Trump is still standing, after 3 plus years of malfeasance, corruption, serial firings of both competent and criminally compromised subordinates and a track record of outright lies and misrepresentation of facts unparalleled by any presidential administration in history.
The explanation behind why he could not be removed from office following impeachment, nor be held accountable in any other way, is that he has been the kingpin in a protection racket .
GOP elected members of the House and Republican Senators are the political targets of extortion by Trump and Trump’s red state voters are the enforcers. So far, the racket has held up flawlessly or virtually so. However, an event has materialized since the beginning of this year that has the potential to be a game changer – the Coronavirus or COVID-19 .
Before you dismiss this as yet another episode among the litany of others that Trump has persisted through by using his voting base as a blunt object against any substantive resistance within his own party, let’s at least examine why this could prove to be the exception to the rule so far.
One prominent facet of this is the legs it has. Yes, the impeachment and the Mueller investigation spanned a considerable timeline. But the impeachment inquiry, the hearings and the fake trial in the Senate, were considered by a sizable minority as being a political battle exclusively and a distraction that some argued, impeded Trump’s ability to govern.
“The Democrats will not let the president do his job,” said Robert Little, a 73-year-old Republican from Kannapolis, North Carolina. “Ever since he’s been in office, he’s done a lot of good things for the United States, but the Democrats’ only agenda is to get rid of Trump.”
That characterization was demonstrably false, but among those who maintained it, perception was reality. The net result was that a slight majority concluded that not only witnesses should have appeared before the Senate, but that Trump should have been removed from office on the charge of abuse of power.
The ratio, in the end, closely tracked Trump’s approval rating, which has never exceeded an aggregate of more than 45 percent during his term in office. Yet, at the same time, Americans, in consistent numbers, whether polled by Quinnipiac or Gallup, find Trump not to be honest or trustworthy. In the past 12 months, Trump’s favorables on honesty have never exceeded 37 percent.
What then would be the difference between public opinion – and more significantly, the views of voters on Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus contingency and that of whether the Senate should have removed him from office?
Ordinarily Trump would be judged by voters on comparatively abstract political merits in the upcoming national election in November. But as concerning the Coronavirus – crass, careless, politically self motivated, asleep at the wheel leadership has the potential to harm them, a loved one and carries an economic risk that could adversely affect their household finances. It’s likely to be classified as a proverbial “third rail” politically.
Why would voters assign blame to Trump’s maladministration of this spreading epidemic? Let’s outline that.
First is Trump’s dismantling of the very cabinet level resources that enable an administration to take swift, decisive action in such an emergency. Fortune magazine notes that:
The cuts started in 2018, as the White House focused on eliminating funding to Obama-era disease security programs. In March of that year, Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, whose job it was to lead the U.S. response in the event of a pandemic, abruptly left the administration and his global health security team was disbanded.
That same year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was forced to slash its efforts to prevent global disease outbreak by 80% as its funding for the program began to run out. The agency, at the time, opted to focus on 10 priority countries and scale back in others, including China.
The Washington Post reported that, “Countries where the CDC is planning to scale back include some of the world’s hot spots for emerging infectious disease, such as China, Pakistan, Haiti, Rwanda and Congo.”
There was also a contingency fund established by former Secretary of State Clinton, called the Complex Crisis Fund. That fund, which was purposed not only to attempt to head off violent conflicts in the developing world, but proactively deal with food security and early intervention into developing health crisis’ was cancelled also.
Laurie Garrett, a former senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Pulitzer Prize winning science writer, assesses that Trump’s budgetary pullback on funds to quickly react to and prevent the spread of communicable diseases, had virtually nothing to do with fiscal conservatism and, like other policies Trump has ended, has everything to do with the fact that the Obama administration initiated them.
Trump’s anti-Obama motive becomes apparent in rescission R18-27, which cuts $252 million in emergency response funding that had been set aside in the 2015 fiscal year during the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, which claimed more than 11,300 lives.
There is no good reason to rescind the $252 million in funds to combat the deadly virus, at a time when there are signs of a renewed outbreak that could pose a threat to Americans, except if the goal is to destroy a program created by Obama — merely because he created it.
Among the most prominent attributes of Trump’s presidency, has been an anti-intellectual, anti-science bias and a sense that agencies have the undesirable potential to contradict these anti-science, alternate fact assertions that Trump knows attendees at his political rallies so relish.
Trump reinforces climate science denial to his followers. He claims that wind turbines are connected with pollution, decimation of endangered species (Bald Eagles) and result in cancer. At the same time, Trump, calling global climate change, a “hoax”, as he has also called criticism of his administration’s handling of COVID-19, a “hoax”, once again asserting that the national news media is the “enemy of the American people” and claiming that coverage of it amounts to “hysteria”.
“[S]o far we have lost nobody to coronavirus in the United States. Nobody.”, Trump boasted in a South Carolina rally.
Though he conceded some Americans might die, Trump quickly added, “[W]e’ve lost nobody. You wonder if the press is in hysteria mode.” This was while people were actually dying from the virus and actually succumbed to it as reported the following morning.
On the pollution angle, there was this at a Turning Point USA Student Action Summit:
“But they’re manufactured tremendous — if you’re into this — tremendous fumes. Gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint — fumes are spewing into the air. Right? Spewing. Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going into the air. It’s our air, their air, everything — right?”
