• Politics
    The Daily Beast

    Trump’s Lost Months Are Killing Us. Here’s How to Make Them Politically Fatal for Him.

    Will President Trump escape accountability in November for the worst crisis leadership in American history? It depends on how strongly and cogently the rest of us frame the true historical record.In his Feb. 5 State of the Union address, Trump said of the spreading coronavirus, “My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.” This did not happen. “Necessary steps” were not taken, “safeguards” were neglected. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of Americans will die unnecessarily as a direct result of the president’s negligence. This Is a Man-Made Disaster, and That Man Is Donald TrumpRepublicans are better than Democrats at framing and their spin is well underway. They have already identified a scapegoat—China—and begun making excuses for their man. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt (a Trump stooge smart enough to know better) that the president was distracted from the coronavirus by impeachment. That’s just another lie, of course. In fact, Trump made his only wise decision—banning passengers who had recently traveled to China—during the Senate trial. It was after impeachment that he failed to use the month or so of extra time he bought with that decision and downplayed the dangers of COVID-19—with disastrous consequences. Naturally, the Fox gas-lighters are already parroting the new party line on “impeachment distraction,” even though it concedes the Democrats’ main point of attack—that Trump took his eye off the peril advancing towards us.Trump understands that he might have blown it, which is why—like a sweaty salesman—he has repeated “We’re doing a good job” more than a dozen times at his bogus and petulant news conferences. And now, even as he crassly brags about his ratings amid the “carnage” (his word, from his inaugural address), he’s getting set to use the mounting death toll to exploit a gruesome expectations game.Here’s his only real plan: pivot from the fantasy of jammed churches on Easter Sunday to support for Anthony Fauci’s “best case” projections of 100,000 to 240,000 dead. If, through the heroic efforts of doctors and nurses on the battlefront, the numbers fall in the lower range—still possible, as Fauci notes—you can bet Trump will spend the general election campaign declaring a kind of sick victory over sickness.This will be an obscene distortion of what he actually did—and, worse, didn’t do—in early 2020. But making logical arguments this summer and fall about Trump’s failures won’t be easy. Joe Biden and other Democrats charging that “Trump sent mixed signals” or saying “Look at South Korea now” will not be enough. By all means, let’s establish the accountability commission Rep. Adam Schiff wants, but it won’t change many minds. What might affect the outcome is a short, tight, resonant meme, a dramatic phrase that crystallizes and immortalizes the historic moment—the way John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World did after the Russian Revolution. The phrase must somehow capture all the squandered time and missed opportunities without frontally attacking Trump in ways that just push people back into their partisan corners. The headline on a superb Boston Globe editorial—“Trump Has Blood on His Hands”—is plenty true, but too blunt an instrument to win an election.Instead we must tar Trump with his lack of preparedness the way “the emails” were stuck to Hillary Clinton in 2016, “the hostages” to Jimmy Carter in 1980, “the pardon” to Gerald Ford in 1976, and “Hoovervilles” to Herbert Hoover in 1932.So what should the frame be? I’m partial to a headline in the March 28 New York Times: “The Lost Month: How a Failure to Test Blinded the U.S. to Covid-19.” The article detailed how testing screw-ups (by a still-unnamed pharmaceutical company) and bureaucratic bumbling led the government to lose the critical weeks it needed to get on top of testing the way China, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Germany and other nations have. Of course, we now can see that Trump’s incompetence runs much deeper and ran much longer than one month of snafus on testing (which he lied about almost daily). “The Lost Month” was actually “The Lost Months.” In fact, we lost three full years—years when the Trump administration let its contempt for science and “deep state” civil servants cripple