Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin has good advice: Save time: Assume Trump is inept and lying. (Tnx to Roving Reporter Sherry.)
President Trump last week told the country he activated the Defense Production Act, which allows the president to retool and redirect factories to make urgently needed equipment and materials in case of emergency.
On March 18, Trump issued an executive order finding, “To ensure that our healthcare system is able to surge capacity and capability to respond to the spread of COVID–19, it is critical that all health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of COVID–19 are properly distributed to the Nation’s healthcare system and others that need them most at this time.” The order declared that "health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of COVID–19, including personal protective equipment and ventilators” as well as additional resources could be identified by the secretary of Health and Human Services.
One problem: He set no goal for the production of materials, ordered no factories to be converted and set up no new distribution system so states would not have to fight one another for scarce equipment.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” FEMA Administrator Peter T. Gaynor had this exchange:
MARTHA RADDATZ: We know you’re working hard. The task force announced yesterday that 600 million N–95 masks to protect health-care workers have now been ordered. But no one on that task force, not the president, not the vice president, not you, could answer the question, “When will they be ready for use?” … So can you tell us this morning when those masks will be distributed and how many?
GAYNOR: …[Scriber: The bottom line is he did not and, I think, could not. You can read more on your own. Rubin has the whole transcript. Sickening.]
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Gaynor conceded that the act had not been invoked. The administration seems to be husbanding its powers rather than leading by directing a massive, national effort. (“I think that to demonstrate that we can use it, the president can use it any time,” Gaynor said.)
This is inexcusable. He clearly has no idea how many masks we have and how many have been shipped. He has no idea when current needs can be met. He was followed on “This Week” by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D). He said bluntly, “We are desperate for more PPE equipment, personal protective equipment. We’ve had a big ask into the strategic stockpile in the White House. They’ve given us a fraction of our ask.”
Then follows transcripts of interviews with state governors pretty much saying the same things.
This is a chaotic, dangerous situation that is entirely unnecessary. The Defense Production Act is designed to prevent the Wild West scenario and shortages.
Former homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson explained, “You cannot have a bidding war between one state and another over ventilators, the very medical device we use to cling to life. And so I hope the FEMA administrator has the authority he needs to prevent that and to actually enforce a proper allocation of, of medical supplies and resources.” He added, “The role of the federal government in a crisis like this is to not answer the question about how long schools are going to be out. That is a question for state and local authorities to enforce social distancing. The role of the federal government in a national crisis like this is actually to be the shipping clerk.” In short, Trump has no idea what his role is, provides no incentive for his administration to take the lead and, in fact, seems to prefer shoving off national obligations onto others.
Former vice president Joe Biden appropriately blasted the administration. “He is still failing, even this morning: despite telling the American people that he was using the Defense Production Act to bring the full force of our government to protect our doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals and get them the devices that they need to save Americans in hospitals who are literally struggling to breathe, his lead emergency management official says it is not true,” Biden said in a written statement. “Hospitals, mayors, and governors are forced to fend for themselves to secure the gear and equipment they need. … Mr. President, stop lying and start acting. Use the full extent of your authorities, now, to ensure that we are producing all essential goods and delivering them where they need to go.” He added, “President Trump’s dithering on preparing us for this global pandemic and his lies about his response to this dangerous crisis is one of the most unjustifiable failures of presidential leadership in American history.”
We should commend businesses that are engaged in voluntary efforts to provide medical supplies. However, what is being done is plainly insufficient. At a time we need federal leadership to direct production and take over distribution, Trump is AWOL. What he said was being done is not really being done. What he “hears” — there is no mask shortage — is blatantly false.
If a captain on a ship froze in the middle of a crisis, he would be relieved of command. If a CEO routinely dispensed false information and was incapable of getting into the weeds to rescue his company from a disaster, he would be fired. By any definition, Trump is failing, caring more about creating a Chinese boogeyman to blame than in competently addressing the problem before him.
This is not simply a matter of assigning blame for having left us unprepared and allowing precious time to slip by. This goes to Trump’s ongoing inability to competently manage the federal government. The Post reports that “the growing gulf between the White House and officials on the front lines of the pandemic underscored concerns in cities, states and Congress that Trump does not have a coherent or ready plan to mobilize private and public entities to confront a crisis that could soon push the nation’s health-care system to the brink of collapse.” In short, lives will be lost because no one can tell Trump he is wrong and making things worse.
As evidence, I submit the following from the Daily Beast. Trump Hints He Might Give Up on Social Distancing Next Week.
So far, social distancing appears to be the only measure that works when it comes to slowing down the coronavirus pandemic. But President Donald Trump hinted late Sunday that he may be ready to abandon the practice as early as next week to ease the effect the pandemic is having on the economy. Last Monday, the White House urged people to spend the next 15 days doing everything they can to slow the spread of the disease. He tweeted in all-caps Sunday night: “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!” The 15-day period is set to end next Tuesday. Anthony Fauci, an infectious-diseases expert and a prominent member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, has said previously that he thinks it will take several more weeks until people can start carrying on with their lives as normal.
Various news sources have reported on the masses of people on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and the beaches of Florida. These people deserve a huge mule kick to the head. Their willful actions will only prolong the pandemic and increase the number of fatalities, And now the president gets in that line.
Blood is on his hands. By his own admission, Trump does not listen and cannot learn. God help America.