But he wasn’t done, there was more. There’s always more, when a man’s failed state of mind has no fathoms to its depths.
One of Trump’s first responses to the emerging health crisis of Coronavirus, was his off the cuff remark made February 10th that, “Now, the virus that we’re talking about having to do — you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April. We’re in great shape though. We have 12 cases — 11 cases, and many of them are in good shape now.”
The Coronavirus is not contained. It will not fade in the spring. Trump cut CDC by 9 percent. Trump eliminated the position at the global health security teams at NSC and DHS. They don’t know what they are doing. They are fixated on the politics and the stock market.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) February 25, 2020
For the sake of accuracy, it should be noted that there have been examples in the past where warmer weather has been thought to play a role – albeit minor, in the leveling off of transmission of a virus. To what extent this is the case and what the precise biological factors are that are related to that, researchers are still uncertain.
Epidemiologists are unanimous in agreeing that viruses such as COVID-19, should not be approached on such a speculative basis.
Columbia University epidemiologist Stephen Morse believes it is a fallacy to view the Coronavirus in the same context as annual outbreaks of influenza, in terms of introducing the false equivalence of the calendar into the management of the disease .
“A number of flu pandemics have come in late spring or summer,” Morse said, including the 2009 H1N1 pandemic flu and the 1957 flu in the U.S. Influenza viruses, too, do not show typical seasonal patterns in tropical areas, and the new coronavirus has already landed in those parts of the world.
Moreover, MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), showed robust persistence in the high temperature environment of such locales as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, indicating that weather has little to no mitigating effect on it. “We don’t see too much evidence of seasonality in MERS,” Stuart Weston, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told National Geographic.
Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch says that depending on a speculative factor, such as meteorological variances, is a distraction from the important work of testing, discovering more about the specific nature of the virus and actively preventing its transmission and spread. “An April end to the outbreak would be truly astonishing,” Lipsitch said.
“I think it will just be getting under way in much of the world”, said the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Nancy Messonnier, in a Feb. 12 telebriefing, obliquely referencing Trump’s comments, adding, “I’m happy to hope that it goes down as the weather warms up, but I think it’s premature to assume that. And we’re certainly not using that to sit back and expect it to go away.”
The president’s reckless disregard for the gravity of the situation as demonstrated by the fact that there is no basis to his dangerously uninformed statements, such as that it’s possible the Coronavirus might one day “disappear like a miracle”, warrant a re-examination of an event that struck worldwide, a little over a century ago – the 1918 influenza pandemic, known popularly as the 1918 “Spanish Flu”.
It was the most severe disease pandemic since the Black Death or “Black Plague” of the middle 14th century, where the number of resulting deaths are estimated at somewhere between 75 to 150 million plus.
Contrary to Trump’s notion about warmer weather being a panacea for that iteration of H1N1 virus, the 1918 – 1919 influenza pandemic, followed no such meteorological discipline. In fact, in the United States, the first cases identified, were those of returning Army troops from Europe in the Spring. The acceleration of the outbreak leveled off briefly, but then came back with a vengeance in the Fall.
According to estimates, half a billion persons contracted the H1N1 – one third of the world’s population, and approximately 50 million succumbed to the disease. It claimed 675,000 lives in the United States.
The CDC reports that no vaccination was able to be produced during the span of the outbreak and that the prevention and treatment factors (with the exception of antibiotics) were not much different a century ago than they are now.
“With no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with influenza infections, control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly.“
Then there was the comment Trump made while in India that “we’re very close to a vaccine”. Consistent with all other public statements, it is debatable whether Trump is simply badly informed, misunderstood some random piece of information that crossed his personal radar screen or is deliberately injecting misinformation for the purpose of tamping down news that he considers politically hazardous.
But the bottom line is that no, we’re not “close to a vaccine”. The vaccine, Trump referred to, was not one to address COVID-19, but instead, a vaccine for Ebola, which was already approved by the FDA in December of last year – a vaccine, it might be noted, that was innovated in spite of Trump’s deliberate negligence regarding the disease. The vaccine that Trump touts he’s going to “discuss” with various pharmaceutical giants – is, at the soonest, a year off.
Compounding all of this, are the attempts by the Trump White House, at his direction, to muzzle the very public health authorities in the respective cabinet agencies (CDC, HHS and NIH), that can disseminate the most valuable and accurate information. It is patently obvious that Trump wants to maintain an iron grasp on the narrative.
After reports about the effort to keep experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases from speaking to the media and public without prior White House authorization, met with widespread criticism, the administration backed off somewhat.
Even so, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) told MSNBC that Fauci was required to cancel several appearances on Sunday network news discussion programs.
“I can repeat what he said, he said, ‘I was to go on the Sunday talk shows five of them. The vice president’s office then took over the control of this situation, and told me to stand down, not to do those shows,'” Garamendi said, quoting Fauci.
The final blow to Trump’s re-election prospects will be the collateral effect on the U.S. economy which was already contracting before the Coronavirus specter arrived.
Trump can’t be held responsible for the outbreak of the virus, but he will be culpable for weakening the economy in various and sundry other ways and making it all the more susceptible to the effects of COVID-19 on commerce, industry and trade.
What do you think? Will Trump’s unpresidential handling of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic and possible eventual pandemic, derail his presidency? Share your thoughts with us in comments.