There are going to be multiple books written on the Trump response to the pandemic

He’s going to be roasted alive. It’ll be interesting to see comparisons between two presidents who were faced with catastrophic crises during their administrations: Hoover and the 1929 stock market crash, and Trump and the coronavirus pandemic. Trump is going to come off as far worse.

You can get an advance peek at how the world is going to see Trump in a long summary by the Washington Post, The inside story of how Trump’s denial, mismanagement and magical thinking led to the pandemic’s dark winter. It’s grim. You won’t enjoy it.

A few excerpts:

Olivia Troye, a former Pence adviser and task force aide who resigned in the summer and campaigned against Trump’s reelection, said the nation’s trauma is a result of the president’s mismanagement of the crisis early on, and is being prolonged by his disinterest in it now.

“I would love to say that I’m shocked, but I’m not,” Troye said. “This is in keeping with everything he has been.” She added: “People are still dying every day. There’s thousands of cases every day and yet he won’t do the right thing. . . . To see a sitting president directly refuse to help during a crisis is just flabbergasting to me.”

Paul A. Offit, who is director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory council, said of Trump: “He’s a salesman, but this is something he can’t sell. So he just gave up. He gave up on trying to sell people something that was unsellable.”

Now he’s got a vaccine to sell, though, so he’s trying hard to take credit for it. Trump is not a scientist, but he is a popular politician, and there were things he could have done with his limited skill set, but didn’t.

Skepticism of masks became a hallmark of the Trump administration’s pandemic response. On April 3, when the CDC recommended that all Americans wear masks, Trump announced that he would not do so because he could not envision himself sitting behind the Resolute Desk with his face covered as he greeted visiting dignitaries. The president stressed that mask-wearing was “voluntary,” effectively permitting his legions of followers to disregard the CDC’s recommendation.

In the months that followed, Trump was only seen wearing a mask on rare occasions, instead following the advice of Stephen Miller, Johnny McEntee, Derek Lyons and other trusted aides to think of masks as a cultural wedge issue.

Pence covered his face with somewhat more regularity than the president, but after forgoing a mask during an April 28 visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, he drew a public rebuke from the hospital’s leaders. Short then yelled at a hospital official over it, a person with knowledge of the visit said.

“What the Trump administration has managed to do is they accomplished — remarkably — a very high-tech solution, which is developing a vaccine, but they completely failed at the low-tech solution, which is masking and social distancing, and they put people at risk,” Offit said.

Just imagine if the president had told his 70 million MAGA cult followers to wear a mask, and had set an example by wearing one. It would have cost next to nothing, and was the simplest, cheapest way to slow the spread of the disease…but no. He didn’t like how he would look wearing one, and once he made a decision, his stubborn slow brain wouldn’t let him change. Neither would his ego.

In the early weeks, Pence was the frontman at daily coronavirus news conferences. He provided top-line updates, including case and death counts, before turning it over to Fauci, Birx and other health professionals. Short advised the vice president against detailing such dire statistics, but Pence insisted, believing he was obligated to share such facts with the public, according to another official with knowledge of these discussions.

Over time, however, Trump decided he wanted to be the face of the government’s response, so he took over Pence’s role at the briefings. A number of Republican senators privately counseled the president to let the doctors be out front, according to a senior Republican congressional official, but “Trump just couldn’t let someone else get all that attention.”

Trump’s performances were riddled with misinformation, contradictions and indecorous boasts, while also predicting miracles and promoting cure-all therapeutics. Trump often said he was trying to be a “cheerleader” for the country, and a senior administration official explained that the president has said he drew lessons from Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

“What he’s saying there is, ‘I’m going to will the economy to success through mass psychology. We’re going to tell the country things are going great and it’s going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy,’ ” this official said of Trump.

Then they let Scott Fucking Atlas dictate the science.

Scott Atlas found himself in Trump’s orbit the way so many do: through the television screen.

A neuroradiologist with no infectious-disease or public health background, Atlas joined the coronavirus response team in August as a special government employee, after a few senior Trump advisers — Kushner, McEntee and Hope Hicks — were impressed by his appearances on cable news.

