Bearing Witness to Trump Month 38

Trump News Question of the Month:

What was President Trump referring to when he said “I don’t take responsibility at all” during a news briefing on the coronavirus pandemic? Read on to find the answer.

Week of March 1 – 8, 2020

The coronavirus has now spread across the country with hundreds of cases confirmed and a mounting death count. Nevertheless, President Trump claims that there is little to worry about, that the country is very prepared, and that anyone who wants to be tested can be. All these are absolute lies. How can we trust anything this man says in ordinary times much less a time of peril and crisis? Vice President Pence adds to the confusion by claiming that a million test kits will be available by end of week. They will not and were not. What does the President do in response? He blames former President Obama. Then be blames the Democrats and fake news media for creating a panic.

With stock markets in a freefall the Federal Reserve Bank takes an extraordinary emergency step on a Sunday afternoon of a substantial 1/2 percent rate reduction to calm markets. Unfortunately, but rather predictably, analysts take this to mean that there is indeed a economic crisis unfolding that will take the economy into a recession and markets continue to fall. Trump complains that the rate cut was not enough. Of course not as he built his business career on debt and using other people’s money to prop up his business empire. Nothing has changed except he sees the U.S. as now his business to exploit.

Despite loading the U.S. economy up on debt due to cheap interest rates, the Fed eases rules on banks that regulated their capital requirements which were put into place after the 2007/08 recession fueled then by a banking crisis.

In another bizarre moment in history, President Trump says he has spoken with a leader of the Taliban who has been killing Americans for nearly two decades. Afterwards he announces said both parties agreed there had been no recent violence so the peace deal could move forward. The very next day the Taliban attacks Afghan troops and the U.S. ends up attacking Taliban forces In what was called a “defensive” strike so avoid spoiling Trump’s fairy tale. This all in the week after the Trump administration signed a supposed “peace deal” with the Taliban that would bring U.S. forces home in about a year’s time.

The Trump administration attacks the International Criminal Court for ruling that it will open an investigation into alleged war crimes by American and Allied forces in Afghanistan. Just a month ago Trump padoned a Navy Seal who was said to have killed a prisoner and then taken a trophy photo with the dead captive while holding a knife. A U.N. report from last year concluded that the U.S. and its partnes had accidentally or recklessly killed more civilians in early 2019 that then Taliban had.

The week ends with yet the departure of another senior White House official. This time it is acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. He was rumored to be on the outs with Trump since last fall having said in front of the press corps that Trump had indeed held up $400M of aid to Ukraine until President Zelensky committed to investigate the Bidens. Mulvaney will now serve as a Special Envoy to Northern Ireland; probably so he can refuse extradition back to the U.S. crimintal justice system once Trump leaves office and can no longer order former aides not to testify. Mark Meadows will now become Trump’s fourth chief in as many years.

Week of March 8 – 14, 2020

This week of the Trump presidency has been historic for all the wrong reasons. As a global coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the world a National Emergency is declared. The federal government is rushing to make up for time lost early on by an administration that initially downplayed the risks which contributed to the delay of testing of Americans. Now whole parts of the world and our own country are being put into quarantine islands. International and domestic travel has come to a halt. Businesses big and small are being closed as layoffs commence. Public schools are shuttered. Students are sent home from college campuses with semesters suspended. Concerts and public events cancelled. Malls and retail shops go empty then close their doors. Zoos and museums close. Sports games and tournaments are postponed with entire seasons cut short. Residents are told to stay home and shelter in place. Highways, streets and sidewalks are deserted. Employees are asked to work from home. Officials ask us all to practice social distancing when they are out in public. Church services and masses are stopped. Weddings delayed. Panic shopping starts by consumers seeking every-day staples. Members of the White House as well as Congress self-quarantine themselves. Buildings in the nations capital are closed to the public. Federal, state, and local offices, legislatures, and courts are shut down. Elections are delayed. State unemployment websites crash. The stock market suffers its largest daily losses ever and has fallen nearly 30% despite the halt of trading several times during the week. Trillions of dollars of investment savings have been lost in one week. A recession is predicted by economists. In emergency action the Fed injects $2 trillion into short term lending to help with liquidity. Health officials say things will get worse and they warn that unless the infection curve can be flattened that hospitals will not be able to care for all those seriously ill from the coronavirus. Mass confusion exists about who can get testing. American families are rightfully scared, especially the elderly with preexisting health problems. And slowly a new normal of a Shutdown America becomes normal across the country.

