George W. Bush was rightly ridiculed for his “doin’ a heckuva job, Brownie” comment following FEMA’s failed response to Hurricane Katrina. So what should be the consequences for Trump’s “…thank you for the amazing job you’re doing…We’ve set every record you can set” statements about delivering medical equipment to New York? Or his “The federal government has done something that nobody has done anything like this other than perhaps wartime” comment. Or his, “My administration has done a job on really working across government and with the private sector, and it’s been incredible” claim?
One might rightfully give the administration praise if any of it were true.
But, instead of delivering the personal protection equipment that medical personnel need for dealing with COVID-19 patients, the administration has left them in danger. Some nurses have likened their efforts to help patients as “a suicide mission.”
So, what has gone wrong with the administration’s response to the pandemic? The short answer is almost everything.
First, over many years, much of the manufacturing of N-95 masks, shields and gowns has been shipped overseas, primarily to China. So, when the outbreak began in Hubei province, China understandably used most of its production. In fact, the Trump administration sent 18 tons of masks and other equipment to China from our nation’s emergency stockpile. This further reduced the emergency medical stockpile that was already diminished following the Swine Flu epidemic. Though the Obama administration had requested funds to rebuild the stockpile, the Tea Party dominated Congress withheld funding as a way of limiting the debt ceiling.
To make matters even worse, from the time he took office, Trump and his administration had recommended large cuts to the National Institutes of Health and to the Centers for Disease Control. And, when John Bolton became the White House Chief of Staff, he recommended that the National Security Council’s pandemic response team be cut and folded into another agency. That left the team leaderless and gutted.
As the outbreak continued in China, Trump denied that the virus posed a threat by publicly calling it a Democratic hoax.
By the time the first case showed up in Washington state, the US was facing a perfect storm. Trump continued to call it a Democratic hoax and refused requests for help by Washington Governor Inslee, calling him “very unpleasant” and “a snake.” For six critical weeks, Trump continued to dismiss the threat, saying “it’s all under control.” He even claimed that it would disappear as the weather warmed.
As a result of the administration’s delay in recognizing a national emergency, the virus had spread and we were woefully short of supplies. Worse yet, the administration claimed, and continues to claim, that the task of dealing with the crisis is up to the individual states. In fact, Trump’s son-in-law and advisor claims that the national emergency stockpile is “ours.” Ours? Who is he referring to? Does he believe that it is the sole property of the Trump administration and its supporters?
The administration’s recent actions and statements indicate that might be exactly the thinking.
To explain, consider the administration’s process for distributing masks and other personal protection equipment: FEMA purchases masks from manufacturers in China and elsewhere. Those masks are sent to private distributors. The distributors then offer them for sale on the open market to the highest bidder. That bidder may be one of the 50 states, a foreign nation or a private entity. In some cases, the bidder is FEMA, itself. That’s right, FEMA sometimes repurchases the masks at a higher cost than what they originally paid the manufacturers! Why? So Trump can reward loyal red state governors, some of whom have made no attempt to mitigate the pandemic, by giving them priority over blue states.
You read that right. Trump is facing re-election soon, so he is politicizing life and death!
I’m not exaggerating.