Atlas began working out of Kushner’s office suite, and quickly scored a blue badge — the most coveted level of White House access — and a spot on the coronavirus task force. Though many were skeptical of him, the vice president’s team felt that if Atlas was going to be part of the virus response, then he needed to be a full-fledged member of the effort, said two people familiar with the decision.

Atlas pushed a controversial “herd immunity” strategy — of letting the virus spread freely among the young and healthy — and clashed with others on the task force, many of whom described him as combative and condescending. He lorded his seemingly unfettered access to the president over the group and, as one senior adviser said, “The science just got totally perverted with Scott in the room.”

Read the whole thing. It’s depressing, but like I said, there are going to be some great page turners coming out of this — a combination of true crime, bad science, and incompetent bumblers who don’t have a clue what they’re doing.


  1. raven says

    The inside story of how Trump’s denial, mismanagement and magical thinking led to the pandemic’s dark winter.

    There was also malign incompetence.
    We now know that in early summer and early in the pandemic, the Trump maladministration decided to go for herd immunity.
    We all saw that around June, 2020 the Trump administration just lost interest in the pandemic and started to ignore it and all the problems we have with testing, PPE, and persistent high rates of virus spread.

    We also knew at the time and know now, that herd immunity is a myth and the whole strategy would take years, kill millions of people, and likely, not even work then.

    Paul Alexander: Former Trump appointee encouraged herd … › trump-administration-herd-immunity

    3 days ago — Former Trump appointee encouraged herd immunity strategy for Covid-19 … he wrote in an email on July 3 that Americans “must go on with life.

  2. raven says

    From the CNN article.

    Former Health and Human Services senior adviser Paul Alexander repeatedly urged his colleagues at HHS and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to pursue a herd immunity strategy amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
    One example is when he wrote in an email on July 3 that Americans “must go on with life.”
    “There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD.”

    We are now finding out that protecting high risk groups from Covid-19 is very difficult if not impossible when there are high levels of circulating virus outside.
    After the first wave, assisted living centers adopted serious infection control procedures. Which worked well among their survivors.
    These are now breaking down. In a lot of places, most deaths are now occurring among…assisted living residents.
    These facilities have high staff to resident ratios and the staff is the community and they all go home at night. It becomes much harder to protect them with higher levels of virus circulating.

  3. raven says December 17,2020
    Long-term care facilities make up majority of COVID-19 cases in Lane County Oregon

    3 days ago — Outbreaks of COVID-19 continue to expand in Lane County, with the … in daily case counts are coming from long-term care facility outbreaks. … The following list shows active outbreaks being tracked by the Oregon Health Authority

    All these nursing homes have infection control procedures in place. They were all more or less working, up until the levels of circulating virus went way up.
    This is being seen nationwide as well.

    How to “protect the vulnerable” during a pandemic like Covid-19 is like asking, who will bell the cat.

  4. numerobis says

    One thing to note will be how much the rest of the world suffered from the US failures. Incompetents everywhere compete to be second-worst, so having the US as a foil lets them off the hook: variations on “I’m doing better than Trump” have been a constant refrain.

  5. Stuart Smith says

    There will be plenty of books explaining why Trump is a genius and he handled it better than anyone but was sabotaged by liberal deepstate traitors as well. Some people will read the books you speak of, and each will insist that the other is lies and propaganda. In the end, it will be reduced to ‘he said, she said’, and pundits will opine on how it’s all just name-calling and both sides are basically the same, and the concept of comparing both accounts to reality will never occur to anyone.

    If Republicans were going to learn from incompetent presidents ruining the country, it would have happened under Bush. Nothing matters to them except volume, and their backers can afford waaaay bigger megaphones than anyone actually concerned with truth.

  6. kome says

    Maybe in the first few weeks I’d have chalked this up to incompetence, but after ~10 months of this I don’t think incompetence is a substantial factor here. Instead, it seems to me that there’s just a massive indifference to the lived lives of the majority of non-millionaire/billionaire Americans. The mantra of the right-wing (not just here, but in many places around the world) has been about saving the economy, not saving people. People are simply disposable sacrifices at the altar of Mammon.

