COLUMN: Amid pandemic, leadership lacking
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COLUMN: Amid pandemic, leadership lacking

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Warren Buffet once said only when the tide goes out do you learn who has been swimming naked. Thirteen COVID-19 crisis response facts reveal the tide is out and our government has been caught with its pants down.

First, on or near Jan. 3, Donald Trump and the Center for Disease Control and Congress’s Intelligence Committee knew of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Finally, 73 days later, on March 16 Trump admitted the virus was “very bad” and declared a national emergency.

The Obama presidential transition team tried to prepare the newly elected president and his cabinet one week prior to the 2017 inauguration with a crisis role-playing exercise. Trump’s team was to follow the National Security Council’s playbook during a pandemic simulation; they failed the training. Sadly, a Trump-appointed NSC official admitted they dismissed the value of the 69-page playbook (Politico, March 25). Tell that to thousands of American families who’ve lost a loved one to COVID-19.

Furthermore, in May 2018, Trump authorized John Bolton, national security advisor, to “eliminate the National Security Council’s global health security unit and demote its pandemic experts” (Time, March 30). It gets worse. From January to August of 2018, Trump administrators participated in a Department of Health and Human Services pandemic exercise. A summary of the training noted how “underfunded, underprepared and uncoordinated the federal government would be for a life-or-death battle with a virus for which no treatment existed” (The New York Times, March 19).

Haley Edwards observed Trump hasn’t even nominated anyone to fill several high-level global health positions, which are paramount to a coordinated response to COVID-19 (Time, March 30). Since 2001 the CDC’s preparedness budget has been cut by 33 percent, and Trump wants to cut CDC by 15 percent more for 2021.

On the 84th day of the pandemic crisis, Trump finally invoked the Defense Production Act compelling companies to make ventilators; 84 days too late. It’s April, and we still don’t have a national strategic plan, a unified 50-state approach to attack COVID-19’s spread, or guidelines for classifying COVID-19’s risk, establishing COVID-19 immunity registries and putting USA’s Defense Logistics Agency to work.

Trump’s disastrous tariff trade war exacerbates our health crisis. Robert Zoellick, former deputy secretary of state, writes in The Wall Street Journal (March 19), “Trump’s tariffs leave the U.S. short on vital medical supplies.” The Health Industry Distributors Association warned Trump in August 2018 and repeated in June 2019 medical tariffs are “a risk to our nation’s public health preparedness.”

Chad Brown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics calculated Trump imposed $5 billion of tariffs on U.S. health-care companies buying Chinese-produced medical instruments (PIIE, Jan.). In the manner Trump ridiculed China, it has now diverted heretofore U.S. health-care imports to other countries; what goes around comes around.

These 13 examples demonstrate America’s health pandemic and resulting economic crisis clearly lands on Trump’s shoulders.

When Trump was asked on March 13 if he accepted responsibility for the debacle, he uttered, “No, I don’t take responsibility at all.” These seven words may be our 45th president’s legacy.

Sixty-one percent of citizens concur Trump’s culture of denial – a cauldron for failure — may be more dangerous than COVID-19, especially at a time when a responsible course of action is required. It’s obvious why 2.5 million of Trump’s 2016 supporters have already vowed not to support him on Nov. 3 (CCES-YouGov Survey).

I’m confident if Trump were reminded of these 13 facts, he’d continue to deny any responsibility. Trump has proven the buck doesn’t stop with him; it’s always someone else’s fault. Multiple bold-faced blunders by the Trump administration are killing America, literally and figuratively.

Steve Corbin is an emeritus professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa and former Denver Board of Education member. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect those of the University of Northern Iowa.

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