How tragic that a President who wanted to build physical walls to keep immigrants out and raise tariff barriers to keep imports from abroad out, now finds his Presidency rocked by an invisible virus from abroad.

Early in the week Trump at first promises – of course what else would we expect – an economic plan of big tax breaks for corporations, lower interest rates for their borrowing, emergency relief to oil companies and airlines, reduced regulations, and cuts to payroll taxes businesses pay. How clueless as this does little to help all the full-time, part-time, and gig contractor workers who have already or will soon lose their jobs. Democrats instead propose aide to help Americans directly, including extended unemployment benefits, healthcare cost relief, food stamps, and better sick and family leave benefits.

As the crisis began Trump misled the nation by first claiming it was “very well under control” and that “we have very little problem in this country.” He downplayed the virus as if it was just another flu season, and we were experiencing “a moment in time that would soon pass.” And that it would be a “very good ending” and the infection count “within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.”  He said that “anybody that needs a test gets a test” and that “this will soon be over.” Administration officials and conservative news outlets went on the road and air to proclaim the virus “we have contained”, “it is close to airtight”, and there would be no health care or economic tragedy. His talking-head surrogates claim the media and Democrats were using the virus as a conspiracy to bring down the President.

Midweek in a prime time address to the nation President Trump himself looks unsteady and rather terrified and makes matter worse with faulty statements that federal agencies have to walk back. The day after U.S citizens rush to leave Europe to get home after Trump mistakenly announced that all American-European travel and trade would cease. His handling of the crisis is attacked from all corners across the nation.

At a Rose Garden briefing the day after the dismal address to the nation Trump acted more like a master of ceremony in a TV show as he paraded leaders from companies like Walgreens, CVS, Roche, and Quest across the stage. Ignoring the recommendations of his own NIH and CDC, Trump continued to shake hands, touch microphones, and in general do the opposite of what Americans were being told to do.

Later in the week after declaring a national emergency, a reporter asked Trump if he took responsibility for a slow response and inability for citizens to get tested. He replied “I don’t take responsibility at all”, instead calling out the media as fake news. Another reporter asked about the administration removing from the National Security White House office a global pandemic position to which Trump responds it was not his decision but someone elses. Trump blames the Democrats and news media for attempting to sabotage his legacy with a hoax. He after all wore a campaign style Keep America Great hat at a visit to the CDC.

In testimony that not even wars take a timeout due to global pandemics, with the blessing of President Trump U.S. forces in Iraq launched air attacks against five sites of Iranian-backed forces in Iraq. And over in Afghanistan, after much hoopla about a peace deal which would allow U.S. troops to withdraw, the top commander said that the peace process with the Taliban was faltering.

In Russia, Trump’s pal Putin announced plans to modify their constitution to allow him to stay in office for another dozen years after his current term expires in 2024. Perhaps Trump is watching this ever so closely.

Week of March 15 – 21, 2020

The greatest international, national, community, business, familial, and personal emergency most Americans will ever experience continues into its second full week of the coronavirus pandemic. More states are in lock down with 80 million residents now told to shelter in place. Schools in many states have been closed until the end of the current school year. Hospitals and medical personnel are begging for more supplies like masks, gowns, and respirators. Some doctors and healthcare workers report having become infected. The national stockpile of medical equipment is found to be totally inadequate for a pandemic. Elective medical procedures and routine doctor visits that are not emergencies are called off.

