I’m getting sick and tired of debunking Mainstream Media myths spread about the Trump administration’s failures in dealing with the CCP Virus (as I have now taken to calling it, in honor of the Chinese Communist Party regime’s role in covering it up and thereby preventing timely responses all over the world). And maybe you’re getting sick and tired of reading them.
All the same, the attacks keep coming, and three in particular that have appeared in the last week – which happen to be closely related to each other – are screaming out for pushback.
Off the bat, though, some essential context: As I’ve tweeted repeatedly, I agree that the President’s anti-Wuhan Virus (another monicker I’ve been using) policy has been flawed. Chiefly, Mr. Trump does deserve criticism for claiming until recently that everything’s under control – although I can’t help but continuing to note that the World Health Organization (WHO) didn’t declare the situation to be a global pandemic until March 11. That’s a grand total of nine days ago.
In addition, testing of course took off way too slowly. I strongly suspect that this stemmed from outmoded guidelines and manufacturing processes at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that predated the Trump inauguration. But the buck in the U.S. government ultimately and rightly stops on the President’s desk, and a Chief Executive who’s described himself as a Can-do-type disrupter should have stopped the agency’s business-as-usual approach faster.
As for the broadsides with much less, if any, merit? The first concerns the claim that the administration foolishly abolished the National Security Council (NSC) office that it inherited from the Obama administration that focused on protecting the country from pandemics. This allegation, first made by that office’s first director, has been (to put it charitably) exposed as misleading by one of her NSC successors, Tim Morrison.
He’s explained that the office’s responsibilities were merged into a new office that looked at pandemics more holistically, because they’re closely related to challenges like those posed by weapons of mass destruction generally. And Morrison has contended – credibly – that thanks to various preparations made by this reorganized NSC, an Ebola outbreak was quashed quickly.
To be sure, as I’ve pointed out, the emergence of diseases in regions like Central Africa, which have scant connections with the global economy, and in places like China, which have extensive connections, pose dramatically different challenges. And I continue to think, as argued, that bureaucratic reforms involving such tiny government agencies are game-changers in real-world terms. But you’d think that the initial accuser, Beth Cameron, might consider apologizing. And that the Washington Post would acknowledge a huge fact-checking failure (though it did run the rejoinder).
What’s even less well known – and has gone even more scantily reported than the Morrison observations – is that Mr. Trump’s predecessors approved decisions that actually do look like genuine pandemic defense downgrades. According to this TIME magazine post:
“The Trump Administration has become the third White House in a row to downgrade or eliminate the senior White House personnel tasked with tracking disease and bioterrorism threats, according to Kenneth Bernard, a retired Rear Admiral and physician, who served as a special assistant to the president for security and health during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.”
Bernard “served in the top role in the Clinton National Security Council, only to be ignored by the incoming George W. Bush Administration, which eliminated his special advisor position.
“But after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington spurred fears Al-Qaeda would follow up with a bioweapons attack, and the anthrax attacks of 2001, the Bush Administration re-established the office, bringing Bernard back to serve as the first former Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense, as a subset of the White House’s Homeland Security Council (HSC), which later helped combat outbreaks of SARS and the Avian Influenza.”
And as for the Obama record:
“Under Obama’s NSC, Bernard says the office was downgraded again, until the 2014 Ebola crisis emerged, and President Barack Obama appointed ‘Ebola Czar’ Ron Klain. National Security Advisor Susan Rice later institutionalized the office in 2015, calling it the Directorate for Global Health and Security and Biodefense.”
Not exactly a model of foresight.
The next two myths were propagated (and weirdly invalidated at the same time) by this supposed Politico scoop about a transition-period Obama administration warning to the incoming Trump administration to ramp up for an inevitable big-time pandemic. The thrust of the article, written by Nahal Toosi, Daniel Lippman, and Dan Diamond, is that outgoing Obama officials held a briefing with soon-to-be Trump counterparts on the potential dangers of the kind of bio-threat being faced by the nation right now, and that the Trump-ers were decidedly uninterested.
The allegedly clear implication, as the article quoted former national security advisor Susan E. Rice as recently writing: “Rather than heed the warnings, embrace the planning and preserve the structures and budgets that had been bequeathed to him, the president ignored the risk of a pandemic.”
As noted above, the structures and budgets point is bogus. But so is the warnings point. And we know this in part because, as Politico stated (in paragraph 18), “None of the sources argued that one meeting three years ago could have dramatically altered events today.”
Also important to note: The authors presented documents presented at the meeting, and they make clear the phoniness of both the charge that Trump officials were (uniquely) caught flat-footed by CCP Virus testing requirements, and that the leadership vacuum they’ve created has given the states no choice but to fill a gap that’s not their responsibility.
Except the documents say absolutely nothing about boosting testing capabilities or modifying CDC guidelines. And they specify that “State and local governments lead public health response,” especially when it comes to “hospital preparedness and response.”
Recent news reports have created some optimism that effective anti-CCP Virus medicines may be developed sooner than initially expected. Too bad there’s no reason to think that another serious malady – Trump Derangement Syndrome – will soon come under control.