Did Trump “lie” and “cause” thousands of deaths?

Let’s drill down on Woodward’s “bombshell” (and Biden’s new campaign mantra)
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Woodward certainly set the media’s collective hair on fire with his “bombshell” that Trump “knew” that the coronavirus was more serious than he was telling the American people … and, that confusion and delay resulted in “thousands of unnecessary deaths”.

The Biden campaign quickly shifted gears from “Build Back Better” to “Trump lied, people died”.

Really?

Bottom line: Save for the dramatic impact of the audio tapes, Woodward’s “bombshell” is old news that has been debunked by the science (and scientists) … and the data.

Specifically, the NY Times ran an  article dated April 11 that detailed practically all of Woodwards’s “scoops” … and subsequently “the science ” — voiced by none other Dr. Anthony Fauci — and “the data” provided context, explanations and refutations.

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Let’s start by flashing back to our April 13 post that analyzed the Times’ story…

Note: Trust me, the analysis is as relevant today as it was in April.  It’s long, but IMHO, well worth the reading time. 

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“Shocker: NY Times concludes that it’s all Trump’s fault”  April 13, 2020

Cutting through the political rhetoric, the Times appears to have 5 main beefs with the way Trump has handled the situation:

  1. He didn’t run around yelling “FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!” in January.
  2. He was slow to pull the trigger on the Chinese travel ban.
  3. He didn’t move quickly enough to place replenishment orders for medical supplies and equipment.
  4. He botched the roll-out of the testing system.
  5. He waited too long to order social distancing and shut-down the economy.

OK, let’s drill down on those one at a time.

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1. In January, Trump didn’t run around yelling “FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!” .

The Dems and media are constantly taunting Trump: “Are you going to listen to the scientists (this time)?”

That’s an ironic question since in January, Trump was essentially channeling the scientists … and now, he’s being thrashed for doing just that.

As we previously posted, Dr. Birx has stated publicly: “I didn’t see it coming” and, until March 10, Dr. Fauci was saying:

This not a major threat for the people of the United States, and this is not something that the citizens of the United States right now should be worried about 

But, the Times argues that Trump should have been listening to the Intelligence Community since they had “concerns about what is now known to be the novel coronavirus pandemic and reported it in the President’s Daily Brief of intelligence matters in early January.” Source

So, on one hand, the trusted medical advisers were saying not to worry … on the other hand, the occasionally reliable Intelligence Community was offering up some vague warnings of a viral hell breaking loose.  Who to believe on public health issues — the scientists or the spooks?

Hmmm.

Also during January, Trump’s deputy security adviser Matthew Pottinger and trade adviser Peter Navarro were warning Trump of an impending disaster.

Note: The Times credentialed Pottinger as “a former WSJ correspondent “… and characterized Navarro as “as quick-tempered, self-important, prone to butting in and clashing with the administration’s health experts”.

Again, Trump’s words and actions at the time were consistent with the input that he was getting from Birx and Fauci.

Imagine the headlines if Trump had started soap-boxing dire warnings;

“Trump fear-mongering despite scientists’ assurances”

“Trump tries to shift attention away from impeachment to remote virus”

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2. Trump was slow to pull the trigger on the Chinese travel ban.

This criticism is downright laughable.

The Times says: “Mr. Pottinger, backed by (National Security Adviser)  O’Brien, became one of the driving forces of a campaign in the final weeks of January to convince Mr. Trump to impose limits on travel from China

But, the Times continues, Pottinger and Navarro — who also supported a travel ban — were running against strong headwinds:

In addition to the opposition from the economic team, Mr. Pottinger … had to overcome skepticism from the administration’s public health experts.

The public health experts were arguing that travel restrictions were usually counterproductive to managing biological outbreaks.

But on the morning of Jan. 30, Mr. Azar got a call from Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield and others saying they had changed their minds.

The next day, Trump issued the travel ban.

The reaction was predictable:  As the Times headlined: “It’s unjust and doesn’t work anyway” … the ban was further evidence that Trump is a racist and a xenophobe.

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Imagine this headline  if Trump had acted before the scientists got on board.

  • “Neo-cons push Trump to another xenophobic travel ban”

Most people, including Dr. Fauci, now concede that the travel ban was a critical action that saved many lives.