the ability of the federal government to respond to a crisis. Trump didn’t fill 700 vacancies at the CDC, didn’t replenish stockpiles of medical supplies (while lying about Obama’s response to pandemics), and didn’t stop John Bolton from closing the pandemic preparedness office at the National Security Council (later lying that he knew nothing of it). Trump has said repeatedly that no one could have seen this coming—just another lie. Bill Gates warned of it in a famous 2015 speech and Trump’s own NSC predicted it in a 69-page report. A Feb. 3 report from the U.S. Army estimated that “between 80,000 and 150,000 [Americans] could die” from coronavirus. Even if the true period of negligence is longer, “The Lost Months” is resonant shorthand for what led the United States to have the most coronavirus cases of any country in the world. Repeated enough—with GOP-style message discipline—it could work as code for: He messed up big-time.Here are just a few examples of Trump’s epic leadership failures in late February and March:Feb. 25: Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the CDC warns the public: “Disruption to everyday life might be severe.” Two days later, an enraged Trump calls Messonnier’s boss, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, to complain that her comments were spooking the stock market. A craven Azar tells the press that Messonnier went too far. Trump has been briefed about the severe outbreak in Italy and why  the U.S. will inevitably experience something similar but he continues his magical thinking for nearly three weeks. If he had directed Americans to stay at home then, as many prudent Asian and European leaders were doing, untold thousands of lives would have been spared.`Feb. 25, 28, March 2, 3, 5, 7, 13: Trump, known in New York, ironically, as a germophobe who often refused to shake hands, is seen on television shaking hands at least 10 times—in direct violation of one of the most important rules for preventing the spread of the virus. In April, he mentions the importance of masks when leaving the house but won’t wear one himself outside because he might have to “meet dictators.”  Feb. 28: At a campaign rally in Charleston, South Carolina, Trump compares the Democrats' criticism of his response to the epidemic to their efforts to impeach him, saying “this is their new hoax.” Twice, he downplays the severity of the outbreak, comparing it yet again to the common flu. His hundreds of tweets in February comment extensively on media trivia and insult good people during a crisis but contain little on COVID-19 and nothing on how to prevent its spread.March 6: En route to the golf course in casual clothes and a MAGA cap (he played eight rounds in February), Trump stops by the CDC, where he says he would rather have the infected passengers of a cruise ship anchored off San Francisco stay aboard “because I like the numbers [of infected Americans] where they are.” Trump—not grasping that if you cannot test to see where the virus has spread, you cannot control it—is flanked by Azar and CDC chief Robert Redfield. They now know any pressure for more tests is off. Trump adds, “Anybody that needs a test gets a test.” This is completely false.March 9: Trump tweets, “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!” Anyone who “thinks about that”—and knows a little math—understands that those numbers are growing exponentially and that without immediate national mitigation and 24/7 production of medical supplies, the American health care system is in imminent danger of being overwhelmed.March 11: Schools are closing and professional sports and entertainment shutting down, but the president—unlike several governors— is still not issuing clear social distancing instructions, much less national stay-at-home directives. He is focused instead on making sure the NFL doesn’t cancel its season, too. When the president sees televised footage that day of college students crowding Florida beaches during spring break, he tweets nothing and says nothing publicly. Nor does Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who complains that New Yorkers are bringing the virus south when it has been in his state for weeks. DeSantis, who talks to Trump daily and says he follows his lead, is weeks behind California Governor Gavin Newsom in issuing a stay-at-home order, a delay that will cost thousands of Floridians their lives. The same goes for Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who is so clueless that he doesn’t learn until April that many COVID-19 carriers are asymptomatic.March 13: After Anthony Fauci testifies that the testing system—which continues to charge patients exorbitant fees— “is failing,” Trump is asked if he takes any responsibility for it.