Is the problem with the Trump administration that it’s staffed by incompetents, bootlickers, and industry lobbyists with no experience at disaster response, or is the problem with the Trump administration that it’s barely staffed at all? Both, actually.
The New York Times runs through some of the key vacancies and numbers: 20 of the top 75 jobs at the Department of Homeland Security are vacant or “acting.” At the Defense Department, it’s 21 of 60 top civilian positions. The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t have a second in command or a head of emergency preparedness. The Internal Revenue Service is seriously understaffed as the federal government launches an effort to get stimulus payments to people using the IRS taxpayer database. But as troubling as the numbers are, some of the details reported by The Times are worse.
Here’s one of the worst sentences I have read ever during this terrible time for our nation: “At the Department of Veterans Affairs, workers are scrambling to order medical supplies on Amazon after its leaders, lacking experience in disaster responses, failed to prepare for the onslaught of patients at its medical centers.”
They were unprepared for a pandemic even with months of warnings, so they’re trying to shop on Amazon, which is swamped with orders and notoriously running low on key supplies for the pandemic. And it’s the Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs its own major health care system. That right there tells you so much of what you need to know about this administration when it comes to basic competence and preparedness.
Not that we lack other examples: Take Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf’s inability, in late February, to tell a Senate committee how many cases of coronavirus there were in the U.S., how many respirators and ventilators were available, or how the disease was even transmitted. Or the hours-long lines at airports as Wolf’s department was unprepared to handle the flood of people trying to get home from Europe after Donald Trump’s hasty and unclear announcements of travel bans.
Then again, even an administration fully staffed with competent people might have been unable to overcome the lies and denial at the top.