The big thing Trump can do to improve his coronavirus response | Opinion

March 3, 2020 6:30 am

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 26: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the beginning of a new conference with members of the coronavirus task force, including Vice President Mike Pence in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House February 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump updated the American people about what his administration’s ‘whole of government’ response to the global coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

By John A. Tures

President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been panned, even by conservatives.  There’s time for him to fix his errors and lead our country better through this crisis, but only if he changes course, becoming “presidential,” taking the threat more seriously.

When news of the coronavirus spread back in January, I actually thought having a germaphobe in the White House would be an asset. He’d be terrified of diseases, and would spare no expense to defeat them, right?  I hate to admit it, but I was wrong about that.

Of course, Trump isn’t responsible for the coronavirus outbreak in China. Though his State Department flew back more than 300 passengers from the ill-fated Diamond Princess cruise ship, with more than a dozen testing positive for the virus and more expected given the ship’s use of recycled air, it’s hard to see how such a powerful disease wouldn’t arrive somehow.

The problem is that the Trump administration gutted the funding and personnel and programs specifically designed to combat such lethal pandemics.

The White House has indeed proposed cuts to the CDC.  The details are here, provided by Time Magazine, in 2018.  Trump is claiming he’s pushed for $2.1 billion to fight the disease, but that only gets us near where we were before the virus emerged. Plus, more than 75 percent of anti-pandemic programs put into place by the Obama administration were shut down around the world, including the one in China.

As the president needs to learn, diseases aren’t fought by waving a magic wand. Doctors trained in infectious diseases won’t waltz in to stop the virus cold at a moment’s notice.

Trump claimed the stock market tanked because investors are scared of Sanders. Such an argument contrasts with the president’s own belief that if Sanders wins, Democrats all on the ticket, will lose. Plus, the Democrats have been debating for months and the top leaderboard still keeps many of the same characters.

Blaming opponents is nothing new. I am sure President Woodrow Wilson took his lumps for the Spanish flu.

Former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachman, R-Minn., said of the 2009 swine flu “I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flue broke out then under another Democrat President Jimmy Carter.  And I am not blaming this on President Obama.  I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.”

It is also interesting that Carter was not inaugurated as president until several months after the Spring of 1976, when the swine flu hit.  Republicans took the U.S. Senate in 2014, in part, by scaremongering on ebola and ISIS.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told a congressional panel that any vaccine for coronavirus would likely not be affordable for all Americans, another comment sure to scare this country.

Let’s pray that Trump puts someone with medical expertise in charge of responding to the virus, reverses concerns about an 80 percent budget cut to CDC funding, and finally brings back the NSC position on infectious diseases and anti-pandemic programs from the prior administration.

Trump’s upside down approval numbers, even as documented by Rasmussen Reports, can be improved if he stays above the fray of partisan politics and leads the charge for a cure and vaccine available for all Americans, instead of just those most fortunate.

Capital-Star Opinion contributor John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.  His work appears occasionally on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.  Readers may email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JohnTures2.

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