“No, I don’t take responsibility at all.” Even a fourth grader knows: This is the opposite of leadership.March 15: Trump tweets that he is “NEGATIVE!” Ten days later, upon hearing the same news about Mitt Romney, he tweets sarcastically, “This is really great news! I am so happy I can barely speak.” It’s widely noted that any CEO showing this level of disrespect for a colleague amid a crisis would be immediately terminated by the board of directors. South Korea is emerging as a vivid illustration of why testing and stay-at-home orders work. Both the U.S. and South Korea announced their very first case on the very same day—January 20. By the middle of March, South Korea reports that it has conducted 5,200 tests per one million inhabitants. That compares to 74 tests per one million inhabitants in the U.S. All told, South Korea tests nearly 10 times as many people as the U.S., though its population is only one-seventh the size.March 16: When asked how he would rate his administration’s performance in fighting the coronavirus, Trump says, “I’d rate it a 10, I think we’ve done a great job.” At this point, the U.S. is already lagging most of the rest of the developed world in testing, medical supplies (it later accepts an emergency shipment from Russia), and social distancing and is days away from having the most cases of any nation in the world. March 19: Trump says of the federal government, “We’re not a shipping clerk.” Unlike President Bush after Hurricane Katrina, he won’t assign a general or other logistics expert to coordinate the orderly production and distribution of critical medical supplies. This unwillingness to use the full power of the federal government in what is clearly a national, not regional, problem worsens a desperate and unnecessary struggle, as states outbid each other and the federal government outbids the states. For the next two weeks, Trump refuses to use his authority under the 1950 Defense Production Act, though the law has been invoked thousands of times by the Trump administration for drones, missiles and other military equipment.Why did Trump wait from early February (when shortages of equipment were first identified) until April 2 to use the DPA to provide supplies to medical personnel? The ideological objections of the Chamber of Commerce and other corporate interests played a role. But the larger reason looks political: Nationalizing supply chains means assuming responsibility, which Trump dreads. It’s easier to falsely accuse fatigued doctors of hoarding, snatch precious ventilators from blue state governors, and otherwise inject petty politics into matters of life and death. When Trump later attacks “that woman” (Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat), and says that he has told Vice President Pence not to call back any governor who is “not appreciative,” he is placing his ego above the lives of the people of Michigan and other states with Democratic governors.March 20: Peter Alexander of NBC News asks the president, "What do you say to Americans who are scared?” An angry Trump snaps: “I say that you are a terrible reporter.” Trump’s lack of empathy for what Americans are going through is another sign of his failed leadership and stands in sharp contrast to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and other governors in both parties, who step up to show genuine compassion and concern.We later learn that the “active phase” of the federal response finally begins that day, under the management of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, who has no background in anything relevant to the crisis and quickly shows he is out of his depth. That week, the South Korean government announces that its schools will soon re-open and the epidemic there is under control.“The Lost Months” arguably began on Jan. 20, 2020, when the first U.S. case of coronavirus was identified in the Seattle area. Exactly one year later, at noon on January 20, 2021, a new term begins for the President of the United States. Who takes the oath that day depends on whether we choose amnesia—or a reckoning.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

