(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)
When asked at yesterday’s White House presser why he had persisted for the longest time in denying the threat of COVID-19 and downplaying its danger to the American people Trump answered that he sees himself as the main cheerleader for the country, whose role it is to give positive information, apparently even if that information is incorrect and the message costs lives. Because of that attitude Trump only wanted to talk about lifting the ban on flavored vaping when in early January HHS Secretary Alex Azar wanted to inform him about the virus, and didn’t he read the ‘Memo to the US President’ China hawk Peter Navarro wrote on January 29th about the already spreading pandemic. Meanwhile the president was calling the virus a ‘hoax,’ fabricated by the Democrats to undermine his presidency, said that only fifteen Americans had been infected, of which ten had already recovered and the other five would soon follow, and predicted that the virus would miraculously disappear in the spring. The only action he initially took was blocking travel from China, although approximately 40,000 travelers still entered the US.
Now that after the ‘70 days of denial and inactivity’ documented by the Washington Post, and 15,000 American deaths, Trump finally realizes that the threat is real, he has gone to his default response to bad news caused by his own deficiencies: blaming everybody but himself. First China, for not having shared the seriousness of the pandemic from the very beginning, second the World Health Organization, for ‘calling it wrong,’ and finally the Governors, for not having better prepared their states. Instead of acknowledging the stupidity of his closing down the pandemic response unit of the National Security Council and removing its observers from China the president is considering to cut funding for the WHO in the middle of a global health crisis. Meanwhile Trump is continuing in his cheerleading role, crediting his leadership with having secured millions of respirators and tens of thousands of ventilators, while he claims that the US has done more testing than everybody else, which is demonstrably untrue. The truth is that there is only still scant access to testing, so that health care systems function largely in the dark.
As encouragement for the weary the president continues to peddle hydroxychloroquine in combination with one different drug as a potential cure, in spite of the fact that there is only anecdotal evidence of its benefits but more than anecdotal evidence of its risks. He keeps repeating that he’s not a doctor, but had no qualms about shutting up Dr. Fauci when the latter was asked about the potential benefits of that cocktail, after Peter Navarro, who is not a doctor either, got into a spat with Fauci during a meeting and had started stockpiling millions of pills.
Not losing sight of other pressing issues Trump fired the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, who according to him had done a ‘terrible job’ by sharing the whistleblower complaint with the House Intelligence Committee, as is mandated. The president also removed the candidate for Chairman of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee and replaced him with a White House Associate Counsel, so that he can turn a $500 billion support package into a slush fund for corporations.
Probably the most important function of leadership is ‘modeling,’ setting an example that can be followed by subordinates. At his daily pressers Trump sets a horrible example, constantly lying and attacking reporters, sometimes even from Fox News. Fortunately his example is not followed by most of the governors who are effectively in charge of the response to the crisis, and that is a reason for some hope.
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