The Trump administration’s response to COVID-19 is exactly as dysfunctional as you’d think:
The economy was grinding to a halt. Stocks were in free fall. Schools were closing. Public events were being canceled. New cases of the novel coronavirus were popping up across the country.
And then, on Wednesday, the day the World Health Organization designated the coronavirus a pandemic, Jared Kushner joined the tumult.
President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser — who has zero expertise in infectious diseases and little experience marshaling the full bureaucracy behind a cause — saw the administration floundering and inserted himself at the helm, believing he could break the logjam of internal dysfunction.
Kushner rushed to help write Trump’s widely panned Oval Office address to the nation. His supermodel sister-in-law’s father, Kurt Kloss, an emergency room doctor, crowdsourced suggestions from his Facebook network to pass along to Kushner. And Kushner pressed tech executives to help build a testing website and retail executives to help create mobile testing sites — but the projects were only half-baked when Trump revealed them Friday in the White House Rose Garden.
Kushner entered into a crisis management process that, despite the triumphant and self-congratulatory tone of public briefings, was as haphazard and helter-skelter as the chaotic early days of Trump’s presidency — turning into something of a family-and-friends pandemic response operation.
The administration’s struggle to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak has been marked by infighting and blame-shifting, misinformation and missteps, and a slow recognition of the danger. Warring factions have wrestled for control internally and for approval from a president who has been preoccupied with the beating his image is taking.
Trump is literally breaking the CDC rulebook for how to communicate during a pandemic.
Meanwhile, to add to Erik’s point below, let’s note that Senate Republicans are no better:
It’s Saturday morning. There is a bill that will provide relief for people with COVID 19 that the House passed and the POTUS will sign. But Leader McConnell has us out of session from Thursday evening until Monday evening. Time is of the essence. Let’s get this done now.— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) March 14, 2020
To review, in a situation in which every day legislation is delayed means more sick and dead people, McConnell is delaying the passing of legislation Republicans have agreed to, contrary to the political self-interest of his own party, solely because he can. But, sure, Nancy Pelosi could totally have gotten him to agree to full paid sick leave if she had just shown him footage of LBJ taking a piss or something.
It’s unfortunate that being sociopaths gives you bargaining leverage. But there’s nothing Nancy Pelosi can do to stop Senate Republicans from being sociopaths, which is presumably why every progressive member of Congress supported the deal she made.