  • Business
    Quartz

    India’s richest man lost $300 million a day in the past two months due to coronavirus

    Coronavirus has substantially wiped out the personal wealth of India's rich. Ritesh Agarwal of hospitality group Oyo, for instance, fell out of the global dollar-billionaires club after his company's valuation reportedly dropped to around $6 billion from $10 billion in the two months ending March 31, 2020, according to data from Shanghai-based Hurun Research. The 26-year-old Oyo founder and CEO was named the world's second-youngest billionaire (Rs8,362 crore or $1.1 billion) by Hurun earlier this year.

  • U.S.
    Deadline

    White House COVID-19 Coordinator: Don’t Go To Grocery Store Or Pharmacy Unless Essential

    It's come to this - the White House is now advising everyone not to head to the grocery store or pharmacy in the coming two weeks. “The next two weeks are extraordinarily important,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said Saturday at a press conference. “This is the moment to not be going to […]

  • World
    National Review

    Has Sweden Found the Right Solution to the Coronavirus?

    If the COVID-19 pandemic tails off in a few weeks, months before the alarmists claim it will, they will probably pivot immediately and pat themselves on the back for the brilliant social-distancing controls that they imposed on the world. They will claim that their heroic recommendations averted total calamity. Unfortunately, they will be wrong; and Sweden, which has done almost no mandated social distancing, will probably prove them wrong.Lots of people are rushing to discredit Sweden’s approach, which relies more on calibrated precautions and isolating only the most vulnerable than on imposing a full lockdown. While gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited and high schools and colleges are closed, Sweden has kept its borders open as well as its preschools, grade schools, bars, restaurants, parks, and shops.President Trump has no use for Sweden’s nuanced approach. Last Wednesday, he smeared it in a spectacular fashion by saying he’d heard that Sweden “gave it a shot, and they saw things that were really frightening, and they went immediately to shutting down the country.” He and the public-health experts who told him this were wrong on both counts and would do better to question their approach. Johan Giesecke, Sweden’s former chief epidemiologist and now adviser to the Swedish Health Agency, says that other nations “have taken political, unconsidered actions” that are not justified by the facts.In the rush to lock down nations and, as a result, crater their economies, no one has addressed this simple yet critical question: How do we know social-isolation controls actually work? And even if they do work for some infectious epidemics, do they work for COVID-19? And even if they work for this novel coronavirus, do they have to be implemented by a certain point in the epidemic? Or are they locking down the barn door after the horses are long gone?In theory, less physical interaction might slow the rate of new infections. But without a good understanding of how long COVID-19 viral particles survive in air, in water, and on contact surfaces, even that is speculative. Without reliable information on what proportion of the population has already been exposed and successfully fought off the coronavirus, it’s worth questioning the value of social-isolation controls. It is possible that the fastest and safest way to “flatten the curve” is to allow young people to mix normally while requiring only the frail and sick to remain isolated.This is, in fact, the first time we have quarantined healthy people rather than quarantining the sick and vulnerable. As Fredrik Erixon, the director of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels, wrote in The Spectator (U.K.) last week: “The theory of lockdown, after all, is pretty niche, deeply illiberal — and, until now, untested. It’s not Sweden that’s conducting a mass experiment. It’s everyone else.”We’ve posed these simple questions to many highly trained infectious-disease doctors, epidemiologists, mathematical disease-modelers, and other smart, educated professionals. It turns out that, while you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a person of theft and throw them in jail, you don’t need any actual evidence (much less proof) to put millions of people into a highly invasive and burdensome lockdown with no end in sight and nothing to prevent the lockdown from being reimposed at the whim of public-health officials. Is this rational?When we asked what evidence is available to support the utility of quarantine and social isolation, academics point to the Diamond Princess cruise ship, with 700 COVID-19 passenger cases and eight deaths. But the ship is an artificially engineered, densely packed container of humans that bears little resemblance to living conditions in most countries.The other major evidence academics often cite is the course run by the 1918 swine flu, which swept the globe 102 years ago and was not a coronavirus. Philadelphia did not practice social distancing during the 1918 pandemic, but St. Louis did and had a death rate lower than Philadelphia’s. But how is that relevant to today’s crisis? Apart from the post hoc, ergo propter hoc nature of the argument, a key difference was that the GIs returning from World War I Europe who were carrying the swine-flu virus couldn’t fly nonstop from Paris to St. Louis. They had to land at East Coast ports such as Philadelphia. It’s therefore not surprising that the sick GIs rested and convalesced while spreading the virus on the East Coast, and they got better before continuing to St. Louis and other interior cities.Basing the entire architecture of social distancing on the