Thursday, April 30, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He resumed scapegoating.

Last week, Trump heard directly from his own campaign manager, Brad Parscale, that his very high-visibility failures during the coronavirus crisis were hurting him politically and in danger of costing him re-election. Trump responded by becoming angry and threatening to sue Parscale—for what, it's not clear.

But that warning may have been the catalyst for Trump's very, very brief hiatus from his strategy of appearing every day on TV to blame others for his own administration's inability to contain the U.S. outbreak of COVID-19.

Today, he gave up and fully recommitted to that strategy. During a meeting with New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, Trump once again falsely blamed the Obama administration for leaving him with a "broken test."

TRUMP:  Let me just tell you, we have — we started off with empty cupboards.  The last administration left us nothing.  We started off with bad, broken tests and obsolete tests. 
What we’ve come up with, between the Abbott Laboratories, where you have the five-minute test.  Did they test you today? 
GOV. MURPHY:  They did test me. 
TRUMP:  Good.  Now I feel better.  (Laughter.)

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in humans occurred in November 2019. There were no "broken" or "obsolete" tests for a virus that had never been seen when President Obama left office in January 2017.

There were "broken" tests for COVID-19, though: the ones that the Trump administration insisted on developing even though the World Health Organization had already made a reliable test available. Those faulty tests gave inconclusive results.

Trump has also said, out loud, that doctors should try using influenza vaccines—and household cleaning products—so it's possible he genuinely doesn't understand how viruses and vaccines work well enough to know why any faulty tests for the brand-new coronavirus happened on his watch.

But Trump does seem a little clearer-headed on the danger the coronavirus poses to him personally. His question to Gov. Murphy was rhetorical: it is not possible to get anywhere near Trump now without being screened for a fever and given one of the still-rare rapid tests.

How is this a problem?

  • Actually solving the testing shortage is more important than placing blame for it.
  • Politicians shouldn't ask hundreds of millions of Americans to take risks they themselves aren't willing to.
  • If Trump can't understand viruses at a fifth-grade level three months into a disease outbreak that has killed more than 63,000 Americans, he's probably never going to.