The virus has now spread to all 50 states with thousands more sick. Cars line up for hours waiting for their occupants to get drive-thru testing that is very limited in scope.  Without massive precautionary testing – delayed in part by the administration’s slow start to deal with the crisis – the CDC warns the only way to stave off a disaster with millions dead is to remain in our homes and practice social distancing.

The Fed lowers interest rates to near zero, then starts buying bonds and other commercial securities, then saves the money market industry, then tries this and that to stop the hemorrhaging of financial markets without much affect. The stock market has now given up nearly 4 years of gains with the largest daily drops in history.  Millions of workers are forced our of their jobs. Streets are empty and stores remain shuttered. That is with the exception of gun shops that are doing record business. Many store shelves remain empty as panic buying continues for families ordered to shelter in place for what could be a month. Restaurants and bars are ordered closed. Non-violent prisoners are being release out of prisons to avoid penal catastrophes.

Officials first recommended no gatherings greater than 1,000 people, then 500, then 50, then 10, then 5 people.  Nursing homes close their doors to family visitors. State elections were cancelled at the last minute by court order. More state capitols close their offices and chambers. Local newspapers cease publication as advertisers and distribution channels disappear overnight. Airports are empty and international travel is effectively halted with Americans left stranded abroad without a way home. Both the Canadian and Mexican borders are closed. Hotels close their doors completely. Cruise ships are stranded at sea with tens of thousand of passengers unable to get home because few ports will accept them.

The President signs the Defense Production Act to prepare industry for what is to come. Police chiefs say that to protect their officers and the public they will no longer make respond to non-emergency calls or stops for minor violations. The Pentagon orders the deployment of the Navy floating hospitals to the East and West Coasts to provide relief for hospitals. State national guard units are called up to begin constructing temporary hospitals.

The big automotive companies announce they will close their plants as do many other industries that are nonessential. Economists warn that unemployment could reach 30%, a level not seen since the great depression. Congress squabbles over a trillion dollar relief package for businesses and families as some claim the country is facing an economic abyss like never before seen. Small businesses are expected to be devastated if they are closed for a month or longer. Congressional Representatives and Senators from both parties are tested positive and enter into quarantine away from their duties during the national emergency. Finally the President, Vice President, and other members of the cabinet get tested.

And despite all this, the President seems incapable of understanding the fear of Americans much less showing empathy with leadership that we so desperately need at this time. Instead, he blames the media for creating the crisis, the Obama administration for what he had to respond with, and the Chinese for the origins of the virus. He seems to enjoy declaring himself a wartime President. During a national press conference when asked if he understood Americans were scared Trump instead turns his rage on reporter asking him about the disbanding of the White House pandemic office in 2018 and calling other reporters out as being nasty and terrible.

Yet Trump has time to fire Russel Travers, the acting head of the National Counterterrorism Center established after 9/11, in what some think continues the purge of those not sufficiently loyal enough to the President. Nine former and present national security and intelligence chiefs pen an OpEd warning the nation that Trump is attempting to politicize the national intellgince agencies and in the process losing the institutional knowledge and leadership necessary to keep the nation safe. Will this prove to be as unwise as Trump’s disbanding of the White House Pandemic office?

Week of March 22 – 28, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic tightens its grip on the world. At week’s end there were now over 120,000 cases in the U.S. officially reported making us the country with the most cases surpassing Italy and even China where it all began over 3 months ago. New York City has become an epicenter with thousands infected and hospitals at capacity. Many experts say the number of infected may be an order of magnitude more that reported as testing across the U.S. is still inadequate.

There are now over 1,500 deaths in the U.S. and 30,000 worldwide as the number of global cases races toward 1 million. The dead are of all ages, nationalities, races, income levels,  and prior health conditions. No one is immune from getting COVID-19 because of their social or economic status. Superstars, prime ministers, sports athletes, politicians, doctors and nurses, royalty, students, celebrities, musicians, priests and rabbis, guards and prisoners, soldiers and police officers, the elderly, and infants have all now become victims. Perhaps the only good of this will come from all of us realizing that we are one, together, living on a rare increasingly fragile planet.