evidence from the 1918 swine flu makes no sense, especially when that architecture causes significant destruction in the lives and livelihoods of most of the American population.But the social-isolation advocates frantically grasp at straws to support shutting down the world. It bothers them that there is one country in the world that hasn’t shut down and that hasn’t socially isolated its population. It bothers them because when this coronavirus epidemic is over, they would probably love to conclude that social isolation worked.Sweden has courageously decided not to endorse a harsh quarantine, and consequently it hasn’t forced its residents into lockdown. “The strategy in Sweden is to focus on social distancing among the known risk groups, like the elderly. We try to use evidence-based measurements,” Emma Frans, a doctor in epidemiology at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, told Euronews. “We try to adjust everyday life. The Swedish plan is to implement measurements that you can practice for a long time.”The problem with lockdowns is that “you tire the system out,” Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, told the Guardian. “You can’t keep a lockdown going for months -- it’s impossible.” He told Britain’s Daily Mail: “We can’t kill all our services. And unemployed people are a great threat to public health. It’s a factor you need to think about.”If social isolation worked, wouldn’t Sweden, a Nordic country of 10.1 million people, be seeing the number of COVID-19 cases skyrocket into the tens of thousands, blowing past the numbers in Italy or New York City? As of today, there are 401 reported COVID-19 deaths in Sweden.The really good news is that in Sweden’s ICU census, which is updated every 30 minutes nationwide, admissions to every ICU in the country are flat or declining, and they have been for a week. As of this writing (based on currently available data), most of Sweden’s ICU cases today are elderly, and 77 percent have underlying conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease, kidney disease, and diabetes. Moreover, there hasn’t been a single pediatric ICU case or death in Sweden — so much for the benefits of shutting down schools everywhere else. There are only 25 COVID-19 ICU admissions among all Swedes under the age of 30.Sweden is developing herd immunity by refusing to panic. By not requiring social isolation, Sweden’s young people spread the virus, mostly asymptomatically, as is supposed to happen in a normal flu season. They will generate protective antibodies that make it harder and harder for the Wuhan virus to reach and infect the frail and elderly who have serious underlying conditions. For perspective, the current COVID-19 death rate in Sweden (40 deaths per million of population) is substantially lower than the Swedish death rate in a normal flu season (in 2018, for instance, about 80 per million of population).Compare that with the situation to Switzerland, a similar small European country, which has 8.5 million people. Switzerland is practicing strict social isolation. Yet Switzerland reports 715 cumulative Wuhan-virus deaths as of today, for a death rate nearly double the number in Sweden. What about Norway, another Nordic country that shares a 1,000-mile open border with Sweden, with a language and culture very similar to Sweden’s? Norway (population 5.4 million) has fewer reported COVID-19 deaths (71) than Sweden but a substantially higher rate of coronavirus ICU admissions.On Friday, one of us spoke with Ulf Persson in his office at the Swedish Institute for Health Economics. He said that everyone he knows is calm and steady, behaving with more caution than normal, following such government-mandated social controls as a 50-person limit on gatherings and only sit-down service at bars and restaurants. Persson estimates that the Swedish economy will drop about 4 percent because of the global economic shutdowns. But that’s nothing compared with the Great Depression unemployment levels of 32 percent that the U.S. Federal Reserve Board of St. Louis recently forecast for the United States.Nature’s got this one, folks. We’ve been coping with new viruses for untold generations. The best way is to allow the young and healthy -- those for whom the virus is rarely fatal -- to develop antibodies and herd immunity to protect the frail and sick. As time passes, it will become clearer that social-isolation measures like those in Switzerland and Norway accomplish very little in terms of reducing fatalities or disease, though they crater local and national economies -- increasing misery, pain, death, and disease from other causes as people’s lives are upended and futures are destroyed.John Fund is a columnist for National Review and has reported frequently from Sweden. Joel Hay is a professor in the department of Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy at the University of Southern California. The author of more than 600 peer-reviewed scientific articles and reports, he has collaborated with the Swedish Institute for Health Economics for nearly 40 years.

  • Politics
    Good Morning America

    George W. Bush in 2005: 'If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare'

    In the summer of 2005, President George W. Bush was on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, when he began flipping through an advance reading copy of a new book about the 1918 flu pandemic. When he returned to Washington, he called his top homeland security adviser into the Oval Office and gave her the galley of historian John M. Barry's "The Great Influenza," which told the chilling tale of the mysterious plague that "would kill more people than the outbreak of any other disease in human history." "You've got to read this," Fran Townsend remembers the president telling her.