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Sunday morning Trump tweeted what could be the most insulting tweet his offensive presidency. “The governor of Illinois and a very small group of certain other governors, along with fake news … should not hold the federal government responsible for its own shortcomings. We are here to assist you if you fail, and always will be! “
That’s the signal: In one of the biggest crises in American history and the biggest public health disaster in a century, Trump is still playing as Rome begins to burn. After two months of publicly ignoring the warnings from his public health experts, intelligence agencies and presumably the State Department, the Pentagon, and all other government officials – time spent on inventory building medical care – now this moral dwarf to the governors. These men and women, who have become the country’s political first responders by default, are accused of “failure” by the American president if their medical system is overwhelmed by a wave of critically ill patients.
The Trump administration’s response to this crisis remains a combination of inability and criminal lack of concern for the weakest.
Some particularly terrible highlights at the front of the malignant inability: The President continues to sell snake oil remedies, on which his own infectious disease specialists then have to pour cold water. The newest: his imagination that antimalarial drugs in combination with an antibiotic cure the coronavirus. It is one thing to project optimism in times of crisis. It’s a different matter when a national leader makes nonsense that contradicts the opinion of experts. There is a big difference between Churchillian defiance given gloomy news and sheer hucksterism.
In this regard too: Trump triggered the Defense Production Act, which allows the government to force the private industry to manufacture medical devices. But inexplicably, he failed to actually order the mass production of masks, protective clothing, and respirators. The Feds, he said dismissivelyare not shipping agents. Instead, he urged states and cities to simply search for products as they could and build insane competition between them.
In the area of criminal concern: the State Department ordered the immediate return of everyone Peace Corps volunteerswhich somehow makes sense. However, it was then announced that they would all be fired immediately instead of taking paid leave. Those 7,300 brave men and women who volunteered for health campaigns, innovative agricultural and environmental work, and other development projects that are critical to global well-being are not even eligible for unemployment checks.
What a perfect Trumpian action: use the cover of the coronavirus crisis as an excuse for America’s most successful soft power program he has tried to eviscerate from his early months in office.
Trump continues to talk about saving tens of billions of dollars in airlines. But the administration did nothing to protect them Thousands of airport workers who are fired without further ado without severance pay, many of them after years of employment. You couldn’t find a better example of the lack of empathy and solidarity at the heart of this administration.
Last week thousands of doctors publicly urged ICE to empty its detention centersfor fear that otherwise the tens of thousands of impoverished, often medically fragile immigrants held in them would succumb to the virus en masse. Not surprisingly, despite these hectic requests, the government has taken no steps to release the detainees.
The virus is now spreading in New York City Rikers Island Prison, one of the largest prisons in the country, and there have been reports of workers in California’s prison system test positive. Again, the government has made no effort to coordinate with the county and state judicial officers a coherent nationwide program to take leave of vulnerable inmates when the epidemic is gaining momentum.
The world is facing catastrophe, but the plastic man, our reality TV president, is still more interested in positioning and grooming, thrashing his favorite targets than doing the hard work of navigating through this crisis.