Transition of Power
A new blog post by USRESIST Reporters on the transition of Presidential Power from the Trump to the Biden administration
Brief # 7 A Look at the Trump Administration’s Response to the Coronavirus
By Sean Gray
December 18,, 2020
With the first Covid-19 vaccines being administered in the US, a light is beginning to emerge at the end of the pandemic’s tunnel. President Trump is taking a curious victory lap. Boasting about the success of Operation Warp Speed has represented his only break from incessant election fraud conspiracy. While his administration undoubtedly played a role in the record-setting vaccine, it belies the fact that every step of the way, Trump himself exacerbated the pandemic, largely by viewing it through a politically transactional lens.
Trump’s misleading, revisionist history in relation to the pandemic is apt; He has consistently misled and confused Americans about the coronavirus. News of the incoming pandemic was reportedly in his daily brief around the turn of the year, 2020. Only in mid-March did he begrudgingly acknowledge the ugly reality. In the intervening time he dismissed the obvious dangers and suggested it was his political opponent’s ‘’new hoax’’. At the mid-March press conference, he said without irony ‘’I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic’’. This type of self-serving double-talk would categorize the federal government’s Covid-19 response.
Worse than that was his effort to distort facts and silence medical experts that might reflectepoorly on him. Trump supporters have demonstrated an uncanny willingness to swallow whole whatever cockamamie he offers up. Placing him alongside experts in infectious disease, like Dr. Fauci, in the pandemic’s early days, lent undue credibility to his dangerous spit balling. From his pulpit he suggested injecting disinfectants, or direct sunlight could prove a miraculous cure for the mysterious virus. He vigorously promoted the anti-malarial drug, hydroxychloroquine, even after quality research suggested it had no meaningful benefit and serious side effects. Medical experts willing to debase themselves for attention took to conservative media to echo the president’s reckless claims, thereby legitimizing misinformation from the commander-in-chief.
No instance of Trumpian ineptitude would be complete without a touch of graft, which was focus of the whistleblower complaint filed by former government scientist, Rick Bright. Bright claimed he awarded contracts to the companies connected to the administration, including a drug company linked to a friend of Jared Kushner’s. In his report, Bright called for an inspector general investigation into the ‘’cottage industry’’ of political influence which determined to whom contracts were awarded. His concerns about the administration’s Covid response mostly fell on deaf ears, but found an unlikely ally in Trump economic advisor, Peter Navarro, to whom Bright advocated creating a ‘’Manhattan Project’’ for coronavirus. That idea would eventually become, Operation Warp Speed, well after it was initially proposed and the pandemic had grown in severity.
FDA head, Stephen Hahn had a major role in the ultimate success of the vaccine endeavor. His role, by necessity, is a nonpartisan one. That didn’t deter Trump from making a political pawn out of him. In August, Trump announced the emergency approval of convalescent plasma for treatment of Covid patients. Hahn endorsed the decision publicly, despite the fact that the National Health Institute had serious concerns that its efficacy had not been demonstrated. The move came as a direct result of Trump leaning on the FDA, accusing them of slowing approval for political reasons. Hahn was the subject of widespread criticism from the scientific community, which led to a rare apology and admission of fault out of the Trump administration.
Even with the finish line in sight, Trump doubled-down on his political meddling by tweeting out that Hahn ought to ‘’stop playing games’’ and ‘’start saving lives. In doing so, he implied that bureaucratic red tape was delaying the approval and fanning the flames of his ‘’deep state saboteur’’ rhetoric. The end result is a significant decrease of public confidence in the nation’s public health institutions from a man with no expertise in the subject.
Claiming to fight for the forgotten working class while serving the interests of the incredibly wealthy has been a staple of Trump’s political brand. His own Covid-19 experience illustrates the contradiction well. After months of deceiving the American public about the scope and severity of the pandemic, Trump came down with the virus himself. He was airlifted to Walter Reed Medical Center (roughly 14 miles from the White House) and treated nonstop with experimental remedies at no personal expense. Then, as if tooprove he was right all along, took an ill-advised limo ride (presumably while still infected) in a sealed vehicle full of Secret Service agents. Trump followed up the plague-spreading publicity stunt with an odd appearance on the White House balcony, walking under his own power. In the aftermath he seemed to use the incident to support the notion that the whole thing had been blown out of proportion, to damage him politically. This dangerous bit of deception ignores obvious realities. Trump and every member of Congress are covered by top-top-notch medical coverage at taxpayer expense. The Covid-19 experience of Donald Trump (or Rep. Louie Gohmert or Sen. Ted Cruz) bares little resemblance to that of the average citizen. Most are independently wealthy on top of their six-figure salaries. Independent of the helicopter ride, the estimated cost of Trump’s medical treatment was $183K, and completely inaccessible to the general public. Contracting a virus about which he has been habitually dishonest, and escaping its worse consequences because of privilege, is as on-brand Trump as it gets. It also likely reinforced the positions of his Covid-skeptic supporters, whose own experience might be considerably more fraught.
A coronavirus vaccine in record time is a win for the nation across party lines. Trump’s attempt to take an outsized amount of credit does not detract from the unprecedented accomplishment. But true to form it does represent a distortion of reality. Trump may have signed off on Warp Speed, but it is difficult to make a good faith argument that he aided the process more than he impeded it.