was later called “the lost month” as Trump continued to deny there was a problem and failed utterly to act.
On February 7, in a call to Bob Woodward, Trump privately reveals that he understands perfectly how deadly the virus is and how easily it is spread. At the same time, he continues to claim to the public that the virus is no danger.
While countries like South Korea mobilized their industries to produce tests and other essential supplies, Trump instead worried that he might look bad and the economy might be hurt if he paid attention to the crisis. Trump waits until the end of February—a month to a month and a half after he should have acted—for a small amount of funding from Congress to respond to the pandemic. Had he done this in late January, it could have made a huge difference; Trump failed.
Instead, as community spread of the virus was confirmed in the U.S. and the first deaths were reported, Trump lied and said there was no problem: “[W]hen you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” As the virus spreads nationwide mostly undetected because of lack of testing (in contrast, South Korea had been testing and contact tracing since mid-February, and was conducting 15,000 tests a day by the time Trump said the pandemic would end magically on its own).
At the end of February, amongst consistent denials that there was any problem, Trump called COVID the Democrats’ “new hoax.” He probably was not saying that the virus was a hoax, but that the insistence by Democratic leaders that it was a great threat was the hoax. Either way, Trump was disastrously wrong.
In March, the virus truly begins to spread, mostly because Trump has failed to do a single thing correctly in response. Even as Trump begins to take credit for the China travel “ban,” tens of thousands of people are still entering America directly from China. At the same time, although the virus has now been known to be killing people in Europe, Trump fails to react with any travel restrictions from anywhere else.
As Trump falsely claims in early March that “anybody that wants a test can get a test” (a virtual clone of Obama’s statement about keeping your doctor, which prompted months of furious outrage by republicans), he actually tried to keep Americans on a cruise ship in Japan from being released, even though they were in increasing danger from the spread of COVID on the vessel—purely because if they returned to America under quarantine, the infected among them would be counted amongst the United States’ numbers, and Trump wanted to keep those numbers down. He literally endangered and probably killed Americans purely for his own political image.
It is not until mid-March—a month and a half after the WHO announced a state of emergency—that Trump, just two days after delivering an awkward speech packed with errors and lies, finally announces a state of emergency in the United States. He announces a travel ban from most of Europe, but already the flood gates caused massive spread of the virus into places like New York.
It is far too little and far too late. People begin dying in larger and larger numbers. Trump by this time has missed many dozens of opportunities to take actions that would have stemmed the spread of the virus in the U.S., and continues to resist taking many critical actions even after calling the state of emergency.
It was at this time when Jared Kushner—totally unqualified for the job—led a “task force” to decide how to handle the virus. We later learned that his decision was to abandon any meaningful plan because the virus was mostly hitting blue states, and the Trump administration could lay blame on the governors. Essentially, Kushner decided to let the virus spread and kill hundreds of thousands of Americans because it was politically convenient to do so.
This signaled the beginning of a long-running campaign by Trump to avoid taking action, and instead claim everything was up to the states to take action, blaming them for all the failures of the Trump White House. At around the same time, Trump starts pushing hydroxychloroquine and other hack treatments, and continues to act like the virus is no big deal.
It was not until late March—long after Korea was doing massive testing—that the Trump administration received a large number of COVID tests from China… which were found to be useless. Trump starts blaming everything on the “China virus” at about this time.
Lockdowns had begun with no central coordinating leadership from Trump, but because the stock market is faltering, Trump already begins demanding that lockdowns be lifted—in APRIL 2020!
But it’s still March, and Trump is now saying that if “only” 100,000 to 200,000 people die of the virus, then he can be credited with doing a “good job.” Ironically, he is correct.
It goes on from there in very much the same way: Trump does little or nothing of substance to react, and when he does, it is far too little and far too late. Trump instead spends most of his time lying and denying, while at the same time constantly claiming that he’s done the best job possible.
Instead, by mid-Aril, Trump begins the tragically costly move of politicizing the virus. After already having called the spread a Democratic “hoax” and started blaming China for its spread, Trump now seizes on state lockdowns as oppressive tyranny by Democrats, and issues a command to his followers to “liberate” Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia from their Democratic governors (one militia takes Trump very seriously and prepares for a terror attack in which they planned to kidnap and probably execute the governor of Michigan).
Although an emergency vaccine development plan should have been started in February, Trump does not institute Operation Warp Speed until mid-May. While largely credited for making the right move, this action (a) would have been taken by any president, and (b) almost certainly would have been taken much earlier. So yes, Trump did the right thing… but once again, too little and too late.
In the meantime, Trump continued to politicize the pandemic, demanding states end their lockdowns—a political move that inspires a movement which, to this day, continues to kill countless Americans.
So many other mistakes follow—Trump refusing to use the Defense Authorization Act to its fullest extent, refusing to supply states with PPE and other vital supplies, and even infamously stealing these supplies from states who were desperately and expensively able to order precious few from overseas. When finally, with little help from “Operation Warp Speed,” vaccines are finally created, Trump fails miserably to distribute them properly, again blaming the states for everything.
Reviewing so much of what Trump failed at brings home the very real terror: as president, Trump—in a very real and literal way—killed as many as 400,000 Americans under his watch. And worse, his influence continues to create greater and greater disasters, as vaccine denial continues to rage because of Trump’s actions.
So to any Trump supporters who claim Trump did a fantastic job, all you can do is say the truth—and fully expect them to completely deny it.
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