We have a leadership, not a coronavirus crisis. Viruses are everywhere, all the time. Some turn lethal. Why weren’t we ready for this one? Or agile in response? We had years of warning.
By David Stone
Blame Trump for the disaster unfolding, city by city, state by state, across our country. It’s the popular choice, but although he’s a bumbler, a finger pointer, an excuse maker, this mess didn’t start with him.
And it won’t end with him.
The coronavirus, now entrenched, will pretty much end itself on its own terms. The best we can do is avoid making it easy.
Connections: Poverty, Racism & COVID-19 Deaths
The roots of American incompetence run deep.
The hardest pill to swallow, the sweep of COVID-19 across the face of the earth, worst of all in the United States, is its predictability. Everyone in a responsible position knew the risk. Coronaviruses visited before.
This won’t be the last.
Movies were made, assessments issued, studies published.
In general, our leaders treated the threat like global warming, something that would go away if we argued to a draw long enough.
After the H1N1 lessons…
In 2008, while the H1N1 influenza virus raged, the young Obama administration acted fast, finding a nimble contractor capable of making affordable ventilators. With Newport Medical Instruments projected to sell 40,000 of them, a national stockpile was possible soon.
Next, other needed emergency supplies. Face masks. Gloves.
But before that happened, the small, nimble company with which CDC started was gobbled up by a medical supply behemoth. Covidien failed to complete Newport’s commitment.
“Government officials and executives at rival ventilator companies said they suspected that Covidien had acquired Newport to prevent it from building a cheaper product that would undermine Covidien’s profits from its existing ventilator business.”New York Times
In 2014, Covidien said they wanted out of the contract, and after six wasted years, the Obama administration let them go. Apparently without penalties. The national health took a back seat to profits.
So, the coronavirus leadership crisis did not start with Trump.
And it certainly did not end with him.
Coronavirus Leadership Crisis: American Politics
Given that Trump did not come into office with any advantage in pandemic protection planning, he made things worse.
His biggest blunder: dismantling a pandemic response team Obama set up. It was a waste, Trump’s team decided. Distrust toward science and antipathy toward anything with Obama’s stamp on it likely played roles.
But even that could have been overcome had the administration acted fast and decisively when all the world knew the coronavirus was coming.
Because American news coverage is generally dreadful, you probably don’t know that the United States and China reported their first coronavirus cases within 10 day, China first on January 10th.
China acted. Other nations did too. In the U.S., Trump toyed with magical thinking, then dodged facts and science before bringing in a favorite weapon: blame anyone, everyone, else.
South Korea flattened the infection curve early through aggressive testing and targeted quarantines. Singapore never let the coronavirus get a foothold.
Amid unimaginably bad mass media coverage, it’s little reported that China contained the virus effectively within a single province. Isolated cases appeared throughout the nation, but by the end of March, Wuhan, where the virus started, edged back toward normal.
At about that time, with COVID-19 infections in every state, our federal government finally got serious. Sort of.
Trump stopped making rosy, foolish predictions about the coronavirus crisis would be over in a couple of weeks, but no national strategy emerged.
Ad hoc help came to New York, the worst hit of American states, and unevenly elsewhere, but governors acted independently, absent national coronavirus leadership.
What went wrong…
Failing to act early with testing, not awarding contracts going for ventilators and other supplies, Trump’s dithering virtually invited thousands of unnecessary deaths.
This is not about politics. It’s about leadership or, in this coronavirus crisis, lack of it. Switching positions by the daily amounts to a struggle of showmanship and widespread confusion.
And a crippled economy that may never boom again in the same way. Thousands of closed businesses will never reopen.
But evidence shows that it did not have to be so.
We now have vastly more known cases as the rest of the world… with only 4% of the world’s population. Our per capita rate of infection is nearly five times as great as the rest of the world on average.
And we haven’t reached our peak, a milestone no one is so far able to identify. But it did not happen, as Trump once predicted, in time for Easter.
The Coronavirus Leadership Crisis: Conclusion
COVID-19, the illness caused by this coronavirus, will reshape America, but how will our leadership crisis finally pan out?
It’s the biggest question facing the country that will eventually be in recovery and later rebuilding.
The signs are not good.
Evidence of Trump’s disastrous failures in leadership, the inevitability of thousands of unnecessary deaths, has not brought widespread calls for his removal.
And an obsequious press fails to inspire outrage.
How is it possible that the wealthiest country in the world, with the greatest investment in science and medicine, can’t tie its own shoes?
And nobody’s raising hell about it…?
Look at it this way…
A large segment of Americans wanted an entertaining president, a reality show on Pennsylvania Avenue. Addicted to televised distractions, they got what they asked for.
But there is no sequel to mass deaths from incompetence. Voting somebody off the island won’t fix anything. The dead will always be dead.
Will Americans have learned enough to take voting seriously? As a responsibility, not just another contest of jabbering, self-involved contestants that fades into commercials?
What will become of leadership if America is not pissed off over the deaths and economic wreckage ushered in, however unknowingly, by the Clown at the Top?
Will we continue regarding leadership as an entertainment experience? Or as something for which we are largely responsible?
Trump fails at leadership, but after all, he didn’t elect himself.
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