Here, in no particular order, is a list of various people, developments and entities that President Trump and his top advisers have tried to blame for his towering failures on the novel coronavirus and the resulting economic catastrophe we’re currently living through:
But now Trump’s advisers are taking this to a new level entirely. The latest target for their blame-shifting? Trump’s own government.
White House advisers are concocting a new campaign to turn the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into the latest scapegoat, as coronavirus cases spike in many states and as the U.S. falls behind other countries in combating the virus, Politico reports:
Politically, Trump aides have also been looking for a person or entity outside of China to blame for the coronavirus response and have grown furious with the CDC, its public health guidance and its actions on testing, making it a prime target. But some wonder whether the wonky-sounding CDC, which the administration directly oversees, could be an effective fall guy on top of Trump’s efforts to blame the World Health Organization.
“WHO is an easy one,” said one former administration official. “It is foreign body in Switzerland. CDC will be tough to create a bogeyman around for the average voter.”
Trump’s political advisers are pretty clear on what they’re hoping for out of this new campaign:
The moves are among the White House’s efforts to deflect attacks on President Donald Trump and place them elsewhere in the federal bureaucracy. Protecting the president is seen as increasingly important by political aides as the general election approaches in just over four months and criticism mounts from former Vice President Joe Biden, other Democrats and even former national security adviser John Bolton who say the blame rests squarely on Trump himself.
Trump has of course sought to deflect blame onto others for many months, as noted. But there’s a reason this new effort deserves special recognition for its depravity, and we cannot let it get memory-holed.
It’s this: When Trump urged governors to reopen their economies more quickly, he was defying guidelines suggested by that very same agency, i.e., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In other words, CDC is not merely getting cast as the scapegoat for the current spikes; it is getting cast as such even though it was far more right than Trump was.
New known virus cases were on the rise in 23 states on Monday as the outlook worsened across much of the nation’s South and West. Hospitalizations for the coronavirus reached their highest levels yet in the pandemic in Arizona and Texas, and Missouri reported its highest single-day case totals over the weekend.
The Times analysis links rising cases to decisions to reopen too quickly, noting that the spike “underscores risks” that will “persist” if this pace of reopening continues. As one infectious-disease expert put it: “This is exactly what most people would expect when you lift stay-at-home orders and isolation orders.”
Importantly, this reopening, which Trump urged relentlessly, got its start by flouting CDC guidelines. In early May, when it got underway in earnest, more than half of states were reopening in defiance of CDC directives that cases should be on a “downward trajectory,” sparking criticism from public experts at the time.
Indeed, Trump had been pushing for a rapid reopening as early as March, when he had to be talked out of prematurely lifting his own government’s social distancing guidelines by his top health advisers.
“We have repeatedly seen President Trump ignore or contradict the advice of public health experts,” Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, told me. “It is one of the original sins of the U.S. response to the pandemic.”
Now Trump’s advisers think he can get away with blaming his own government for the spikes we’re currently seeing? Really?
To be clear, it is theoretically possible to envision a way in which a review of CDC’s conduct could be constructive. The CDC did in fact make some serious missteps, most notably its botching of various aspects of early testing efforts.
But Trump was far more of a contributor to the CDC’s failures than a victim of them. As a deep Times investigation concluded, the fact that Trump “wished away the pandemic” and tended to “dismiss findings from scientists” helped saddle the agency with “unprecedented challenges.”
More to the point, there is simply no chance that Trump will treat such a review in a genuine spirit of accountability — one in which he would accept part of the blame for his own government’s failures — rather than using it to entirely exonerate himself of any such accountability.
The man who unabashedly proclaimed, “I don’t take responsibility at all” for the very testing failures that such a review would have to examine cannot claim to be seriously interested in any accounting into what went wrong.
Trump himself helpfully confirmed this, by tweeting the following:
Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2020
Trump is basically admitting that the actual number of cases doesn’t weigh on him in the least. He actively wants to create the illusion of fewer cases, and he’s openly advertising this goal to the world.
It’s remarkable that we’ve sunk to a level where such a tangle of presidential depravity and pathology needs to be untangled and interpreted. But obviously, the man who is blaming a surfeit of testing for the spike in cases — and the man who sees these rising numbers as solely a problem for him, ones that should thus be subject to manipulation downward, regardless of the human consequences that might have — cannot be taken seriously as a voice demanding accountability for any aspect of this catastrophe.
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