It took a while to arrive. But now the United States is facing its first crisis not generated by Donald Trump since his election. And things don't look good. Paul Krugman writes:
The story of the Trump pandemic response actually began several years ago. Almost as soon as he took office, Trump began cutting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leading in turn to an 80 percent cut in the resources the agency devotes to global disease outbreaks. Trump also shut down the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council.
Experts warned that these moves were exposing America to severe risks. “We’ll leave the field open to microbes,” declared Tom Frieden, a much-admired former head of the C.D.C., more than two years ago. But the Trump administration has a preconceived notion about where national security threats come from — basically, scary brown people — and is hostile to science in general. So we entered the current crisis in an already weakened condition.
And once the microbes arrived, consider what the Trumpian response was:
The first reaction of the Trumpers was to see the coronavirus as a Chinese problem — and to see whatever is bad for China as being good for us. Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, cheered it on as a development that would “accelerate the return of jobs to North America.”
The story changed once it became clear that the virus was spreading well beyond China. At that point it became a hoax perpetrated by the news media. Rush Limbaugh weighed in: “It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump. Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus. … The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”
Now that the bugs are everywhere, what has Trump done? He's put Mike Pence in charge. Unfortunately, Pence has a track record when it comes to public health:
Early in his political career, Pence staked out a distinctive position on public health, declaring that smoking doesn’t kill people. He has also repeatedly insisted that evolution is just a theory. As governor of Indiana, he blocked a needle exchange program that could have prevented a significant H.I.V. outbreak, calling for prayer instead.
And now, according to The Times, government scientists will need to get Pence’s approval before making public statements about the coronavirus.
Trump says that the bugs will go away when the weather gets warmer. What does all of this tell us?
The Trumpian response to crisis is completely self-centered, entirely focused on making Trump look good rather than protecting America. If the facts don’t make Trump look good, he and his allies attack the messengers, blaming the news media and the Democrats — while trying to prevent scientists from keeping us informed. And in choosing people to deal with a real crisis, Trump prizes loyalty rather than competence.
But none of this is new. The Donald has acted this way since his first day in office.
Image: Mayo Clinic News Network