As new cases of COVID-19 are showing up in Rhode Island as well as in Florida and also in Chicago and in Manhattan and much worse, could have been spreading undetected for weeks in Washington State, the Trump regime response goals remain protection of Trump's reelection chances, and not public safety.
Minutes before President Trump was preparing Wednesday to reassure a skittish nation about the coronavirus threat, he received a piece of crucial information: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had identified in California the first U.S. case of the illness not tied to foreign travel, a sign that the virus’s spread in the United States was likely to explode.
But when Trump took to the lectern for a news conference intended to bring transparency to the spiraling global crisis, he made no explicit mention of the California case and its implications — and falsely suggested the virus might soon be eradicated in the United States.
“And again, when 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,” he said.
Trump’s playing down of the California patient at his news conference underscores the administration’s slapdash and often misleading attempts to contain not just the virus, but also potential political damage from the outbreak — which has tanked financial markets, slowed global commerce and killed some 3,000 people worldwide, including the first U.S. death, announced Saturday.
Since Trump touched down from a two-day trip to India early Wednesday morning, the administration struggled to cope with the fallout from the crisis — shaking up and centralizing its coronavirus response team under the leadership of Vice President Pence, floating plans to stabilize the markets and publicly seeking to minimize the threat posed by the potential pandemic.
Interviews with nearly two dozen administration officials, former White House aides, public health experts and lawmakers — many speaking on the condition of anonymity to share candid assessments and details — portray a White House scrambling to gain control of a rudderless response defined by bureaucratic infighting, confusion and misinformation.
“It’s complete chaos,” a senior administration official said. “Everyone is just trying to get a handle on what the [expletive] is going on.”
I don't agree at all that the Trump regime is in chaos on this. They absolutely have a message for the American people and a unified front. And what is the message coming from the White House on COVID-19? That the "alarmist" coverage is a plot to hurt Donald Trump and that Democrats want millions of people to die.
When Donald Trump Jr said Democrats hope coronavirus “kills millions of people” in the US because they want to bring his father down, he was merely “pushing back” at politicisation of the viral outbreak by Trump opponents, Mike Pence claimed in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
“It’s time for the other side to turn down the volume,” the vice-president told NBC’s Meet the Press.
At a White House press conference on Saturday, Trump was forced to defend his use of the word “hoax” in reference to the outbreak. Harshly criticised by contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, the president said he had been referring to politicisation of coronavirus, not the outbreak itself.
In the interview broadcast on Sunday, NBC host Chuck Todd played Pence clips of Trump allies discussing the outbreak which on Saturday claimed its first US death, a man in Washington state.
Rush Limbaugh, the conservative shock jock to whom Trump gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom, said: “The coronavirus is being weaponized, as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump.”
Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel said: “Democrats are using this for their political gain to try and stoke fear in the American people, which is shameful, wrong, and I think un-American.”
And Donald Trump Jr, appearing on Fox News, said: “For them to try to take a pandemic and seemingly hope that it comes here and kills millions of people so that they could end Donald Trump’s streak of winning is a new level of sickness.”
On CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, host Jake Tapper twice asked Pence if he agreed with Trump Jr’s claim that Democrats want coronavirus to “kill millions of people”.
Pence avoided the question, instead saying people need to set politics aside in the response to the outbreak and insisting Trump, who at his Friday rally claimed “the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and wellbeing of all Americans”, was directing all sides to take politics out of the equation.
Pence is in charge of White House efforts in response to the outbreak. Saying he was leading “decisive action to protect the American people”, he told NBC: “And when you see voices on our side pushing back on outrageous and irresponsible rhetoric on the other side, I think that’s important, and I think it’s justified.”
That's why Mike Pence is in charge of both the response and the messaging about the response. The Trump regime response to COVID-19 is "Blame the Democrats when people die, and take your rage, anger, and vitriol out on them."
But in red states especially, states that have already trashed science, health, and preparedness program, the misinformation from the Trump regime is only compounding the problem, places like Anniston, Alabama, population 22,000.
Not long before local leaders decided, in the words of one of them, that federal health officials “didn’t know what they were doing" with their plan to quarantine novel coronavirus patients in town, a doctor here set out in a biohazard suit to stage a one-man protest along the highway with a sign. “The virus has arrived. Are you ready?” it asked.
The town didn’t think it was. Residents already were unnerved by strange stories posted on Facebook and shared via text messages about helicopters secretly flying in sick patients, that the virus was grown in a Chinese lab, that someone — either the media or the government — was lying to them about what was really going on.
The quarantine plan hastily hatched by the federal Department of Health and Human Services was soon scrapped by President Trump, who faced intense pushback from Alabama’s congressional delegation, led by Republican Rep. Mike D. Rogers. Americans evacuated after falling ill aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan would not be coming to Anniston, a town of 22,000 people in north-central Alabama, after all. They would remain in the same Texas and California sites where they were taken after leaving the cruise ship.
What happened here over the past week illustrates how poor planning by federal health officials and a rumor mill fueled by social media, polarized politics and a lack of clear communication can undermine public confidence in the response to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease named covid-19. The rapidly spreading virus has rattled economies worldwide in recent weeks and caused the deaths of more than 2,900 people, mostly in China.
The panic and problems that burned through Anniston also provided a preview of what could unfold in other communities, as the spread of the virus is considered by health experts to be inevitable.
“Their little plan sketched out in D.C. was not thought out,” said Michael Barton, director of the emergency management agency in Calhoun County, where Anniston is located.
As local officials learned more, Barton added, “We knew then —”
“We were in trouble,” said Tim Hodges, chairman of the county commission.
In Anniston, local leaders were stunned to discover serious problems with the federal government’s plan for dealing with patients infected with the virus — starting with how the patients would get to Alabama, according to interviews with county and city officials, along with business leaders who dealt with the federal response.
“I was shocked,” Anniston Mayor Jack Draper said. “I was shocked by the lack of planning. I was shocked by the manner in which it was presented to us.”
Be very, very scared of what the Trump regime will do once things start going very badly for this country in the weeks and months ahead. Should we survive this intact, it will be in spite of Trump, not because of him.
But if you thought the violations of the Constitution were bad before, just wait until we're deep into a pandemic scenario. Places like Anniston aren't going to be given a choice about where to house the sick. The Trump regime will use the full force of the federal government against the very people who voted for them and won't hesitate to use it against the rest of us.
After all, Trump's inevitable autocratic and dictatorial response will be justified because the Democrats said bad things about him.
All of us will suffer, sick or not.