Trump is bringing America down (BAD) –COVID-19, democracy and brand
President Trump’s mantra should not be Making America Great Again but rather Bringing America Down (BAD), to the detriment of the country and the world. His handling of the COVID-19 has been abysmal, his assault on democracy since taking office has been relentless and intensified during the pandemic and America’s brand which has been severely impaired starting from day one of his administration has taken another huge hit because of his actions/inactions in the pandemic.
America leads the world in terms of the number of infections, 1.5 million and deaths, over 92,000 because of Trump’s actions and inactions. He ignored warnings in December 2019, dismissed the disease as a “hoax”, labelling it as insignificant, less than the common flu that will simply disappear. He had dismantled the pandemic unit in the National Security Agency (NSA), discarded the playbook and reduced the world pandemic unit inherited from his predecessor. He had also significantly reduced funding for the Center for Disease Control (CDC), measures that severely damaged the infrastructure that is crucial in dealing with such pandemics. Once the severity of the situation became apparent he has treated it as an opportunity to enhance the Trump brand, as a re-election campaign with his regular briefings. Inserting himself at centre stage, spewing lies and misinformation, denying experts the time and space to provide useful and credible information to the public.
All the time he is parading before the media, he is ignoring the real work of managing the crisis, not taking timely and decisive actions such as enacting the Defence Production Act, a measure designed to deal with such major emergencies. Even when he eventually implemented the act he has not used it effectively in resolving production and supply chain issues and rather than taking a coordinated approach, he has abandoned individual states (in the USA) to fend on their own, often fighting each other and the federal government in securing testing materials and other relevant equipment. He has now moved on, even with the disease still raging to rapidly reopen the country and economy because he sees the economy as a winning tool even though experts, including economists, are saying that without the relevant measures, namely ramping up testing, tracing and isolating infected people, he is inviting more deaths and social and economic misery. But then he does not do empathy, he is only in it for Trump. In the long run, unlike other countries, he has placed the US at a disadvantage in reopening because he has not properly targeted the stimulus funding, notably to companies to retain staff or the green economy. Such targeting, which European and Asian countries have adopted, would speed up the recovery and move countries into the green economic revival – but obviously the green economy is anathema to Trump.
Trump’s chaotic management of the pandemic and his obsession with his re-election campaign has severely impaired the activities of key stakeholders, namely CDC and individual states (within the USA). The CDC which has normally taken the centre stage in such pandemics in the US and world has been kept off that pivotal position, playing a minimal role in Trump’s regular briefings and having its advisory document/guidance notes held up and edited (watered down) by the White House to the point of being virtually useless to individuals, businesses, organisations and states and local authorities. States, which have been largely left to fend on their own have been pressured by Trump to relax lock down measures that were implemented to deal with the pandemic in his misguided aim to resuscitate the collapsing economy, even as many states have failed to meet thresholds set by the White House task force which must be met before such measures are relaxed.
In addition to his chaotic management, rather than being part of the solution to the problem, Trump has caused serious health issues with some outrageous statements. He has promoted the use of Hydroxychloroquine as a treatment and recently announced that he has been taking the drug. It should be noted that his Food and Drug Administration department put out a statement on 24th April saying the drug has “not been shown to be safe and effective in treating Covid-19”. Studies, including one by his administration’s Veteran Association, have shown that the drug is not effective and can even be harmful to patients. He has suggested the injection of disinfectant. He has noted that increased levels of testing, which he deems overrated, are the problem, which by implication means the rate of testing should be reduced not expanded. He has supported and exhorted protesters opposing lock down measures. Members of the public have injected themselves with disinfectants, there are reports that some states, notably Florida and Georgia, have allegedly been suppressing the number of infections and his support has fuelled anti- lock down protests.
In short, Trump failed to act early enough, mismanaged the pandemic and has compounded the problem as well as other health issues. the estimate is that his actions/lack of actions is responsible for 90% of the deaths in the US. In a stinging statement to the House of Representative by Dr Rick Bright, the expert who had been removed from his position as head of the government’s vaccine programme because of his opposition to the promotion of Hydroxychloroquine by the Trump administration, he catalogued the widespread list of errors made by the administration which exacerbated the pandemic.
