The Coronavirus Government Watch Post is a new US RESIST NEWS blog post written by Sean Gray. The Post provides information and analysis of the federal government’s response to the coronavirus. Wherever possible we seek to be supportive as the coronavirus threatens the health and economic welfare of our nation, and we need government leadership to deal with the virus crisis. However, we also will offer constructive criticism, as merited, of our government’s efforts.
At a Press Conference on March 13th, President Trump took the podium in front of the White House, acted presidential and refrained from political cheap shots. While denying any personal responsibility, he finally appeared to be responding to the crisis with concern commensurate to the situation. The Coronavirus outbreak will unquestionably be the defining moment of the Trump presidency. His administration’s initial response left much to be desired. What happens as a result of the measures taken going forward will go a long way in determining how the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak reads in the history books.
Critics have claimed Trump disbanded Obama’s pandemic team. This is largely misleading. Trump did eliminate Obama’s Directorate for Global Health and Biosecurity at the National Security Council, but many of its employees would fill similar roles. The decision may have undercut an optimum response to this crisis. In an effort to streamline government, the pandemic team was folded into several offices. While not a terrible idea in theory, Ron Klain, Ebola czar in the Obama administration remarked that biodefense and pandemic preparation require specific skill sets and expertise. He likened the organizational shuffling to terminating the fire chief and putting the firefighters in the police department; ‘’the next time you have a fire, they’ll send a police cruiser with a couple of firefighters in the back.’’ The changes may have been made with the intention of reducing bureaucratic bloat, but the result is an administration reacting to a crisis on the fly, rather than deploying a team that had been preparing for such an issue for years.
Nevertheless, since Trump’s Road to Damascus moment, he has handled the emergency with a competence and humility previously unseen during his tenure in the Oval Office. At least for now he is no longer publicly contradicting health officials or denying the underlying science behind the outbreak. These may seem like givens from a president, but he’s unlike any other president, and consistent messaging from leaders is crucial in a public health crisis. He still bristles at questions he perceives as critical but has largely remained civil with assembled media covering the outbreak. And more significantly, since daily briefings have resumed at the White House, the administration has presented itself as a capable team with a singular focus in mind.
Also absent from Trump’s newfound approach to coronavirus is the incessant partisan bickering that has been a staple of his presidency. New York, Washington and California are three of the states most severely affected by Coronavirus. Each has a Democratic governor Trump has bad mouthed in the past. However, he still declared a major federal disaster in Washington, in response from a 74-poage letter from Gov. Jay Inslee. This means FEMA aid will be available to millions of residents struggling with basic necessities. Earlier in March, Trump called Inslee a snake on Twitter for his criticisms of the administration. Trump has had similar choice words for Gavin Newsome and Andrew Cuomo, of California and New York, respectively. It hasn’t prevented him from deploying the National Guard in all three states or providing each with additional medical stations. The medical stations in question will provide 4,000 more desperately needed beds between the three states Trump usually perceives as politically unfriendly. He shouldn’t be lauded for providing critical aid to needy citizens, but he had not previously shown an ability to put politics aside for the greater good. That’s not ideal in a leader, but Trump is the one we’ve got. And it finally appears to be trying to act in the best interest of the nation.
That being said there are several important issues related to Trump’s leadership in the coronavirus crisis that we need to pay attention to:
(1) Trump’s relationship to medical experts and advice. Will the President continue (as he has done in the last week) to heed to advice of medical experts, even when they disagree with him?
It is distressing that in the last 2 days, Dr Anthony Fauci, the respected CDC doctor has not been seen on the podium during Trump briefings on the coronavirus.
(2) Trump’s relationship with the states: The President seems to be taking a let the states lead approach, which is good because states are on the front lines. But is it in the best interest of the nation if each state takes a different approach? And can the Federal government deliver in a timely manner the medical equipment and supplies that states need?
(3) Trump’s relationship with business: The private sector is needed to combat the virus. The President seems to be relying on businesses to step up and make voluntary contributions to the crisis response effort. But will that guarantee that states get what they need? Would it be better on occasion to invoke the powers of the Defense Production Act to get industry to provide needed medical supplies?
Adam Vinatieri missed two field goal attempts in Super Bowl XXXVIII before hitting the game-winner as time expired. The two unsuccessful attempts are often-forgotten footnotes as a result of eventual triumph. Donald Trump has positioned himself similarly in regard to Covid-19. His initial response, or lack thereof, was woeful and did not promote a successful outcome. He is unlikely to change the minds of those who love or hate him. But the five or six weeks he spent with his head in the sand, could too become a forgotten footnote if the administration’s current course of action minimizes damage to the United States. Join us as we report on his efforts.