We now know what the President knew and when he knew it.
As probably everyone reading has heard, Bob Woodward’s upcoming book Rage contains damning evidence of President Trump’s malfeasance in handling the Coronavirus — as told in his own recorded words. The book is due out on September 15 and is based on 18 interviews that Trump held with Woodward between December 2019 and July 2020. All the interviews were recorded with Trump’s knowledge and consent.
You’ll be reading and hearing about this everywhere so I won’t attempt a full recap here. I have a few quick points to make.
The Washington Post summarized many of the key points in the book in an article published today. The article included four audio clips extracted from the 18 interviews. Most damning is when Trump told Woodward on February 7, “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus. This is deadly stuff” — five times more, he said.
In a call with Woodward on March 19 he said he deliberately wanted to play it down to avoid panicking people.
So here we have the President aware as early as February 7 about the seriousness and lethality of the virus, yet with no regard or respect for the ability of the country to face reality, he publicly minimized the virus then, and largely persists today.
Consequences of a Scattered & Uneven Response
Trump Administration should have stepped up and acted decisively. We could have followed the example of countries like Italy that went into a hardcore nationwide lockdown March 9. Painful, yes, but we could have gotten ourselves ahead of the curve instead of behind. (Not to say “I told you so,” but I suggested this very thing here in this blog on March 1. Read ‘Coronavirus: A Question‘.)
Instead some states locked down hard, others a little, and others not all. Trump was calling it a hoax in late February, calling for the economy to re-open by Easter, and tweeting “LIBERATE!” in mid-April. When states started cranking back up again they proceeded without regard to White House benchmarks — which Trump had announced and then promptly ignored.
And so here we are today, only 4% of the world’s population but 25% of its deaths.
Would Democrats Have Done Better?
I don’t know. I have to believe they would have done at least a little better! One will recall that the Obama Administration created an office to handle pandemics which Trump dismantled, the National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to admit there was a plan in place when Trump took office.
But then tonight Fox News showed clips with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo talking rather casually about the virus in late February and early March. In part, this might have been a result of the limited and filtered information coming out of the Administration and CDC at that time, but I can’t help but think the Democrats had some means of truly knowing what was brewing.
Cuba Demonstrates a Better Way
Bottomline, the working people of this country, their kids and seniors, have been literally betrayed and we’re now paying with our lives and our livelihoods. As the President in office when this all broke, Trump stands front and center as the leading figure responsible. But he’s not alone. This is part and parcel of a bigger problem: a society lead by a class concerned with its own wealth, power and privilege. If working people were in charge, the virus would still be a deadly challenge to be conquered and it wouldn’t be easy, but all the resources of science and medicine would be brought to bear. Working people would not only be told the truth, they would rise to the occasion to ensure that medical care, food and other necessities were made available to all.
Cuba is such a country which we can watch in action. This report from Al Jazeera shows the example that Cuba is setting as working people mobilize to addresses the virus.
In addition to fighting COVID-19 on its own soil, Cuba has dispatched doctors to help in 22 other countries.
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