Trump’s assault on democracy started even before his election when he asked Russia for help in undermining his opponent, which they complied with according to the Mueller investigation and a bi-party Senate committee. Following the Mueller investigation and the impeachment by the House of Representative, which the Republican-dominated US Senate did not ratify, Trump has made use of the pass given to him by Republicans in the senate to seek revenge, getting rid of staff for merely doing their jobs. In the last two months as the pandemic has taken hold, Trump has removed four Inspector Generals, officials who are supposed to conduct oversight on the efficiency and effectiveness of the government and fraud prevention.
In his management of the pandemic, Trump has intensified his assault on the democratic process. After the first stimulus package was enacted by congress, he removed Glenn Fine the Defence Department Inspector General who had been appointed as Chair of the Pandemic Response Committee to head the oversight authority responsible for oversight of the pandemic stimulus spending.
He removed Christie A Grimm from her role as Principal Deputy Inspector General at the Health and Human Services Department for her critical assessment of the lack of preparedness of the federal government in dealing with the pandemic. As noted above, he has been steadfast in his support for protesters against lock down measures by governors, many of whom have paraded with guns and threatened state politicians. He has continued his efforts at voter suppression including opposition to mail voting. He publicly acknowledged that that mail voting would adversely affect Republicans even though mail voting will be crucial in fighting the pandemic; there was a spike in infections in a recent election in Wisconsin. In the last few days, he has threatened to cut off federal funds from Michigan and Nevada if they proceed with efforts to expand mail voting.
The pandemic has also been used as a cover by the Trump team for a variety of nefarious activities which have been detrimental to democracy and oversight. His latest action although not directly related to the pandemic, was the dismissal of Steve Linick, the Inspector General at the State Department who had been investigating allegations of mismanagement in that department. That dismissal, was presumably because Mr Linick had been investigating reports that that the Secretary of State had been using the services of a political appointee for personal functions, using his office to prepare for a possible campaign for election as president and an arms deal by the Trump administration with Saudi Arabia; Trump had evaded congressional oversight through a technicality when he concluded that deal. The dismissal, which Trump acknowledged in a press briefing was at the behest of the Secretary of State, was done late on a Friday amidst a Covid-19 news-storm. Trump was no doubt using the media and public focus on the pandemic to bury his decision as did his Attorney General who withdrew the Justice Department’s prosecution of General Flynn, Trump’s (sacked) former National Security Officer who had pleaded guilty twice to offences. Trump’s convicted former campaign manager Paul Monafort was released from jail after serving only a tiny fraction (one year of a seven and half year term) of his term because of fears about the pandemic which has severely affected some prisons. His release is much earlier than normal procedures which require such an action to only be taken when a prisoner has served at least half of their sentence. MeanwhileTrump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, who had turned against Trump, who was also supposed to have been released on similar grounds, is still languishing in jail as are thousands of other prisoners who do not have connections to Trump.
The American brand has been severely damaged by Trump, from day one of this administration. The pandemic has intensified that damage, as the most inept country in dealing with the pandemic. Trump has achieved this by his mismanagement of the crisis and his statements. Trump’s America has notched up some ground-breaking records but not in a positive way. The richest, most powerful and technologically advanced country in the world which experts cited the best prepared for such a pandemic, with less than 5% of the world’s population has over 30% of Covid-19 infections and deaths from the disease. Over 15% of its workforce has been made unemployed by the disease. Its president is a joke around the world for coming up with the most absurd statements like injecting disinfectants. Rather than taking measures to remedy the situation, Trump continues to assign blame on everybody else, including his predecessor, President Obama, state governors and China. He has failed to join and indeed take a leading role in the world effort to address this scourge, castigated the World Health Organisation (WHO), withdrawing funds from that organisation and refusing to join a global push and funding for a vaccine. And he continues to spew lies and misinformation.
While most leaders have been silent on Trump’s destruction of the American brand, one of the oldest and most revered medical publication, The Lancet, in its recent editorial lambasted him and called on Americans to elect anybody else in the forthcoming presidential election. Covid-19 is a big beast and Trump has demonstrated that he is not capable of slaying it. Indeed he and America have taken a beating and the only way to confront this scourge is to have somebody at the helm that is capable of leading America and hopefully lead the fight against the pandemic.
Rogers is principal consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford (MEMO).
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