Honesty is the best policy.
Last week, President Donald J. Trump used a press briefing on coronavirus to play what many felt was a propaganda-like video praising his response to the pandemic. In short, this video criticized members of the media and Democratic Party while celebrating President Trump’s actions, beginning in March, to help control the spread of coronavirus in America. Despite this video’s intentions it was challenged on the airwaves, through social media, and, notably, by journalists like Paula Reid of CBS. Each of his detractors echoed a similar sentiment: the president was dishonest about his pandemic response.
To the point of President Trump’s critics, his propaganda-like video promotes a revisionist history which must not be supported. Otherwise, this time in US history runs the risk of misrepresenting key events, much like the origin of Thanksgiving and voyages made by Columbus to the “new world.” While the Trump administration is now working to better the lives of Americans — in ways they see fit — what should not be ignored are the problematic behaviors President Trump displayed prior to coronavirus spreading and the missed opportunities of his administration, which has ruined many lives.
Throw the stone
President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic began with his failure to accept the severity of the virus. In fact, he repeatedly downplayed the emerging threat prior to March, instead focusing on controlling the message, protecting advances in the economy, and ignoring warnings from senior officials. Notably, Peter Navarro, President Trump’s trade adviser, warned the president on January 29th via memo that the coronavirus could greatly cost the US and potentially kill millions of Americans. Navarro would later send out another memo, dated February 23rd, asserting that as many as 100 million Americans could become infected and “1–2 million souls” might be lost due to the pandemic. President Trump ignored both warnings. US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar II also echoed the sentiment of Navarro during January, reportedly calling the president to alert him about the coronavirus. In response, President Trump dismissed Azar as being “alarmist” and instead focused on his impeachment trial happening in the US Senate at that time.
According to Lipton et al. (2020), the Trump administration’s chaotic culture contributed to the coronavirus crisis now faced by the US. Lack of preparation and failure to execute helpful orders, in addition to the president’s focus on media — chiefly liberal media — and his choice to follow his gut rather than key data, has potentially cost thousands of Americans their lives. Additionally, Tisdall (2020) purported that President Trump regularly spread false or misleading information. This is evidenced by his propaganda-like video from last week as well as past assertions made dismissing worries about coronavirus, instead calling it a “new hoax.” It is also worth mentioning that confirmed cases of the virus grew from 15 to 4,226 over nearly three weeks from February 26th through March 16th (Lipton et al., 2020), despite initial claims from President Trump that the US was doing well.
Throughout America’s hardship the president seemingly communicated to audiences that his direction alone should be followed. This ideology is dangerous when considering his various errors and poor judgment. Those who support President Trump’s ideology may have followed his lead while ignoring other informational sources, which one could argue resulted in more infections.
Hide the hand
Despite the blame assigned to President Trump for his coronavirus response, some may feel the current outcome was inevitable due to the virus being a novel occurrence. However, the failure to adequately address such a pandemic comes from more than just current decision making. In 2018, John Bolton, former national security adviser to the White House, quickly disbanded the White House National Security Council’s Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, initially put together by President Barack Obama after the 2014–2016 Ebola epidemic as a way to prepare for future disease outbreaks. This team was never replaced. In April 2018, Bolton also fired Tom Bossert, former Homeland Security Advisor, who alongside other former Trump administration officials tried warning people about the coronavirus pandemic before it spread. During the time pandemic response teams were being dismantled, both the Trump administration and Bolton reportedly claimed cuts would help streamline the National Security Council (Lopez, 2020).
Preexisting response teams for both epidemics and pandemics are necessary to help control the spread of disease and possibly have contingencies in place for shortages in resources. According to Shesgreen (2020), President Trump has acknowledged cutting global health experts from his staff as well as trying to take away funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and other agencies charged with identifying and responding to outbreaks such as coronavirus. When questioned about his decision-making during a White House press briefing on February 26th, the president responded saying:
“Some of the people we cut, they haven’t been used for many, many years. And if — if we have a need, we can get them very quickly. And rather than spending the money — and I’m a businessperson — I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them. When we need them, we can get them back very quickly.”
Face the music
Today, President Trump is arguably playing catch-up to deal with the coronavirus crisis now plaguing America. The country was ill-prepared to respond and is now suffering from lack of medical personnel and equipment as well as dealing with mass panic, sickness, and death. For the president to try and re-write history by way of now blaming the Obama administration, claiming to have seen the pandemic coming, and so on is dishonest, dangerous, and unnecessary at this time. Instead, he should put past grievances aside, acknowledge his wrongdoings, and work with the proper channels to ensure the safety and protection of all Americans. Unfortunately, the US seemingly takes pride in putting politics before lives. This is evidenced by an NPR interview with Politico reporter Dan Diamond, in which Diamond stated that President Trump did not initially push to do aggressive coronavirus testing due to concerns about how it would impact his potential reelection.
America’s failure in this time of crisis must never be forgotten, and missteps leading to mass spread of the coronavirus should be used as a learning tool for future outbreaks. Failure to do so may lead to history repeating itself. Therefore, the president’s propaganda-like video and further attempts at deceiving spectators must always be challenged.
Lipton, E., Sanger, D. E., Haberman, M., Shear, M. D., Mazzetti, M., & Barnes, J. E. (2020, April 11). He could have seen what was coming: Behind trump’s failure on the virus. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/11/us/politics/coronavirus-trump-response.html
Lopez, G. (2020, April 2). The trump administration’s botched coronavirus response was years in the making. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/3/14/21177509/coronavirus-trump-covid-19-pandemic-response
Shesgreen, D. (2020, March 18). ‘Gross misjudgment’: Experts say trump’s decision to disband pandemic team hindered coronavirus response. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2020/03/18/coronavirus-did-president-trumps-decision-disband-global-pandemic-office-hinder-response/5064881002/
Tisdall, S. (2020, April 12). US’s global reputation hits rock-bottom over trump’s coronavirus response. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/apr/12/us-global-reputation-rock-bottom-donald-trump-coronavirus