A host of damaging presidential traits

The Post has a big wrap-up story on how badly Trump failed to deal with the pandemic.

In mid-November, expecting a surge of cases after Thanksgiving, four members of the task force decided to try to move the needle.

After their warnings had gone largely unheeded for months in the dormant West Wing, Deborah Birx, Anthony S. Fauci, Stephen Hahn and Robert Redfield together sounded new alarms, cautioning of a dark winter to come without dramatic action to slow community spread.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, among the many Trump aides who were infected with the virus this fall, was taken aback, according to three senior administration officials with knowledge of the discussions. He told the doctors he did not believe their troubling data assessment. And he accused them of outlining problems without prescribing solutions.

What business does Mark Meadows have telling four medical experts that he doesn’t believe what they’re telling him about the pandemic? He was a real estate developer before he got into politics. How would he know better than they do?

The doctors explained that the solutions were simple and had long been clear — among them, to leverage the power of the presidential bully pulpit to persuade all Americans to wear masks, especially the legions of Trump supporters refusing to do so, and to dramatically expand testing.

Emphasis mine. He could have done that and it would have made a big difference. He could have used the bully’s pulpit to tell people to socially distance, to stay away from crowds, to make some sacrifices, and to wear a goddam mask.

On Nov. 19, hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against Thanksgiving travel, Vice President Pence, who chairs the coronavirus task force, agreed to hold a full news conference with some of the doctors — something they had not done since the summer. But much to the doctors’ dismay, Pence did not forcefully implore people to wear masks, nor did the administration take meaningful action on testing.

As for the president, he did not appear at all.

So thousands of people die of the virus every day, so what.

“We were always going to have spread in the fall and the winter, but it didn’t have to be nearly this bad,” said Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner in the Trump administration. “We could have done better galvanizing collective action, getting more adherence to masks. The idea that we had this national debate on the question of whether masks infringed on your liberty was deeply unfortunate. It put us in a bad position.”

And why did Trump blow it so comprehensively? Partly out of deep stupidity, for sure, but the rest? I don’t know. Because he’s a psychopath, because he got his jollies mocking the whole idea of trying to avoid the virus, because he’s a psychopath, because he’s jealous and resentful of Fauci, because he’s a psychopath. I don’t know. I can’t make it make sense.

The catastrophe began with Trump’s initial refusal to take seriously the threat of a once-in-a-century pandemic. But, as officials detailed, it has been compounded over time by a host of damaging presidential traits — his skepticism of science, impatience with health restrictions, prioritization of personal politics over public safety, undisciplined communications, chaotic management style, indulgence of conspiracies, proclivity toward magical thinking, allowance of turf wars and flagrant disregard for the well-being of those around him.

His combination of evil and stupidity, in short. I wish we could dig a hole in the ground and push him into it and pile a ton of dirt on him and walk away singing a tune.

“There isn’t a single light-switch moment where the government has screwed up and we’re going down the wrong path,” said Kyle McGowan, who resigned in August as chief of staff at the CDC under Redfield, the center’s director. “It was a series of multiple decisions that showed a lack of desire to listen to the actual scientists and also a lack of leadership in general, and that put us on this progression of where we’re at today.”

So imagine you’re on a train, you and 350 million of your closes friends, and up ahead you see the railway bridge fall down into the gorge – do you pull the emergency cord or do you just shrug and laugh? Trump shrugged and laughed.

At the heart of the problem, experts say, have been Trump’s scrambled and faulty communications.

“Words matter a lot, and what we have here is a failure to communicate — and worse than that, the effective communication of policies, of myths, of confusion about masks, about hydroxychloroquine, about vaccines, about closures, about testing,” said Tom Frieden, a former CDC director in the Obama administration. “It’s stunning.”

Maybe he just doesn’t understand cause and effect. Maybe he doesn’t grasp that if the big boss sneers at the experts and makes a point of ignoring their advice, other people will do the same and then bad things will happen.

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