    I think calling the Trump administration incompetent is giving them too much credit. We’ve seen that they are, actually, quite competent at accomplishing what they want to: travel bans, kidnapping brown children, raising money, packing courts. Republicans just don’t want to serve the American people.

  7. says

    Imagine a leader who launched an amphibious landing the size of D-day and gave none of the troops weapons; just let them wade ashore into machine-gun fire. Their commanders told them everything would be fine. Then, they discovered that there were no battlefield medical units, either. The leader shrugged and went golfing.

    It’s about right – US casualties in northern France were 230,000 or so. But they were not simply given to slaughter.

    Imagine how a country would react to such a horrible, pointless, debacle. Would the golfer be ripped to pieces by angry mobs? Who could blame them? The golfer’s guards would probably get to them first. Playing golf would become a by-word for malicious negligence and nobody’d be seen on a golf course.

    The situation is so stupid it’s hard to comprehend. This will go down in history alongside the children’s crusade.

  8. Rich Woods says

    a senior administration official explained that the president has said he drew lessons from Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

    If the results are anything to go by, Trump didn’t get any further into this book than reading the back cover.

  9. PaulBC says

    One thing that strikes me is that at the beginning, the federal response was to delegate to state governments, which is technically something Republicans are supposed to support. However, as soon as states tried to enforce reasonable measures, not only Trump but every segment of the American rightwing made it a point to undermine them.

    In California the Hoover Institution got in long before Scott Atlas was officially hired. One of their wackier theories was that California had already had the virus and development herd immunity in Fall 2019 (because the state’s success in March–now squandered–couldn’t possibly be credited to government policy, right?).

    Rightwing attorney Harmeet Dhillon (last see pursuing James Damore’s frivolous suit against Google) took great pride in working to undermine California’s ability to control the pandemic.

    These people are not ignorant. They’re murderers with an agenda. They knew what they were doing, were not surprised by the result, and remain proud of their work.

    I don’t mean to let Trump off the hook, but it’s a lot bigger. I am not sure Trump’s counterfactually telling supporters to wear masks would have done any good. There is a well-organized machine that wanted the peons to get back to work and the old and weak people to die. It’s not an accident.

  10. PaulBC says

    Oh, and I forgot. The strategy of undermining any effective state policy is an essential part of the package. If the public sector is ever observed doing any good for people, it completely demolishes the Reagan doctrine that “government is the problem.” The most frightening thing imaginable for these assholes is for states where there is more regulation and more trust in government to make it through the pandemic with less suffering and better outcomes overall than the ones that act the way Republicans endorse.

  11. says

    Early on, there were concerns about whether enough masks and tests could be produced. I suspect part of why Trump was so anti-mask is that it would hide the shortage.
    It seems like a very Trump kind of solution: Not enough masks? Just don’t wear any. Problem solved. Can I go golfing now?

  12. raven says

    One thing that strikes me is that at the beginning, the federal response was to delegate to state governments, which is technically something Republicans are supposed to support.

    That was done by default.
    .1. The Trump regime had no idea what to do to combat the pandemic, and no interest in finding out.
    Finding out would have been easy, just ask the CDC and NIH, both of which have lots of medical experts.
    .2. So they quickly just passed the responsibility on to the states.
    Which wasn’t very smart.
    Who has the most expertise, the most money, and the most power here?
    The Federal government, and it is really their job to handle national emergencies like this.
    The states simply don’t have the resources and knowledge to fight a pandemic like this.
    .3. In a lot of cases, especially with the Red states, they then passed the responsibility down to…the counties and cities.
    Who are even less prepared to fight a pandemic.

    You can see the pattern here easily.
    The responsibility got transferred to the government levels least able to actually do anything.
    And it’s been almost one year and we are now at record numbers of cases and deaths.

  13. raven says

    One thing the christofascists/GOP have yet to figure out is, that you can’t have a healthy economy and a raging pandemic with widespread illness and death!!!
    The economy or your life is a false choice.
    It’s both or neither.

    Even without government rules and mandates, people’s survival instincts kick in and many or most people like PZ and most on this thread, just hide out, wear their masks, and avoid going anywhere or doing anything.
    The economy will drop anyway because of this.
    Some of the Red states like South Dakota, Iowa, and Missouri didn’t do anything.
    Their economies still went downhill.
    They were not de jure locked down, but they were de facto locked down anyway.

