On January 29, President Donald Trump created a White House Coronavirus Task Force to coordinate the federal government’s response to the virus outbreak and to keep the American people as informed about it as possible. At that time, congressional Democrats were giving no attention whatsoever to the coronavirus threat. They had not held even a single hearing — for even a single moment — about the matter. Instead, they had spent the preceding four months entirely focused on one agenda item: impeaching President Trump and trying to remove him from office. The Senate impeachment trial, which had commenced on January 21, was still in high gear. Since the previous September, the faces of Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer, Jerrold Nadler, Adam Schiff, and a host of other Democrats had become fixtures on every television screen in America. They talked about almost nothing but impeachment, as their normal legislative duties were all but forgotten. Coronavirus was, in many ways, the last thing on any of their minds.
Two days later, on January 31, President Trump formally declared coronavirus to be a public health emergency and he implemented a ban on travel from China to the United States. The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, later noted that “the very timely decision on the part of the president to shut off travel from China” had “absolutely” gone “a long way” toward limiting the number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. “We did it early,” said Fauci, “and as it turned out, there were relatively few cases, in the big picture of things, that came in from China. Unfortunately … in European countries they didn’t do that [ban travel from China], and they got hit really hard…. When the infection burden shifted from China to Europe, we did the same thing. We shut off travel from Europe, which again was another safeguard to prevent influx from without, in.” Also by Fauci’s telling, the Trump administration’s “coordinated response” to the crisis — dating back to “the beginning [when] we [first] recognized what this [virus] was” — had been undeniably “impressive.” “I can’t imagine that, under any circumstances, anybody could be doing more,” said Fauci.
But Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden failed to recognize any value in Trump’s actions. On February 1 — just one day after Trump had announced his China travel restriction — Biden depicted the president as a racist whose heart was filled with hatred for Asian people. “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia — hysterical xenophobia — and fearmongering,” said the former vice president.
It would not be until four days later — on February 5 — that the Democrats’ failed impeachment trial in the Senate would finally draw to a close. That was the same day that the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs held its very first coronavirus hearing.
In subsequent weeks, President Trump announced further travel restrictions on certain global hot spots where coronavirus was becoming increasingly widespread — namely Iran, South Korea, and eventually, all of Europe. American citizens returning from travel-restricted countries began to be routed to specific airports, where they could be properly screened and, if necessary, isolated. Eventually, in March, the president officially closed both the southern and northern borders of the United States, so as to prevent the unnecessary influx of any further coronavirus cases from Mexico or Canada.
But at that very same moment in time, a host of Democrats and their supporters suddenly began echoing a talking point that had recently been floated by Communist China’s foreign ministry: the notion that it was “racist” for anyone to make reference to coronavirus as a phenomenon of Chinese origin. Joe Biden suggested that Trump’s decision to describe the pathogen as “a foreign virus” or “a Chinese virus” was evidence of the president’s “hysteria and xenophobia.” In a similar vein, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “The president is turning to racist rhetoric to distract from his failures to take the coronavirus seriously early on, make tests widely available, and adequately prepare the country for a period of crisis.”
In conjunction with the Trump administration’s around-the-clock efforts to accelerate the development of coronavirus diagnostic capabilities, treatments, and vaccines, on February 29 the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency approval for the development of new commercial coronavirus tests. To enable this goal to be realized as quickly as possible, President Trump instructed the agency to dramatically cut the bureaucratic red tape that traditionally had stood in the way of swift action. Meanwhile, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) provided large sums of money to help accelerate the production of diagnostic tests. Trump also issued emergency orders that allowed HHS “to immediately waive provisions of applicable laws and regulations to give [all] healthcare providers maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients.” And on March 16, the National Institutes of Health announced the start of a clinical trial aimed at creating a coronavirus vaccine — representing one of the fastest vaccine-development launches in the history of medicine.
But Joe Biden was unimpressed. “The Obama-Biden Administration set up the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense,” he said, “to prepare for future pandemics like COVID-19” — the disease caused by the coronavirus. “Donald Trump eliminated it [the Directorate], and now we’re paying the price.” Trump’s “draconian cuts,” Biden elaborated, were now costing people their lives.
