Wednesday, April 15, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He held a meeting with his sixth pandemic task force, or at least the members he remembered to tell were on it.

Today, Trump held a phone meeting with members of what he is calling the "Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups." This is (at least) the sixth task force that Trump has inherited or convened to deal with pandemics. In chronological order, the first six were:

  1. the Obama-era intergovernmental working group Trump disbanded in 2018
  2. the initial ad hoc group of government scientists and public health experts who assembled themselves to deliver urgent warnings to Trump, which he largely ignored
  3. the first "task force" assembled by Trump, which has changed leadership three times
  4. the "shadow task force" assembled by Trump's son-in-law, the real estate heir Jared Kushner, and
  5. the "reopening task force" that Trump teased last week, featuring mostly his own relatives and cabinet secretaries, only to abandon it later.

The latest "group" is made up of more than 100 business and finance executives, along with Trump donors and "thought leaders." But in his haste to look busy assembling another committee, Trump forgot to tell some of its members they were on it. And those that knew, didn't know what they were signing up for. As one unwilling "member" put it,

We got a note about a conference call, like you’d get an invite to a Zoom thing, a few lines in an email, and that was it. Then our CEO heard his name in the Rose Garden. What the [expletive]? My company is furious. How do you go from "Join us on a call" to, "Well, you’re on the team?"

Invitees to a seventh task force, this one for members of Congress, were also surprised today to learn they were part of any such group.

Trump did a similar thing last month, announcing that Google would be building a massive nationwide website to help track the spread of COVID-19. He even specified the number of Google employees—1,700—who were supposedly working on it. (Google didn't know what he was talking about, and said so.) He also promised nationwide testing in the parking lots of supermarkets and department stores. (Eight total were opened over the entire country, and testing remains almost impossible to get in a timely fashion—unless you are likely to be sharing a room with self-described "germophobe" Trump.)

Why is this a bad thing?

  • Doing something about a crisis that is wrecking the economy and killing thousands of Americans every day is more important than looking like you're doing something.
  • Assembling a "task force" without telling its members they're on it probably means you're not going to listen to them anyway.