  14. PaulBC says

    raven@14 I agree, but to the extent that states had the means to respond, they were actively prevented from doing so. There’s a misconception that this was a big accident and that Americans are just too “individualist” or some other nonsense.

    In fact, most people will follow laws when there is social pressure and actual enforcement. However, there were lawyers being paid millions of dollars to work hard on court challenges. This, along with the active intimidation of government officials by armed goons made it impossible for a state or local government to achieve the level of success they were capable of.

    There was not exactly a centralized conspiracy but there was a convergence of organized efforts to guarantee failure by all means necessary. It was an engineered catastrophe and those who engineered it are pleased with their success.

    Somebody ask Harmeet Dhillon. Do you think she has any remorse or event mild embarrassment at the number of people who have died in California? It was what she was trying to do all along. Some politicians were more open than others with the “decrease the surplus population” strategy, but it is very clear that many powerful people were on board with it.

  15. raven says

    It was an engineered catastrophe and those who engineered it are pleased with their success.

    One of the main perpetrators of the “do nothing and let god sort it out” strategy were and are the xian churches!!! Especially the ones that falsely claim to be pro-life.

    Not all the churches, of course, or even most of them.
    The fundie xians.
    They’ve been having super spreader events since the pandemic started.
    They’ve also been in court continually, trying to get lockdown rules suspended, up to and including the US Supreme court. With some success.

    They’ve got the results to show for it too.
    Fundie xians/Red states are dying at higher rates than the general population.

  16. numerobis says

    Stuart Smith: I doubt there’ll be books from the pro-Trump side. Bullshit documentaries and videos, sure, but not so much books. People who read books aren’t good marks for their scam.

  17. dstatton says

    During my school days in the 50s and 60s, American exceptionalism was widely accepted. We were taught that great men emerged during national crises: Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. No further comment necessary.

  18. PaulBC says

    Another really amazing thing about this pandemic is the whole Regeneron angle. I am not fully convinced that their monoclonal antibody treatment is effective, but assume it is. It’s expensive and not publicly available. Trump hands it out or withholds it based on loyalty. He also appears to encourage his inner circle to spread the virus among themselves like teens with chlamydia. But it’s OK, he’ll fix you up if things go south. Just don’t get on his bad side.

    If this had been a plot element in a dystopian movie, you’d call it paranoid and implausible.

  19. unclefrogy says

    there is something else on the negative side that no one has mentioned yet.
    The great agent orange actively hindered those states and regions and there local administrations from getting help if they did not flatter and support him. he did not cooperate with “never trumpers”
    only his “base” got any support, that might also have some barring on the current difficulty with role out of vaccines
    uncle frofy

  20. vucodlak says

    Most of the stories I’ve seen about Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic discount perhaps the biggest factor in Trump’s execrable response: malice.

    One of the biggest reasons Trump can’t be arsed to care about the deaths is that he considers those who die from the pandemic weak and, therefore, worthless. Even if it weren’t obvious this is how he thinks before this plague, it would be clear from the way he talked about the victims and his “strategy,” back when he was still pretending to care about this nightmare.

    This is genocide, pure and simple. As far as Trump is concerned, the world is better off without all those who died of Covid-19. His own infection and recovery (thanks to having access to literally the best healthcare in the world) only reinforced his viewpoint that Covid-19 only kills the “weak.”

    Trump knew back at least as far as January how dangerous Covid-19 is. We can no longer delude ourselves that he was merely stubbornly resistant to expert advice when we have his own words on tape admitting he knew back then, even as he publicly lied about it for months.

    The problem isn’t that Team Trump don’t understand the cost, in terms of human lives, of this pandemic. It’s that they do understand it, and they’re all for it. They’ve done the prisons, they’ve done the camps, and now this disease shows up to decrease the surplus population. They get to kill millions of untermenschen, all around the world, without ever lifting a finger. It’s a dream come true for the likes of Trump and Miller.

    This is not bumbling incompetence. This is a crime of staggering magnitude.

