Trump's Advisers Don't Even Try to Defend His Pandemic Failure. They Change the Subject.

Jack Holmes
Photo credit: CNN - Twitter
Photo credit: CNN - Twitter

From Esquire

The United States has a little over four percent of the world's population, but 25 percent of the world's COVID-19 deaths. Failure. The United States is about to hit 3 million confirmed cases, also about a quarter of the world total. Failure. The U.S. still, after six months, does not have adequate testing in place, and it's not just the test kits themselves. Even areas like New York, which has worked hard to ramp up testing, are hitting a roadblock in the form of limited lab capacity to actually process the tests. Failure. Healthcare workers in the world's richest country are again at risk of running out of PPE. Failure. States like Florida and Texas and Arizona that watched as New York and New Jersey opened a portal to Hell in March—in part because of their Democratic leaders' early mistakes—used their extra time to do...what, exactly? They've now opened portals of their own. Complete failure. And now many re-openings are stalled.

This is all the result of a systematic failure at the highest levels of the federal government to formulate a national strategy for an international crisis. James Fallows conducted a forensic investigation of the Executive Branch response in The Atlantic and found it failed in pretty much every conceivable way, even down to the travel ban on China that the president has so often touted as Decisive Early Action. 40,000 American citizens, to whom the ban did not apply, came over after it was instated, and were not screened when they arrived. It was similar with the European ban, which Trump telegraphed two days before it took effect, initiating a mad rush of people who again were not screened on arrival in any systematic way. Total incompetence.

One of the few people in the White House who raised any kind of early alarm was Peter Navarro, the trade adviser, who penned a memo to Trump in January about the potential threat. His interest may have been tied to his strident anti-China views, but the interest was there. However, everyone in this administration knows that they do not serve the public first—if at all. They serve one man, and perform for an audience of one. To be honest about the state of pandemic at this point would be to admit even the slightest wrongdoing on the president's part, which is entirely unacceptable. And so this is what you get when Navarro goes on CNN, as he did Tuesday morning.

It should be stipulated that other countries do not seem to have a parallel epidemic of deranged gringos who refuse to demonstrate even a modicum of personal responsibility in order to slow the virus spread. It's not just the holiday revelers, it's the psychos at Trader Joe's. That's a built-in advantage for the Germans and the South Koreans. But these countries also have competent governments that took the threat seriously and understand their own bureaucracies sufficiently well to respond. Our president doesn't read, and his administration has set about ransacking the state for a variety of reasons ranging from "the donors want this industry deregulated" to "reality must be refashioned to suit the president's needs."


Navarro is not an epidemiologist or public-health expert—and, considering he was reportedly recruited after a Jared Kushner Amazon search, he may not be an expert of any kind—but you don't need to be to see the plain facts. The United States government is doing a terrible job, one comparable only to the poor response from other authoritarian regimes like those of Brazil or Russia. (Brazil's dipshit president, who dismissed the coronavirus as a media trick, just tested positive.) Our citizens are banned from Europe as the adults in the room put us on timeout, and rightfully so. We are pariahs. All our government's got left is reactionary appeals to racism and xenophobia. Navarro brushed on it lightly here, trying to pivot to a focus on China's responsibility for the virus, but the president and his Fox News apparatchiks have turned to more guttural appeals.

You can say Navarro works for the president, so he would never criticize him. But if the government's response has completely failed, and tens of thousands of Americans will die as a result, then someone who feels they have some obligation to the public they purportedly serve might be driven to speak out, or at least resign. But again, these people know the deal and they're happy with it. They are not speaking to the free press in order to inform the public of their government's activities, they are there to performatively battle one of the various Enemies. They exist to serve one man's fickle needs, which is how we got back to fucking hydroxychloroquine by the end.

Hold up, I thought Navarro didn't want to comment on the science? As CNN's John Berman pointed out, it seems he's willing to comment on some science, just not the kind that might leave viewers with the impression that the president is a complete moron.

It's hard not to feel these days as if the American experiment has reached a kind of inexorable decline, that even the bread and circuses are in short supply. Of course, we can't go to the circus until we get the virus under control, which will not happen while these manifest incompetents are allowed to control the affairs of state. Many people are struggling to buy bread, as their livelihoods have been doubly decimated—first by an act of God, and now by the failure of man. This kind of display from White House officials does not particularly help things, as it tries to superimpose the circus aesthetic—or really, the WWE aesthetic—onto debates with life and death consequences. But it does serve to show us how far we've fallen.

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