Mike Pence is all over the airwaves Sunday, telling everybody about all the experts he’s hired and how the Trump administration is completely on top of the coronavirus pandemic and not to worry. One Senator who has made it clear he doesn’t feel so chipper about the subject is Mitt Romney. Romney was present at a closed-door briefing this week and he was among those who found the administration’s preparations “inadequate.” Washington Post:
The evening before, the administration had unveiled a $2.5 billion spending plan to combat the virus, and both at the closed-door briefing and in a subsequent open hearing with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a number of Republican senators voiced a variety of concerns. They fretted about the administration’s level of preparation to date, communication failures with Capitol Hill and, in the words of Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), the “lowball” funding request.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) — a target of Trump’s ire for his vote to convict the president of an impeachment charge — was among those who stood in the private briefing to register objections.
“One, I’m very disappointed in the preparation that’s been done over the last few years anticipating the potential of an outbreak of substance,” Romney said in an interview later.
“We’ve had SARS, we’ve had MERS, Ebola,” Romney continued, rattling off previous global outbreaks. “We should have stockpiled the kind of protective gear that our medical professionals will need and our citizens will need, and we haven’t. And looking forward, the [spending] number that’s being suggested strikes me as being inadequate to the level of risk.”
Just how inadequate may be proven up in the next few weeks, or even days. The first U.S. death from covid-19 was announced Saturday. Donald Trump couldn’t even get the person’s gender right when he announced it. He praised “a wonderful woman” as the victim, and in point of fact it was a man in his 50’s who had died.
The key problem with the virus stateside right now, is the fact that the CDC lost valuable time in surveillance testing and is way behind schedule, due to a mis-step in developing its own test, rather than using the World Health Organization’s test. The fact that there are not more covid-19 cases being reported now is illusory. There may be quite a few out there and they’re just not being discovered. Trump, of course, is trying to spin this as great news that everything is under control, because he made mention of closing off the southern border a few weeks ago — as if that has anything remotely to do with this issue. It’s well known, and Alex Azar even admitted it on TV Sunday, that Mexico — indeed all of Latin America — has fewer cases than the U.S. right now. But it sounds good as a Trump sound bite, dissing the scary brown people and claiming to protect U.S. citizens, all in the same breath, so Trump will probably keep up with the same inane narrative — at least until he can’t anymore, and it’s anybody’s guess just how this situation is going to develop.
In all events, the infighting and confusion continues and in the words of one staffer, “It’s complete chaos,” a senior administration official said. “Everyone is just trying to get a handle on what the [expletive] is going on.” Wait until Monday. If you think it’s chaotic now, wait until the Asian markets open — and open down.