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3. He didn’t move quickly enough to place replenishment orders for medical supplies and equipment.

Let’s focus on the big ticket items:: ventilators and  hospital beds (capacity).

A couple of weeks ago, Gov. Cuomo repeatedly (and loudly)  sounded the alarm that New York needed 30,000 ventilators and 140,000 additional beds.

Trump begrudgingly utilized the Defense Protection Act to force some companies into the ventilator business and readied the Army Corps of Engineers to build hospitals

The bottom line is that there have been zero reports of patients needing a ventilator not getting one.  In other words, no patients have died for lack of ventilators. Period.

The bulk of the new ventilators will be diverted to other virus-besieged countries or go directly into the Fed’s stockpile.

Same story for hospital beds, the army did warp-speed work building make-shift hospitals in NYC, the Navy sailed  the 1,000-bed USNS Comfort Hospital Ship to New York Harbor.

With NY said to be at its virus apex, virtually none of those additional beds have been utilized.

For more details, see Remember when Cuomo (and the media) trashed Trump for not believing the models?

My advice to the NYT staff: Focus on results, and quit trying to micromanage a process that you clearly don’t understand.

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4. Trump botched the roll-out of the testing system.

We’ve posted on this topic, referencing a NYT article: About the slow roll-out of testing kits

The bottom line: Technical flaws in a CDC design and legacy regulatory hurdles slowed the deployment of test kits.

The CDC was bound and determined to develop their own test — as they have always done in the past. And, the one they produced was both late and error-prone.  That’s a bad combination.

The FDA’s legacy processes (i.e. those established by prior administrations) were slow and cumbersome, demotivating private companies who wanted to develop test kits.

Finally, some of the red tape was cut and private companies rode in for the rescue.

Trump’s fault?

I think not.

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5. Trump waited too long to order social distancing and shut-down the economy.

Making his rounds on the Sunday Morning Talk shows, Dr. Fauci “downloaded” on Trump, asserting that:

Lives could have been saved if the US had shut-down in February”  Source

Fauci subsequently “clarified” that remark in a WH press briefing saying that he was making a general statement in response to a hypothetical question … and, confirming that Pres. Trump acted immediately when Fauci and Birx recommended the lockdown.

Nonetheless, The Times article argues:

By the last week of February, it was clear to the administration’s public health team that schools and businesses in hot spots would have to close.

Over the nearly three weeks from Feb. 26 to March 16, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States grew from 15 to 4,226.

It took President Trump three  weeks to announce serious social distancing efforts.

That was a lost period during which the spread of the virus accelerated rapidly.

Whoa, that sounds like a big strike against Trump, right?

But, wait a minute … let’s unpack the above excerpt.

Note that  the Times says that on February 26 (i.e. the last week in February) the US had recorded a whopping 15 confirmed coronavirus cases … not deaths, cases. No Covid-related deaths had been reported.

Can you imagine the blowback if Trump had ordered a nationwide shut-down of schools, businesses and the economy based on 15 confirmed cases and zero deaths?

As Crazy Joe Biden would say: ”C’mon, man”.

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Takeaways:

During the first months of 2020, Trump was getting conflicting information:

The “Intelligence Community” was reporting their observations that the virus was quickly spreading outside China and warned that “it’s just a mater of time” until the virus breached the U.S.

The “Science Community” was harboring that, in Dr. Fauci’s words, “the risks are miniscule” and that the virus could be contained via testing, quarantines and contact tracing.

The “Data” was on the Science Community’s side:

During January and all of February, there were only 15 reported cases and no deaths.

My take:

Trump’s “gut” was with the Intelligence Community … which is confirmed by Woodward’s audio tapes of Trump saying that “it’s going to be bad” … and, why Trump issued the China travel ban over the initial opposition of the Science Community.

But publicly, Trump channeled what the Science Community — especially Drs. Fauci & Birx were telling him.  In effect, “the science” and “the data” provided him with a glimmer of hope, a rationale for tapping down panic and a modicum of air cover for his “cheerleading”.

But, when the virus did breach the U.S., the non-mitigation models were forecasting millions of death and, in mid-March, the Science Community recommended “extreme mitigation” … Trump immediately put the country on lockdown to “slow the spread”.

So tell me again how he “lied” and “caused” thousands of deaths…

 

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