George Boardman: Here’s some context for the latest installment of the Trump blame game
Observations from the center stripe: Money edition
THERE’S A lot of pressure on the government to get the stimulus money distributed quickly. That will be followed a year from now by reports of errors because the government distributed the money too quickly … ONE BENEFIT of sheltering in place: Our cars are a lot cleaner … ALL OF that comfort food I’ve been eating is starting to get comfortable around my mid-section … WASTED MONEY: Charmin toilet paper is running ads online … REALLY?: An official of the NBA players union said the suspension of games is hurting the players because about one-third of them live “paycheck to paycheck.” The minimum “paycheck” in the NBA is $582,000 a year … DONALD TRUMP’S new press secretary, the fourth in 38 months, said a couple of years ago he never lies. She’s perfect for the job …
The latest installment of the Donald Trump Blame Somebody Else traveling circus will soon be coming to a right wing website near you.
If you’re a regular viewer of Fox News, you’ve probably already seen a preview of what we’ve going to hear and see for the next couple of weeks: The coronavirus pandemic in the United States is the fault of China and the World Health Organization.
Trump, who refuses to take any responsibility for his administration’s slow and stumbling response to the pandemic, got things rolling last week when he suspended financial support for WHO because it allegedly failed to investigate reports coming out of China that pointed to cover-ups and misinformation regarding the source of COVID-19.
Trump said the pandemic could have been contained and lives saved if the United Nations agency hadn’t kowtowed to China. “The WHO failed in its basic duty and must be held accountable,” he said.
Fox picked up the cue, portraying China as the puppet master of WHO and the UN. There have been several reports, apparently leaked by U.S. intelligence agencies, suggesting that the virus originated in a bioweapons lab in Wuhan, not the city’s wet market as claimed by Chinese authorities.
John Roberts, White House correspondent for Fox, asked Trump about those reports last week. Roberts’ question was so detailed that it appears he was briefed by somebody in the know. Trump didn’t respond to the question directly, but then Roberts made the point for him. Well played, White House.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined the chorus, calling for China to come clean on the issue. A couple of Trump’s reliable foot soldiers in Congress suggested that China’s treachery triggered a major crisis in world history.
These are mild versions of what we’ve going to be hearing in the next couple of weeks — just wait until the internet crackpots kick in. All of this is designed to make Trump look blameless in the pandemic that has tanked the economy and profoundly altered our way of life.
We’re going to hear all of this because Trump’s enablers realize it really doesn’t matter how the coronavirus originated in China and what WHO did or didn’t do. All that really matters is how the Trump administration responded to a problem it didn’t create. His supporters are desperate to change that narrative.
So in an effort to provide some context to all of the claims, conspiracies, and space cadet theories you’ll be hearing for the next couple of weeks, I thought I’d provide a brief summary of what has actually happened to date. You can thank me later.
Despite Trump’s claims of bold and decisive action—he actually said that last week while announcing his guidelines for reopening the country — the truth is he dismissed early reports as alarmist, was slow to embrace the advice of the government’s medical experts, and has spouted misleading and untruthful information since then.
Here’s a summary of Trump’s comments on a possible pandemic from Jan. 22 to March 17 (WHO declared the global outbreak a pandemic March 11):
Jan. 22 — “We have it totally under control. It’s one person in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be fine.”
Feb. 10 — “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”
Feb. 24 — “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”
Feb. 26 — “When you have 15 people, and the 15 in a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
March 4 — “Well, I think the 3-4% is really a false number,” referring to a WHO estimate of people who have died from COVID-19.
March 7 — “I’m not concerned at all. No, we’ve done a great job with it.”
March 10 — “And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”
March 17 — “I’ve always known that this is real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”
Trump has been just as contradictory in his approach to every other aspect of the crisis. He has alternately touted his “excellent” relationship with governors while calling one a “snake” and suggesting that governors who don’t show proper gratitude for the administration’s assistance will be left out in the cold.
He has told the states it’s not the federal government’s job to supply them with needed medical equipment or coronavirus tests. He has even claimed states are requesting more equipment than they need and that some shortages can be traced to theft.
Trump has promised the public a vaccine “relatively soon” even though he has been told repeatedly by experts that it will take one to two years to get a vaccine. In the meantime, Trump has promoted use of the antimalarial drug chloroquine, falsely claiming the Food and Drug Administration approved use of the drug to treat COVID-19.
He has repeatedly claimed that anybody who wants a coronavirus test can get one, but just slightly more than 1% of the population has been tested. Business leaders have told Trump that the economy won’t be ready to resume activity until testing becomes far more widespread.
Somebody apparently introduced Trump to the Constitution because he’s now taking the position that it’s up to the governors to decide when to resume normal activities. Certainly they can’t screw things up any worse than he has, but that’s not the narrative you’re going to be hearing the next couple of weeks.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at email@example.com.
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