Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

It wasn't obvious at first. In the following decades, when a project to name at least something in every town in America became an obsession for another right-winger, it never was acknowledged. In recent years, it has become fashionable for even liberals to cling fondly to his legacy, some even arguing that he really, really wasn't a conservative.

But the worst statement ever from an American politician in he post-war era probably was made on August 19, 1986. This should be clear now because

In May 2018, President Donald Trump’s biodefense preparedness adviser warned that a flu pandemic was the country’s No. 1 health security threat, and the U.S. was not prepared.

“We know that it cannot be stopped at the border,” Luciana Borio, director of medical and biodefense preparedness at the National Security Council, said at a symposium that day.

Borio left the Trump administration in 2019. Other high-level global health experts headed for the exits even earlier, after the White House dismantled the National Security Council’s global health security office.

The demise of that elite team is now under scrutiny as the Trump administration struggles to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.  

Government is not the solution- government is the problem, President Reagan wittily assured us.Thirty-four years later health experts say Bolton's decision left the Trump administration flat-footed in confronting the virus that has caused nearly 6,400 cases of COVID-19 and killed 108 in the U.S. as of Tuesday evening.

"Bolton’s chosen approach to NSC 'streamlining' involved decapitating and diluting the White House’s focus on pandemic threats," Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, wrote in a rebuttal. "He eliminated the senior director position entirely, closed the biodefense directorate, and spread the remaining staff across other parts of the NSC."

Closing the pandemic office "clearly reflected the White House’s misplaced priorities and has proven to be a gross misjudgment," Konyndyk wrote.

Whether the office was disbanded or streamlined, there's no question a number of top-notch global health experts left the administration in the wake of Bolton's decision. At the top of that list: Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, who had been Trump's senior director for global health security and biodefense at the National Security Council. Before that, Ziemer led a global anti-malaria initiative in the George W. Bush administration.

J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Affairs, a Washington think tank said  "You can attribute some of the sluggishness and confusion that we have seen bedevil this effort since the very beginning ... to the absence of effective structures within the White House." 

Beth Cameron, who led the office under Obama, said the Trump administration's decision to nix the directorate cost the United States "valuable time" in responding to COVID-19, although the full impact is still unclear.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Cameron wrote that the office was created out of a "recognition that epidemics know no borders and that a serious, fast response is crucial. Our job was to be the smoke alarm — keeping watch to get ahead of emergencies, sounding a warning at the earliest sign of fire — all with the goal of avoiding a six-alarm blaze."

Grover Norquist, that guy (natch) who created the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, famously stated "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

The diminished patient- the United States of America- has been dragged into the bathroom and is about to be dropped into the bathtub:

As an ideological heir to the Reagan-Norquist ethos

Trump has acknowledged that he cut global health experts from his staff and tried to slash funding for the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies charged with spotting and responding to such epidemics.

"Some of the people we cut, they haven’t been used for many, many years," Trump said during a Feb. 26 briefing on the coronavirus response.

"I’m a business person — I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them," he said. "When we need them, we can get them back very quickly."

Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) is not the worst President in the cold-war era; Donald J. Trump has seized that honor and probably retired it for all-time.  Trump has been the ultimate culmination of a disastrous mentality that has led us here.

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