Countries that have ordered some 1.5 billion of their citizens to remain home include Italy, Spain, India, South Africa and the United Kingdom. More than 8,000 have died just in one country Italy with death rates approaching nearly 1,000 per day during the week.

President Trump to his credit is now acting more as he should have more than a month ago. He immediately signs a $2T bill to rescue the economy without quibbling with Congress. He starts using the National Defense production act to order the production of more respirators. He hastens the deployment of the U.S. Navy hospital ships to their assigned ports on the west and east coasts. He is supporting stay at home and shelter in place orders for nearly 200 million Americans. Stranded Americans abroad are finally getting help from the State Department in coming back home. He approves disaster decrees for a number of states. The CDC finally starts allowing private companies to test in huge volumes. He has lessened the number of times he disputes what the NIH, CDC, and State Governors are saying or asking for. The Federal Reserve chairman starts talking straight with the country and says we could be facing not a recession but a depression with unemployment rates of up to 30% similar to the Great Depression of the 30s. Over 3 million suddenly jobless people filed for unemployment in one week alone making it the largest filing ever and quadrupling the previous weekly record set in 1982.

Yet, the President still can’t help himself even when his intentions seem to be moving in the right direction. He says he hopes to have the economy turned on and people back to work by Easter, despite health officials saying that this will be far too early as peak of the curve is not expected now until mid month. He tweets out that he cannot “let the cure be worse than the cause” and says that “you can destroy a country this way by closing it down.” Apparently, meaning if some have to die for the economy to be saved, so be it. Other Republicans and conservative news outlets echo the same sentiment that some Americans will have to die to allow the country to move forward. God, please tell me this is not real?

The president suggests that the borders between some northeastern states be closed before consulting with the respective governors.  He prematurely suggests that a malaria drug soon to be approved by the FDA could protect against the virus, and an American dies when he ingests a lethal amount of it. When Trump hears that Republican Senator Romney, who voted for his impeachment, may be next and is in quarantine, he says “that’s too bad” with a snark in his tone and smirk on his face. He instructs Vice President Pence not to communicate with governors who aren’t “appreciative” enough of the President’s efforts. During the national emergency he makes time to tweet a video showing his likely opponent Joe Biden, coughing and confused calling him out as the Democrat’s best and finest. He accuses Governor Cuomo of New York of establishing death panels and lotteries. He challenges some states as saying they don’t need all the ventilators they are claiming they do. This attack all while the New York governor and mayor are turning NYC’s convention center into a 1,000 bed hospital to handle overflows as the number of cases exceeds 45,000 with over 500 deaths. Medical tents are being put up in Central Park, the first time since the Civil War. Refrigeration trucks are setup outside of hospitals for dead bodies.

The $2T emergency rescue signed by Trump will go down as the largest single spend in American history. The bill provides $500B for loans and guarantees to state and local governments and businesses, $350B for small businesses, $260B for unemployment benefits, $150B for healthcare, $50B for homeland security, $15B for food and agriculture, $25B for transportation, $10B for defense, $30B to the airline industry, $27B for research into treatments and vaccines, several hundred billion for direct payments of $1,200 to each American,  and the list goes on and on. It seems during a war on a pandemic we have all become democrat socialists to save each other and our economy. Maybe Bernie Sanders has won even though he is losing the Democrat primary.

The Trump administration is exploiting the pandemic to drastically relax rules for polluters. The EPA has announced that it will allow industry to monitor and determine for themselves whether they are in compliance or not with environmental regulations, and whether it needs to be reported or not. It’s the equivalent of a nationwide waiver of environmental rules.

The North Koreans say they have received a letter from President Trump offering to help them in fighting coronavirus. This despite we are unable to meet all of the needs in America. Then the very same week the Trump administration is said to have sent a request to South Korea asking them for help with sending test kits to the US. Then North Korea fires off two more missiles into the Sea of Japan rattling its neighbors.

May God have mercy on us all during this time.

The above news items have been taken from a number of international, national, regional, and local news media sources, both print and digital. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.

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