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Trump: Let Them Breathe Cake

Relax, says the president, we don't need so many ventilators (Trish233/GettyImages)

Tonight on Sean Hannity’s show, President Trump said (just past the 25:40 point) that people are exaggerating the number of ventilators needed in this crisis. “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” said the president.

From The New York Times on Thursday:

What is really needed, a number of public health experts and former government officials say, is for Washington to take control of the nation’s existing ventilator supply. Because peak coronavirus infections will hit cities and regions at different times in the coming months, a centralized federal effort could send unused machines to hospitals that need them most.

“This is a national crisis,” said Frank Kendall, who served as under secretary of defense for acquisition and logistics in the Obama administration. “In a time of scarcity, you can’t leave it up to companies and governors to manage it themselves.”

Mr. Kendall said that only the federal government had the authority to take over the allocation of ventilators, both from manufacturers who are in the business of selling devices to the highest bidder, and state leaders unlikely to voluntarily let go of machines they fear they might need in the future.

“As the states become more desperate, someone has to referee the situation,” he said. “The marketplace isn’t set up to do that.”

The United States currently has between 160,000 and 200,000 ventilators, but could need up to a million machines over the course of the outbreak, according to the Society of Critical Care Medicine. In New York, the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., hospitals are already on the verge of running out, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week.


Mr. Trump’s solution has been to push the private sector to voluntarily address the shortage. In a Twitter post on Sunday, he encouraged the big car companies to jump in to help make ventilators, and General Motors and Ford responded with announcements that they would partner with medical device companies to produce the machines.

But military experts say Mr. Trump could also tap the logistical prowess of the Pentagon and the legion of defense contractors primed to quickly solve complex challenges. The federal government could address problems in the global supply chain that are depriving ventilator companies of the components they need to increase production.

Read it all. 

Gov. Cuomo said this week that New York alone would need 30,000 ventilators in the next few weeks to cope with the crisis. But Trump said on Hannity tonight that he didn’t believe that. Naturally, lickspittle Hannity didn’t challenge him.

A lot of people are going to die because of what Donald Trump believes. Earlier this week, Gov. Cuomo exhorted the president to invoke the Defense Procurement Act to compel businesses to manufacture ventilators. Cuomo explained that businesses are ready and willing to do this, but the need the start-up capital that only the federal government can provide — and would provide under the Act. In an emotional conclusion, he said that thousands and thousands would die from a lack of ventilators. Watch this:

Why isn’t Trump using the DPA to speed the production of ventilators? From a NYT story the other day:

Administration officials, asked why they have been reluctant to use the full force of the Defense Production Act to press industry into action, say the country is not in such dire straits. There is plenty of volunteer cooperation, they say, and there is always the implicit threat of ordering mandatory measures if they do not. Mr. Trump, at the news briefing, suggested an ideological concern as well. “We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business,” he said.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the heads of major corporations have lobbied the administration against using the act. They say the move could prove counterproductive, imposing red tape on companies precisely when they need flexibility to deal with closed borders and shuttered factories.

Mr. Trump and the director of his national economic council, Larry Kudlow, as well as Mr. Kushner, were persuaded by those arguments, administration officials said.

To be clear, Trump is not making an argument that the DPA would be counterproductive. Tonight on Hannity, Trump said that he doesn’t believe there’s a need for all those ventilators!

On Thursday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said that the state could run out of ventilators as early as next week. A lot of people here in Louisiana are going to die from lack of ventilators. The machines that the President of the United States, in all his wisdom, says we don’t need.

To be clear, there is no way to get enough ventilators — complex machines — manufactured in time to meet the need. But Trump is not even willing to use the powers of his office to initiate the attempt. He’s not even making an argument for why it would be pointless to try to manufacture them. He’s just saying that he doesn’t think they’re needed. Maybe he was talking about New York alone with that figure. Even if so, again, doctors and governors are saying that nationwide, we have a staggering shortage of ventilators — a shortage that only government intervention under the DPA can begin to alleviate. We may not be able to get them manufactured quickly enough to save many people in crisis now, and over the next few weeks, but as Dr. Fauci and others have said, we’re going to have a second wave of coronavirus cases this fall and winter.

From The Hill:

Governors are also urging the Trump administration to play a larger role.

“We would really like some help, because, otherwise, you’re left to just beg, borrow and steal from wherever you can get these things,” Edwards, the Louisiana governor, said on PBS Wednesday night. He said the state has requested 5,000 ventilators from the federal stockpile but has not heard back yet on the request.

“And so we are asking the federal government to have a bigger role in this,” he added. “Because I don’t know that it gets sorted out in the short term any other way.”

What is wrong with this man, Donald Trump? I listened to that entire Hannity interview on Thursday night, and it was mostly self-praise by Trump regarding his crisis response, and bitching about how unfair the media are, and how unpleasant the governors of Washington and Michigan are to him. We are living through nemesis.


[Note: Took down the Andy Slavitt tweets, after he retracted them]

Meanwhile, the Times reports:

The White House had been preparing to reveal on Wednesday a joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems that would allow for the production of as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators to respond to an escalating pandemic when word suddenly came down that the announcement was off.

The decision to cancel the announcement, government officials say, came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive. That price tag was more than $1 billion, with several hundred million dollars to be paid upfront to General Motors to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., where the ventilators would be made with Ventec’s technology.


At the center of the discussion about how to ramp up the production of ventilators is Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House aide, who has told people that he was called in two weeks ago by Vice President Mike Pence to produce more coronavirus test kits and who has now turned his attention to ventilators.

He has been directing officials at FEMA in the effort. Two officials said the suggestion to wait on the General Motors offer came from Col. Patrick Work, who is working at FEMA. Some government officials expressed concern about the possibility of ordering too many ventilators, leaving them with an expensive surplus.

They’re afraid they’ll build too many? This is what they’re worried about in this crisis?!

UPDATE.2:A Michigan news station reports:

After President Donald Trump issued scathing comments about Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, saying she’s “not stepping up,” and “doesn’t know what’s going on,” she told WWJ 950 the state is having trouble getting the equipment they need to fight the novel coronavirus.

“What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts — They’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan,” Whitmer said live on air. “It’s really concerning, I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on.”

The other stuff was Trump speaking with Sean Hannity on FOX News about Whitmer, a Democrat who has said very pointed things about the federal government’s lack of coordinated response to the coronavirus crisis. Trump said of Whitmer, “She is a new governor, and it’s not been pleasant … “We’ve had a big problem with the young — a woman governor. You know who I’m talking about — from Michigan. We don’t like to see the complaints.”

If true, that is beyond disgusting — POTUS not sending medical supplies to Michigan because its governor won’t kiss his rear end.

Former NYT reporter Alex Berenson lays into the Times for the “we need a million ventilators” story. Here’s the whole thread. Excerpts:

Here’s a link to the actual SCCM paper. 

OK, so we don’t need a million new ventilators. But would it kill us to put 100,000 on order, and start training extra personnel to get ready for the fall and winter spike?

UPDATE.3: Oh Lord have mercy:

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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