  21. PaulBC says


    This is not bumbling incompetence. This is a crime of staggering magnitude.

    No argument from me!

  22. DonDueed says

    The Boston Globe carried that article on the front page (digital). That was my morning reading today. Not the most pleasant way to greet the day.

    Most of it wasn’t new or unexpected, but what stood out to me was the Trumpian spin. They really seem to think they did a good job of fighting COVID. There is none so blind…

  23. PaulBC says


    They really seem to think they did a good job of fighting COVID.

    One thing this pandemic convinced me of finally is the sheer futility of expecting a certain type of American to pay attention to an international comparison. It simply doesn’t matter that we did nearly the worst job in the world by any measure. We have nothing to learn from Europe, nothing to learn from South Korea. We’re the best by definition. Therefore everything we do is the best job possible.

    Blindness indeed.

  24. whywhywhy says

    Yeah there will be a lot of books showing how not to handle a pandemic. But are we going to learn anything new or simply relearning what we already knew but we’re too malicious and incompetent to apply?

  25. Pierce R. Butler says

    raven @ # 1 (et al et seq): There was also malign incompetence.

    You understate the case.

    What White House response that began to emerge somehow faded out when Jared Kushner read reports that people of color were catching and dying of c-virus much more than blanco-Americans, along with others in those politically-blue “urban” places.

  26. daved says

    Had Trump decided that a ton of Americans getting sick was a threat to his re-election (which it was), and taken a more proactive approach, he could have made a ton of money selling MAGA masks, for example. He could have been photographed wearing one himself (even if he usually didn’t do that), thus making it acceptable to his drooling followers.

    Overall, the result would have been considerably fewer cases, he looks like a leader and a smart guy with a really good brain, and he wins the election in a walk. Instead, his “gut’ told him to do exactly the wrong thing and he destroyed his own chances of winning the election.

  27. birgerjohansson says

    I have no good news. Instead I will try to bring you up with the song ‘Achmed’s “Up on the Housetop Ode to 2020”
    Achmed the Dead Terrorist* (a ventriloquist doll in the Jeff Dunham show) provides the viewers with ‘Ode To 2020’ [and to COVID19].-for melody, see Youtube.
    [*his signature phrase is a falsetto “I’ll keel you!]

    “Up on the housetop is where I’ll be,
    Up here no one can cough on me!
    Can’t go to restaurants or even bars
    I miss the days when we only had SARS.
    Ha Ha! Ha! COVID blows!
    Ha! Ha! Ha! Swab up my nose.
    Waiting on the housetop, tick , tick, tick
    Avoiding all the folks who are sick sick sick!”

    My kids watch school for a hour and a half
    As the teacher talks, he plays Minecraft.
    Got out of the shower in my room.
    My kid’s whole class saw me naked on Zoom!
    Ha! Ha! Ha! 2020 sucks!
    Ha! Ha! Ha! We all got…screwed!
    Up on a housetop is where I’ll be…
    Wishing for the end of 2020!

    We all sit at home eating all day long.
    Did you get so fat that your shorts are now a thong?
    Wear yourself a mask without fail.
    ‘Cause if you don’t they will drag you off to jail!
    Ha! Ha! Ha! What day is it?
    Ha! Ha! Ha! Who gives a …crap?
    Up on the housetop, I’ll just stay.
    Lots of store fights on Black Friday!

    All I want for Christmas is a vaccine.
    Being all bone, I could also use a spleen!
    Can’t take a pic with Santa in the ,mall.
    To make things worse, he smells like alcohol!
    Ha! Ha! Ha! This year was trash.
    Ha! Ha1 Ha! Hope Santa doesn’t crash!
    Up on the housetop, feeling blue…
    Waiting for the day that

  28. chris says

    There will be many books and movies made about the Trump administration. Several will be Keystone cops comedies… with tragic endings. Many will be just tragedies, especially as his last few days tries to destroy the environment. There may be an entire movie on the nefarious attempt to locate the National Archives in Seattle to California and Kansas just to sell the land it sits on. Even though the tribes in Alaska and the Northwest were told the archives would stay in the Pacific Northwest.

    Some grifter is trying to make big bucks by defying treaties: