Today, during Donald Trump’s coronavirus press conference/Walmart plug, PBS’ Yamiche Alcindor asked the pr*sident about his administration’s decision to disband the National Security Council’s office on pandemics
My Q: You said you don’t take responsibility for slow response to coronavirus but your administration disbanded the White House office on pandemics?
President Trump: “That’s a nasty question…When you say me, I didn't do it. We have a group of people [in the administration].”
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) March 13, 2020
“That’s a nasty question.” And Alcindor is presumably another one of those “nasty” women.
But what’s really nasty is expectorating lung tissue onto the last pallet of Costco toilet paper in the Pacific Northwest in order to claim it for your personal fiefdom — simply because someone decided to save a few pennies by making government as useless as possible.
And, finally, Donald Trump is being called out for this supremely boneheaded move.
Enter Beth Cameron, the former senior director for global health security and biodefense on the White House National Security Council. When she left her position in 2017, her team was still intact, but the office was dissolved a year later in a move that “mystified” her.
So was this just another redundant bureaucracy that we could afford to 86? Apparently not. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Cameron clearly detailed what we lost by making government small enough to drown in a petri dish:
In a health security crisis, speed is essential. When this new coronavirus emerged, there was no clear White House-led structure to oversee our response, and we lost valuable time. Yes, we have capable and committed global and national disease-prevention and management organizations, as well as state and local health departments, all working overtime now. But even in prepared cities like Seattle, health systems are struggling to test patients and keep pace with growing caseloads. The specter of rapid community transmission and exponential growth is real and daunting. The job of a White House pandemics office would have been to get ahead: to accelerate the response, empower experts, anticipate failures, and act quickly and transparently to solve problems.
And here’s what her former team would have worked on, had they been allowed to keep their jobs:
A directorate within the White House would have been responsible for coordinating the efforts of multiple federal agencies to make sure the government was backstopping testing capacity, devising approaches to manufacture and avoid shortages of personal protective equipment, strengthening U.S. lab capacity to process covid-19 tests, and expanding the health-care workforce.
The office would galvanize resources to coordinate a robust and seamless domestic and global response. It would identify needs among state and local officials, and advise and facilitate regular, focused communication from federal health and scientific experts to provide states and the public with fact-based tools to minimize the virus’s spread. The White House is uniquely positioned to take into account broader U.S. and global security considerations associated with health emergencies, including their impact on deployed citizens, troops and regional economies, as well as peace and stability. A White House office would have been able to elevate urgent issues fast, so they didn’t linger or devolve to inaction, as with coronavirus testing in the United States.
So when Donald Trump says he doesn’t take responsibility at all for the lack of testing — well, that’s about as outrageous as it gets. The only thing that’s more outrageous is his risible and craven attempt to blame Obama.
In so many ways, this is a Donald Trump production. It’s not all his fault, of course, but our country is way behind the curve on containing the virus, and that’s largely, if not entirely, due to one adobe-headed dipshit of a disease vector.