Though Biden’s very serious charge caught the media’s attention on a grand scale, it was wholly false. Former National Security Council (NSC) official Tim Morrison, who was the senior director for counter-proliferation and bio-defense at the NSC when Trump’s “draconian cuts” had supposedly occurred, explains that the office in question was simply combined with others in a reorganization that “left the bio-defense staff unaffected.” “What actually happened,” says the American Spectator, “was that the president streamlined the bloated NSC, reorganizing some sections to accomplish that goal. In that process, three departments with roughly the same mission were consolidated.” Morrison painstakingly laid out these facts in an op-ed published by the Washington Post, where he not only praised the president for his efforts to “finally create real accountability in the federal government’s expansive bio-defense system,” but also derided critics for having “misconstrued or intentionally misrepresented” the facts regarding Trump’s action.
On March 4, HHS announced that it was going to purchase 500 million N95 respirators for the Strategic National Stockpile. A week later, President Trump signed a memorandum directing his administration to make general-use face masks available to healthcare workers. And six days after that, on March 17, the Department of Defense, in response to a request by the president, announced that it would be providing 5 million additional respirator masks as well as 2,000 specialized ventilators.
But Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg lamented that many Americans would tragically have to “pay a heavy cost” for “the president’s management incompetence.” Former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine likewise derided Trump for his “massive missteps that have led to the United States being so far behind other nations in the world” in responding to the crisis.
On March 5, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) created new billing codes for coronavirus tests, so as to facilitate accurate tracking of the public health response. The following day, President Trump signed legislation securing $8.3 billion for coronavirus response efforts — money that would cover the costs of things like public lab testing, isolation and quarantine initiatives, the sanitization of public areas, and vaccine research. And a week after that, Trump officially declared a national emergency, which freed up an additional $42 billion to fund the cause.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer released a joint statement declaring that “President Trump continues to manufacture needless chaos within his administration, and it is hampering the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.”
In an effort to be responsive to the needs of American businesses and their employees, President Trump met with executives from the banking, health insurance, pharmaceutical, airline, grocery store, and retail store industries, among others. On March 10, he urged Congress to pass a payroll tax cut. That same day, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) — in fulfillment of “a top priority for President Trump and this Administration” — announced new flexibilities that would allow meal-service programs to remain active even while schools were closed due to coronavirus. And CMS, after meeting with President Trump and Vice President Pence, announced that Medicare Advantage and Part D plans could now waive co-payments for coronavirus tests and treatment.
But according to recent Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, “Trump’s incompetence” in dealing with the pandemic was akin to “a neon sign going like, ‘I stink at my job. Yeah, I am a dummy! Ok?’ by Donald Trump.”
On March 11, The Trump administration announced that health savings accounts could be used to cover coronavirus testing and treatment without co-payments. That same day, the president directed the Treasury Department to allow coronavirus-impacted individuals and businesses to defer the payment of taxes that they owed.
But in the words of former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat: “We got a guy in the White House who doesn’t know anything about patriotism, doesn’t know anything about empathy.”
That was the same day that Joe Biden parroted an already-debunked Democratic talking point when he said: “By cutting our investment in global health, this administration has left us woefully unprepared for the exact crisis we now face.” Biden was referring to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), to which the United States had contributed $600 million in 2015. The Washington Free Beacon explains: “As the initial funding dwindled in early 2018, reports emerged suggesting the Trump administration would scale back GHSA operations in all but 10 countries. But the cuts never happened, and the Trump administration’s proposed 2021 budget includes an increase in the GHSA’s annual appropriation.”
On March 12 as well, the Trump administration increased the flexibility of unemployment insurance programs, so as to allow workers impacted by the coronavirus to benefit from them.
At that point, Hillary Clinton tweeted sarcastically: “I know this is all hard for you, @realdonaldtrump, so let me spell it out.” She then proceeded to list a series of anti-coronavirus measures that, contrary to her false implication, President Trump had already enacted. Finally, Mrs. Clinton informed Trump that he might do a better job of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic if he were to try, for a change, “giving a damn” about the American people. That same day, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell pronounced in the gravest of tones: “More people are sick in America tonight because Donald Trump is president. More people are dead and dying in America tonight because Donald Trump is president.”
On March 13, President Trump authorized HHS to waive its existing rules and regulations so that healthcare providers could respond to the crisis with as few restrictions as possible. That same day, he directed the Energy Department to purchase — at a very favorable price — large quantities of crude oil for the National Strategic Reserve. Trump likewise directed the Education Department to waive interest payments on student loans held by the federal government. On March 14, the administration negotiated legislation to provide tax credits for businesses that chose to give paid leave to employees affected by the virus. And four days later, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it would temporarily suspend foreclosures and evictions affecting families whose mortgages were insured by the Federal Housing Administration.
