Two years ago Trump disbanded the pandemic preparedness and response team on the National Security Council. At the time Jeremy Konyndyk, a health official during the Obama administration, presciently stated:
“this all adds up to a potentially really concerning rollback of progress on U.S. health security preparedness. It seems to actively unlearn the lessons we learned through very hard experience over the last 15 years. These moves make us materially less safe. It’s inexplicable.”
The nation now suffers the consequences of not heeding Mr. Konyndyk’s warning from two years ago.
Mr. Konyndyk was not the only one who saw the health risks of an anti-science President. In October 2017 I wrote an article entitled “Ebola and Donald Trump’s Attempted Murder.” The article focused on Trump’s unscientific, hysteria-inducing response to Ebola. The article discussed how in 2014 Trump advocated that an American physician and nurse (Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol), who were infected with Ebola, be barred from receiving care in United States. Had Trump the power then that he has now, doing that would have killed them. Fortunately for Brantly and Writebol, Trump had no power then, they received the life saving care in America they needed, they recovered and they infected no one. An unnecessary tragedy was prevented because we had a different President then.
At that time, almost two years ago, I wrote:
Someday there will be more people like Brantly and Writebol. It may not be Ebola, but it will be people who need a level headed President who will not succumb to decision making rooted in ignorance, irrational conspiracy theories, and prejudice. If this President acts as he has said he would, his ignorance and general looniness will kill people as surely as it would have killed Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol.
That day is upon us and, just as predicted, the President’s contempt for science is killing people — and it will kill more. As the Coronavirus exploded, Trump treated it as a “foreign virus” and therefore a foreign problem. He believed he could solve the problem in the manner he believes all foreign problems can be solved, by keeping the foreigners out. He restricted, but did not ban (as he and others in his administration have falsely claimed) travel from China.
To be sure, those restrictions likely bought the United States some precious time to prepare. We could have prepared by stocking up on testing kits, and preparing the American people with science-based Presidential candor as to the risks the nation faced. The opposite happened.
Trump rejected the diagnostic tests offered by the World Health Organization in favor of developing homegrown versions. Why, when the WHO tests worked fine? Well, because America First, MAGA, and all that drivel, or maybe so members of the Kushner family could profit. When the American kits rolled out, they suffered a bit of a problem. They didn’t work. By the time that problem was fixed, and it is still being fixed right now, the disease had exploded across America. There is no getting those three weeks back. The ability to quickly identify those with the disease, and the sources they got it from, evaporated.
As serious and deadly as this failing was, it may not have been the most damaging. Rather than prepare the American people, Trump defied the science, believing or hoping that his travel restrictions would be a “wall” against a virus. For weeks, Trump minimized the risks to the American people, assuring us it was “totally under control,” “pretty much shut down,” and “a problem that’s going away.”
He continued this denial even as the first cases and fatalities appeared on our shores. He declared the first cases were “going down to close to zero” and that “we’re going very substantially down, not up.” His anti-science thinking was reflected in literal reliance on “a miracle” as he said “one day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” He sought to deflate the numbers by keeping a cruise ship with some cases from coming to port saying, “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”
As the testing failure accelerated the disease by preventing the isolation of those infected, and identification of the sources of infection, Trump declared “the tests are beautiful, like the letter was perfect,” bizarrely comparing it to his Ukrainian transcript.
Here’s a timeline of the denial before Trump’s forced admission of a serious problem when he finally declared “a national emergency,” and a panicked sounding all caps tweet urging “SOCIAL DISTANCING!”
Of course, we do have other sources of information than the bungling mere President of the United States. We have the press and the media to inform us. It did. While that message was sometimes couched in frenetic terms, it was (with the exception perhaps of Fox News) generally scientifically founded.
The press passed on the guidance of medical experts that what the President was telling you was not true, the press fact checked and showed cases were not going “substantially down,” they were, and would continue for sometime, to go up. The press warned the American public of all that has transpired in terms of potential disruptions in our ordinary lives, and economic processes. The press did its job far better than the President did his.
In response to this accurate reporting, Trump attacked the press. CNN in particular was slammed.
A recurring theme attempted to make Trump the victim, claiming the media reporting was a ploy by democrats to undermine him.
At a rally Trump compared the media coronavirus coverage to the Russia investigation declaring “this is their new hoax.”
Look at that timeline above, and read those tweets, think of travel bans not just from China but now all of Europe, think of all those in Congress and the administration itself who are in self-quarantine, and the President himself compelled to be tested because of his contacts with some who have tested positive. Who was more right about this, CNN, the media, and yes the democrats, or the President of the United States?
The media has been vindicated, as now Trump declares a state of emergency and tweets breathlessly . . .
Suddenly, after weeks of accusing the media of hype, “no resource will be spared.”
And “the full power of the federal government” must be “unleashed.”
And with his declaration of a national day of prayer, he’s still looking for that miracle.
So there is always that.