Without a doubt the biggest political story in America last week was the conoravirus. It is a developing scandal which I am choosing to call Coronagate. Ever since Watergate we have called major American political scandals something gate. The Trump administration has been one continuous series of scandals the two biggest being Russiagate and Ukrainegate. Russiagate included the Mueller investigation and Ukrainegate included the impeachment of Donald Trump. Coronagate has the potential to be much larger and we can already see Trump preparing to shift the blame much more than solve the problem. Let’s explore.
The coronavirus is a virus that is spreading rapidly. On Tuesday of last week I wrote an article stating that it has been detected on three continents. By the time it was published the next day it was already inaccurate because it had been verified on a fourth continent. I’m writing this on Saturday of the same week and it is now verified to be on six continents. To put that in further perspective there are only seven continents and the one that is coronavirus free is Antarctica which basically is also resident free.
Now I’m not a believer in the stock market being an accurate barometer of the economy but in this case there appears to be something to the logic of the rich boy gamblers that inhabit “The Street”. Many American firms practice part of the Japanese management theory Kaizen by employing just in time inventory. (Yes, I’m an old guy with a management degree who read a lot of business books after graduation.) Most firms (manufacturing and retail) depend to varying degree on a global supply chain. In many cases the good or materials they require aren’t even available in the United States. Since inventory costs money they are not sitting on stockpiles of it. With the Dow Jones tanking faster than a crash diving submarine Trump finally took some action. He put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of America’s effort to combat the pandemic. That is interesting on several levels.
Pence has neither a medical nor scientific background. Par for the course in this administration: he is unqualified. In his last gig as Governor of Indiana his state faced an AIDS crisis, which to be kind, he didn’t exactly get high grades for handling. To summarize he is unqualified with a record of failure.
The last time America faced a similar challenge President Obama put a person in charge of a 24/7 effort. Pence is doing this as a part time gig (like the current acting DNI), in fact he found time to attend a political fundraiser last week. Normally Trump would have put Boy Blunder Jared Kushner in charge of a high profile project which begs the question why Pence this time.
This reminds me of a CEO I worked for decades ago. When presented with a sticky situation that didn’t have a foolproof solution or a likely positive outcome he would always tell his underling to, “Take appropriate action”. If the situation ended well the CEO took credit saying his people followed his instructions. If it didn’t end well he blamed the actions of those under him who were often banished to lesser jobs or dismissed. Following that analogy I can see Trump blaming Pence when things go badly including possibly dumping him from the 2020 ticket. I’m far from a Mike Pence fan and would love to see him banished to doing infomercials on late night Fox broadcasts but this violates my sense of fairness.
One final note on this aspect of the scandal: Pence’s first (and seemingly only action) in this matter was to take control of all messaging; (except for Trump who nobody can muzzle.) What this did was gag the scientists who actually have a clue and the public needs to hear from.
On the messaging front I could write an article solely devoted to Trump. He continues to claim that there are only 15 cases in the United States including on Wednesday night when he announced Pence’s appointment. The problem is that as of that very point in time there were 60 confirmed cases of coronavirus in America.
The next day Trump claimed that the 15 cases would soon be 1 or zero. During one of his pep rallies last week he claimed the whole thing was a, “Hoax”. Funny how anything that reflects badly on him is labeled a “Hoax”. No it isn’t; it’s right out of the playbook of the 1930’s European fascist leaders. Sticking with the 1930’s Europe theme for a moment, if Pence is dropped from the 2020 ticket and Trump gets reelected maybe he can have a post on the second term Trump team as Minister of Propaganda.
There is an element that is at this point saying that I’m unfairly blaming Trump for a pandemic not of his making. That is far from the truth. I’m blaming him for not taking the actions of a prudent man to try to protect us from it.
In the aftermath of the Ebola crisis the Obama administration put in place an infrastructure within the federal government to deal with an international pandemic like the conoravirus. Trump dismantled it as a cost saving measure while passing the savings along (and a lot of borrowed money) to those who didn’t need it in the Trump Tower Tax Cut. Liberal as I am I still dislike paying taxes. I’d love all my tax rates to be zero. Unfortunately our society can’t function that way. Within my tax bills is my fair share to support the Fire Department. I’m not hoping for my house to catch in fire; quite the opposite! I fully realize that most of the time the firefighters aren’t actually fighting fires and the equipment is sitting idle. The bottom line is I don’t want to be without the protection they provide. And I certainly wouldn’t want to give up that protection so that someone who needs a passport to visit their money has more of it to visit.
Trump has been incredibly lucky (as he has been in life) in that this is the first major crisis he is facing and he is well into his third year. At this point we best hope he gets lucky again because he is blowing it.
By following Wall Street you can see that Trump is no longer believed by the majority of Americans. When facing a crisis the people need a leader they can believe and rally around. The conoravirus represents a potential crisis and the American people cannot believe Trump. That is a major problem surrounded by incompetence and a scandal.
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