But according to Michael Bloomberg, President Trump had thoroughly “failed to prepare for a deadly pandemic — leaving Americans deeply unsettled” as a result.
The Trump administration provided every state in the Union with increased flexibility to approve the establishment of coronavirus testing laboratories as well as drive-through testing sites. On March 14, it was announced that the administration was working with Google to develop a website designed to help Americans learn learn coronavirus prevention procedures, determine whether or not they needed a test, and, if so, where they could get one. Four days later, the administration launched a partnership with the Ad Council, various media networks, and a number of digital platforms to produce public service announcements about the coronavirus. In March as well, CMS dramatically expanded access to telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries, thereby enabling more patients to consult with their doctors remotely while avoiding potential exposure to the virus.
But Joe Biden, in tones that were at once somber and outraged, lamented on March 15 that the World Health Organization had “offered the testing kits that they have available and to give it to us now,” but Trump “refused them.” But Biden’s claim was untrue. Kaiser Health News quotes World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Margaret Harris as follows: “No discussions occurred between WHO and CDC [Centers for Disease Control & Prevention] about WHO providing COVID-19 tests to the United States.”
On March 18, the Trump administration announced that the U.S. Navy would soon be deploying two medical ships to help support areas impacted by coronavirus. On March 19, the president signed into law a bill to not only ensure paid leave benefits to many Americans, but also to make free coronavirus testing available to anyone in need, including the uninsured. Moreover, that same bill supported nutrition programs such as the food stamp system.
But during a speech on the Senate floor that very same day, Senator Tim Kaine chastised the president for engaging in “inflammatory China-bashing” and “weeks and weeks of tweeting lies and misinformation about the virus, while the leaders of other nations were taking steps to make sure their populations could be safe.” Former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took time to weigh in as well, condemning Trump’s “failure as a leader” and depicting the president’s supporters as nothing more than “cult members” who “mindlessly follow a stern dictatorial father-figure who tells them what to do and think. Like, well, Nazis.”
On March 21, the FDA announced that it had approved a rapid coronavirus test that would require no training to administer and would yield results in less than an hour. On March 22, Trump asked multiple car companies to mass produce ventilators to help combat the pandemic.
On that very same day, however, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — another Democrat who had recently sought his party’s presidential nomination — accused President Trump of refusing to “lift a finger to help his hometown” (New York) deal with with the coronavirus outbreak. “I can’t be blunt enough,” said de Blasio. “If the president doesn’t act, people will die who could have lived otherwise.”
In a March 22 interview, Fox News host Mark Levin said to Dr. Anthony Fauci: “There is this statement put up, [by] some in the press, [by] some in the opposition party of the president, that the president doesn’t follow the science. Is the president following the science?” After replying that in the daily Coronavirus Task Force meetings “we make all of our decisions and recommendations that are based on the science,” Fauci said:
“I have never in that room had a situation where I said, scientifically, this is the right thing to do and they said, don’t do it. Or [I have never said] scientifically, this is the wrong thing to do, and they did it anyway. Then we get up and we present it to the president. And he asks a lot of questions. That’s his nature. He is constantly asking the question, and I never, in the multiple times that I’ve done that … He has never overruled me.”
And yet, on that very same day, New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait published an article titled “Trump Is Back to Waging War on Science, at the Worst Possible Moment.” The piece concluded with this stinging indictment of the president: “Public-health professionals have had nothing to offer him but facts and science. They never had a chance.”
In early April, the Trump administration launched “Operation Warp Speed,” a Manhattan Project-style effort to dramatically reduce — by as much as eight months below the normal time frame — the amount of time needed to develop a coronavirus vaccine. As Bloomberg News pointed out: “There is no precedent for such rapid development of a vaccine.”
On July 27, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that a Phase 3 clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine had begun. Speculation arose that a vaccine could be available by the fall of 2020 or the beginning of 2021. This would represent one of the fastest, most extraordinary achievements in the history of medicine.
In November 2020, both Pfizer and Moderna announced that they had successfully developed coronavirus vaccines with an efficacy rate of approximately 95%.
Distribution of coronavirus vaccines in the U.S. began in December 2020.
* The information in this essay is derived chiefly from: “America’s Superb, Unappreciated President” (By John Perazzo, March 27, 2020).
America’s Superb, Unappreciated President
By John Perazzo
March 27, 2020