Although in his Wednesday press conference President Trump sought to quell Americans’ fears by expressing a more optimistic view about our ability to address the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) than is shared by the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), Mr. Trump did signal (notwithstanding his self-serving asides) that his government knows that the threat is serious, and that by appointing Vice President Mike Pence to be the Administration’s point man — despite reports that Mr. Pence failed to competently address an HIV outbreak in Indiana during his days as Governor — that the Administration is taking it seriously. Although the Administration’s record for dealing with scientific reality is atrocious, this challenge doesn’t involve any conservative shibboleths. I think we now need to wait to see whether the Administration’s efforts are effective.
On Thursday morning, MSNBC’s Morning Joe panel, while grudgingly giving Mr. Trump some credit for his response, noted that our national ability to address the virus is now somewhat hampered by the manner in which the Administration has, through budget cuts, reduced the strength of the CDC and other U.S. health agencies and our assistance to world health organizations. During his press conference, Mr. Trump brushed away such concerns, saying that the Government will be able to get needed people back and that we will spend the money we need to spend. For once, I tend to agree with the President: no matter the level of antipathy a wronged health official might feel about the Administration, the potential danger here is of sufficient magnitude that it’s hard to imagine that any relevant expert, if asked to serve, won’t immediately respond to the call. I also believe that money won’t be the problem: Mr. Trump indicated during his press conference that he was ready to take the funding appropriated by Congress, which is some four times larger than that the Administration had asked for. If Mr. Pence asks for more money in the future, I am confident that Congress will appropriate it. Right now, we are behind the curve, but as was the case after our Pacific fleet was destroyed at Pearl Harbor, we have the best talent, and despite our deep deficit, still have the financial means to stage a comeback. If we come up with a vaccine, our economic machine will reproduce it and distribute it worldwide. No American politician of any stripe will stand for drug company profiteering.
There is one other reason to feel optimistic: for once, our nation’s and the world’s health fortunes run in the same direction as Mr. Trump’s political fortunes. Members of the Morning Joe panel suggested that Mr. Trump’s focus during his press conference was to steady the financial markets. Perhaps; if so, it would reflect a lack of understanding that the S&P 500 consists of corporations with global operations whose profits seem destined to be significantly adversely by the disease’s worldwide impact no matter what happens in America. That said, I have trouble believing that the President doesn’t comprehend that if there is a significant panic and/or spread of Coronavirus in this country, and the Administration is perceived to have responded inadequately, he will lose the presidency resoundingly, even to U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders. This is the kind of threat that trumps (if you will) even our deep cultural divide – a threat, like an invasion, that will affect Red and Blue states equally. Any health crisis will overwhelm his messaging. He won’t — although he would undoubtedly try — be able to effectively shift the blame to Mr. Pence. I recall – subject to correction by those with perhaps better memories — that President George W. Bush’s core support actually began to dwindle during his second term not because of his egregiously terrible decisions in Iraq and the Middle East, but because of what was perceived to be his Administration’s inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina. So in this I have complete confidence: assuming that Mr. Trump understands that doing the right thing — in this case, to pull out all stops to control to the extent possible the spread of the Coronavirus in the United States — is in his best interest, he will do the right thing.
I know very little about the virus and the attendant illness (COVID-19), and others may feel the same. What follows are two links to recently-published descriptions of myths about the virus.
The World Health Organization
[Comment: since I believe that this is the first time I have ever posted on three consecutive days, this is to reassure exhausted readers of these pages that such is an aberration; given the need to tend to other chores — such as our income taxes – it may be a while before another note surfaces.]