Sunday, April 5, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He got mad about the reported fact that his administration has just now started ordering medical supplies.

Today looked like it might be the first day in almost a month without a press briefing featuring Trump and his coronavirus task force—meaning the official one, and not the "shadow task force" run by his son-in-law, the real estate heir Jared Kushner.

But late in the day, Trump abruptly tweeted that there would be a briefing because of "new information." Although the briefing lasted more than an hour, it's not exactly clear what that new information was meant to be. The actual medical experts in the room addressed much of the same points they have in recent days, and Trump continued encouraging patients to demand a potentially dangerous and so far unproven drug therapy that has led to shortages in hydroxychloroquinine for patients with other diseases who actually need it.

Towards the end, a reporter asked about a long article in Saturdays' Washington Post that detailed the "delays, denial and dysfunction" in the Trump administration's response to COVID-19. It included a number of shocking new revelations, including that the federal government did not even try to order more critical care, testing, and protective equipment until late March. As the Post summarized:

The Trump administration received its first formal notification of the outbreak of the coronavirus in China on Jan. 3. Within days, U.S. spy agencies were signaling the seriousness of the threat to Trump by including a warning about the coronavirus — the first of many — in the President’s Daily Brief. 

And yet, it took 70 days from that initial notification for Trump to treat the coronavirus not as a distant threat or harmless flu strain well under control, but as a lethal force that had outflanked America’s defenses and was poised to kill tens of thousands of citizens. That more-than-two-month stretch now stands as critical time that was squandered.

Q: On the equipment issue, records show that federal agencies did not begin— 
TRUMP: Oh, stop it.

Q: Did not begin— 
TRUMP: Who are you with? By the way, who are you with? Who are you with? 
Q: The Associated Press. Agencies did not begin— 
TRUMP: [unintelligible] 
Q: Did not begin to purchase respirators and masks until mid-March— 
TRUMP: Are you ready? Are you ready? Let me just answer your question, because I know exactly, you know, same question you ask all the time. Are you ready? They have done an unbelievable job delivering for the Associated Press. Which is, uh, you know, not so great. Not like it used to be. Uh, the — people that you're looking at, FEMA, the military, what they've done is a miracle. What they've done is a miracle. In getting all of this stuff. What they've done for states is incredible. And you should be thanking them for what they've done, not always asking wiseguy questions. 

Trump then ended the briefing and immediately stormed away from the podium.

Why should I care about this?

  • It's not the media's fault if the president can't or won't take action in a crisis.
  • Trying to bluster reporters into not asking questions about problems doesn't make the problems go away.
  • Presidents who can explain why something isn't a problem, or isn't their fault, usually do.