Thursday, April 16, 2020

Donald Trump seems desperate to receive credit for helping Americans through a pandemic -- even going so far as to break the law -- but the crisis largely was of his own making, through incompetence and hubris

Donald Trump and a coronavirus relief check

Just when you think Donald Trump can't get any more shameless . . . along comes news like this from yesterday: Trump wants to have his name appear on coronavirus relief checks. Is this morally grotesque? Yes. Is it also unlawful? Yes, a lawyer source tells Legal Schnauzer:

The stimulus money does not come from Trump. The stimulus money is the American people's money.

So, similar to Trump's scheme to use the People's $400 million to extort Ukraine to manufacture dirt on Joe Biden, Trump is now using the People's $2 Trillion in "Stimulus" benefits as a vehicle to display Trump's Name, so that Trump can turn stimulus checks into a political campaign effort. It is a violation of federal criminal law for a politician to use public money to advance that politician's political ambitions.

This comes two days after Trump used a White House coronavirus briefing to unveil a campaign-style video to extol his handling of the coronavirus outbreak.That came one day after Rolling Stone (RS) published "The President and the Plague," a scathing account of Trump's fumbling and bumbling response to the outbreak of a deadly virus.

By affixing his name to relief checks and turning the White House briefing room into a screening for a propaganda video, Trump essentially is trying to portray himself as helping Americans cope with a crisis that he largely created. And he's breaking the law in the process, as US. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) told MSNBC's Ari Melber:

Not only is it an ethical abuse, but it is a legal abuse. You cannot use official resources to campaign for office. . . .

They are engaging in a moral abuse of office, but they are also violating the law.

As for the Rolling Stone article, it is not the most timely account of Trump's virus debacle. But it likely is the most comprehensive and scathing critique so far. Also, it is expertly written by Jeff Goodell, in language that is concise and easily understood. Consider this, from the article:

The pandemic has already fundamentally changed virtually everything about modern life. The streets are eerily empty, we keep our distance from strangers, we worry that every cough is a harbinger of disease.

How bad this will get, and how we will weather the dark days ahead, is impossible to say. But we are deep enough into this pandemic now to see a few things clearly. The first is that President Trump has profoundly failed in his primary role: to keep America safe. The pandemic is not his creation, but as president of the United States, it was his job to make sure that we were prepared to deal with this before it happened, and then to react quickly when it did happen. After all, getting hit with a bad pandemic is not exactly a black-swan event. Virtually every public-health official in the world was openly warning of an outbreak for more than a decade. In 2005, President George W. Bush cautioned, “If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare.” During the presidential transition in early 2017, Obama’s national security team spent a full day with the Trump team, briefing them on the most pressing national security issues — including the threat of a pandemic. They even left the Trump team a 69-page book detailing what they had learned in viral outbreaks. In January 2019, the director of U.S. National Intelligence warned that the United States was vulnerable to the next flu pandemic and that it “could lead to massive rates of death” and “severely affect the world economy."

Did Trump have reason to see this coming? Absolutely, reports RS, and he still butchered it:

“This is the worst pandemic of our lifetimes, and everyone saw it coming,” says renowned epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, one of the key figures in eradicating smallpox in the 1970s and senior technical adviser on the movie Contagion. “And I mean everybody in this field saw it coming.”

Trump ignored it all. After he took office, he gutted the National Security Council of anyone with expertise in pandemics. Public-health budgets were slashed. International groups focused on disease and medicine, such as the World Health Organization, were shunned. “This is a global pandemic, and it requires a commitment to global cooperation and science,” says Rajiv Shah, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, who was a central figure in stopping the Ebola outbreak in Africa in 2014. “And it requires the president of the United States to lead.”

After the virus emerged from China, Trump spent nearly three months denying the threat it posed, playing it down, ignoring it, clearly worried that if he acknowledged it, it might tank Wall Street, which he believed was key to his re-election efforts. In January, he said, “We have it totally under control.” In February, he falsely declared that “we are very close to a vaccine,” and that “within a couple of days [the number of cases] is going to be down to close to zero.” In early March, he said, “It will go away. Just stay calm.” (Trump reportedly believed a widely circulated but scientifically unproven view that the virus would disappear as soon the weather warmed up.) He hyped the effectiveness of unproven drugs and all but promised to roll back social-distancing guidelines and have “the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” “No president has accomplished more in his first term than Donald J. Trump,” a senior administration official emailed me when asked for a comment on this article. “His unprecedented actions to protect the health and safety of the American people will ensure we emerge from this pandemic stronger and with a prosperous, growing economy.”

In fact, Trump mishandled virtually everything. As I write this, the United States has the highest caseload in the world, with many urban hospitals overrun, more than 16 million people out of work, and fights breaking out between Trump and governors such as New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer over scarce equipment, including ventilators and medical masks.

We have a president who is not known for listening or respecting the opinions and feelings of others. Americans are paying a monumental price for that:

“Trump’s pre-existing flaws as a leader have all come home to roost,” says Ben Rhodes, a speechwriter and deputy national security adviser to President Obama. “His disdain for expertise led him to disregard the many public-health experts he had in his own government. His disdain for international cooperation has led to a failure to work with other countries. His adversarial posture toward China made it harder to get cooperation out of the gate. Obviously his very tortured relationship with the truth has led him to repeatedly provide misinformation about what we’re facing. President Trump’s response [to the virus] encapsulates his own unfitness to handle the responsibilities of the office.”

A recent story in Foreign Policy — hardly a haven for partisan Democrats — called Trump’s response “the worst intelligence failure in U.S. history.” But Jeremi Suri, a presidential historian at the University of Texas, Austin, disagrees: “An intelligence failure is when you have the pieces but you haven’t put the pieces together,” Suri explains. “9/11 was a classic intelligence failure. We had all these signals, all these pieces of the story, but no one really put it together to think that they were actually going to be getting on planes and doing the things they did on planes.”

To Suri, Trump’s response to the pandemic is analogous to Joseph Stalin’s response in June 1941, when all his generals were telling him that Germany was about to attack the Soviet Union. “Every public-health expert in public as well as in private for the last five years has been predicting a pandemic exactly like this,” Suri says. “It is like Stalin being told by his generals, ‘Look, the Nazis are mobilizing. Look what Hitler’s saying. He’s going to attack.’ And Stalin saying, ‘No, it’s all phony. I don’t believe it.’ Well, you know what happened. Hitler invaded, as everyone predicted, killing more than 20 million of Stalin’s people.”

Former Secretary of State John Kerry tells me he considers Trump’s handling of the pandemic “a colossal failure. The entire national security process has broken down under Trump.” Suri goes further: “This is the greatest leadership failure in recent American history.”

When Americans receive their relief checks and see Donald Trump's name on them, perhaps they should remember that Trump largely created this crisis in the first place.

No comments: