Trump’s culpability in this crisis began long before we had heard of COVID-19. In 2018, he disbanded The Global Health Security and Biodefense unit (the pandemic response team formed by president Barack Obama) that was responsible for pandemic preparedness. Though some members of the team were reassigned, this dismantling of the team left the U.S. unprepared for a pandemic. Trump also “streamlined” our ability to respond to a health crisis by allowing maintenance contracts to lapse on crucial equipment such as ventilators, and by failing to maintain and store sufficient supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE).
While he failed to act for that 10 weeks, did that cross his conscience? Was he hoping no one would notice? A leader with integrity might acknowledge that this was a huge mistake, quickly act to correct it, and go forward as best he or she could. At worst, a different leader might try to justify it, yet still do what he/she should to pick up the remaining pieces and act.
But Trump has shown us a new “worst.” Instead of responding to the quickly spreading virus, he pretended that none of it was happening until it was too late. He continues to discredit the warnings and advice of public health experts, and dismisses scientific data. The finger can point nowhere but to Donald Trump.
When it became clear that he could no longer avoid the crisis caused by the spread of the disease, he did little else but cast blame. Despite his administration’s own admonition against finger-pointing, he blamed his predecessor, Obama, for the federal government’s lack of pandemic preparedness, though, even if true, Trump has had three years to correct it. He blamed the states’ governors for needing too much from him. He blamed China because “they started it.” He blamed the Democrats, because, you know…Democrats.
“I don’t take responsibility at all,” said President Donald Trump on March 13, regarding the exponential spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.
And yet, when this is all over, if it is ever really over, Donald Trump will take responsibility for any scrap of perceived success or victory. In fact, he’ll hyperbolize it. We can expect him to again cite his “closing off the U.S. to China” as the one thing that prevented more deaths in the U.S. (He has already said it could have been “billions” of deaths out of our population of 330 million). He continually cites that one move because that is the only move he can claim.
In the absence of Donald Trump’s leadership, governors and other leaders have assumed responsibility for the well-being of their constituents, and have voiced their willingness to shoulder blame should their decisions have backlash. It’s notable, too, that these leaders have been quick to praise and give credit to many others’ responses to the pandemic.
Placing blame will not move us successfully through the COVID-19 pandemic. It does, however, make clear the trajectory our country took toward its current position as global leader in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases while lagging behind other countries in our pandemic response. The Trump administration’s “no finger-pointing” is a desperate attempt at making us forget that.
Fact-check: A timeline of how President Trump responded to the coronavirus | WGN [2020-04-05]
Donald Trump: criticism of coronavirus response is ‘political’ |
The Telegraph [2020-04-21]