Home/Daniel Larison/Trump’s Coronavirus ‘Control’ Failure

Trump’s Coronavirus ‘Control’ Failure

President Trump, Vice President Pence (DoD)

The president continues to mislead the public about the government’s response to coronavirus:

The president has repeatedly paired false promises of “control” with inadequate or wrongheaded measures that have contributed to the worsening of the situation. Last week’s announcement of a 30-day ban on travel from some parts of Europe not only caused a panic among Americans because the president failed to describe the policy correctly, but it also set up a dangerous situation where returning Americans would face a huge bottleneck at major airports where customs officials were completely unprepared for the influx of travelers. The lack of resources and manpower combined with the lack of safety preparations meant that thousands upon thousands of people, some of them infected with the virus, were crushed together for many hours. If the goal had been to enable the spread of the virus to as many people as possible, one could hardly have designed it better.

Cheryl Benard recounts her experience at Dulles International Airport as she returned from Europe:

I had thought I was lucky to get one of the last seats home. And I was confident, because Dulles had been identified by the administration as one of the handful of U.S. airports equipped to test arriving passengers and admit or quarantine them accordingly, that I would find a rigorous protocol in place upon arrival. Obviously, the administration would not take such a momentous step without solid preparation.

I could not have been more wrong. Upon landing, I spent three hours in a jammed immigration hall trying to decide which analogy fit better: the ignorant Middle Ages during the plague years or the most chaotic airport in the least developed country [bold mine-DL].

The pictures you may have seen only begin to capture the chaos. There was no attempt to enable social distancing; we were packed closely together. Two giant queues of people — one for U.S. citizens and green-card holders and one for foreign nationals — wound their way through the cavernous hall. I counted and came up with approximately 450 people in each section, for a total of just under a thousand. Many were coughing, sneezing and looking unwell.

When I inched closer to the front, I could see that a scant six immigration desks were in service. Two additional desks to the left had less traffic. These are ordinarily for people in wheelchairs; now, the wheelchairs were mixed in with the rest. When I asked a security guard about the other lines, he told me they were for people with a confirmed corona diagnosis. There was no separation for this group — no plastic sheets, not even a bit of distance. When your line snaked to the left, you were inches away from the infected [bold mine-DL].

The mess at Dulles was replicated at O’Hare, DFW, JFK, and elsewhere. There were no preparations made because this administration never prepares for anything and doesn’t think more than one move ahead. Jeremy Konyndyk was understandably appalled by the latest in a series of debacles:

Meanwhile, one of the things that the government might be doing to get the situation more under control is one of the things that they keep failing to do:

When asked about the testing failure last week, the president infamously said, “I don’t take responsibility at all.” When pressed on the 2018 decision to eliminate the global health security team from the National Security Council that Trump approved on Bolton’s recommendation, the president professed ignorance about it and said that “someone else” had done it. As always, Trump’s own actions are someone else’s fault, and he accepts no responsibility for anything while seeking to take all the credit for other people’s work. The president will keep lying to the public that everything is under control while doing as little as possible to bring the outbreak under control.

In the midst of this ongoing failure, the Surgeon General berated the media for covering the administration’s major failures:

Criticism and calling attention to mistakes made by the government are the things that are supposed to make our political system better able to adapt and learn from failure. Understanding how and why government officials made critical errors is essential to limiting the damage from those errors and, if possible, rectifying them. Telling journalists that they should write fewer stories about how things got to this point is to tell them that they should give up any pretense of being reporters and just resign themselves to stenography. If not for the finger-pointing and criticism directed against the administration’s slow and inadequate response, it is likely that things would already be even worse than they are. Were it not for the very public embarrassment that extensive media overage of the government’s mistakes has caused the president and his allies, the administration would have felt no pressure to change. As it is, the administration is still not moving quickly enough, but if they weren’t being pushed by intense public scrutiny they would be even more behind than they are.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment

Latest Articles