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Archive for August 25th, 2020|Daily archive page

TWO PHONE CALLS: ONE PRIORITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 25, 2020 at 12:01 am

And the most glorious episodes do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.  Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles.”
—Plutarch, Alexander the Great

It’s all about him.  

By March 27, more than 100,000 Americans had died of COVID-19. 

According to sociology professor Kathleen Cagney, who directs the University of Chicago’s Population Research Center: “What is different about this is, it is affecting all of us in a variety of ways, even if some of us are able to social distance in more effective ways than others.  But we all feel at risk.”

But Donald Trump, President of the United States, had a far bigger worry than a virus that had no vaccine or cure. While others worried about the lives of their fellow Americans, Trump was worried about his chances for re-election the coming November.

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Donald Trump

On March 27, Trump spoke by phone with evangelical leaders and thanked them for their past political support. Then, instead of focusing on the pandemic that threatened their flocks as well as everyone else, he urged them to focus on his own re-election.

“It’s a big date, November 3,” Trump said. “That’s going to be one of the biggest dates in the history of religion, as far as I’m concerned. So, I want you to be, we have to keep aware of that, ‘cause as we fight this, people are forgetting about anything else.

“You turn on the news, and all you see is the Coronavirus or whatever. Some people call it the Chinese virus, they call it a lot of different things—but the virus, that’s all you see. You don’t see anything else.

“So people are forgetting we have the most important election that we’ve had, and I guess when I say the 2016 election, perhaps that’ll always be very special for all of us, but without this one, without a victory here, so much of that can disappear.”

The conference call was organized by the Family Research Council, which is identified as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate groups in America.

Family Research Council - Wikipedia

Tony Perkins, the group’s leader, tried—but failed—to direct Trump’s attention to COVID-19. He asked Trump how he wanted the assembled pastors to pray for him.

Trump replied: “Well, I think the health of our country, the strength of our country. We were doing something amazing and then one day, it just ended. So that would be it, and the fact that we make the right choice on November 3 is very important. Tony, you understand that better than most.”

Eight days earlier, on March 19, Trump had had a very different conversation with governors desperately seeking medical equipment to fight COVID-19.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker told Trump during a video conference: 

“I’m not quite sure what to do with this, so I’m just going to throw it out there for you. We took very seriously the push [from Trump]….that we should not just rely on the [Federal Government] stockpile, that we should go out there and buy stuff and put in orders and try to create pressure on manufacturers and distributors, and I gotta tell you that on three big orders, we lost to the feds.” 

Charlie Baker official photo (cropped).jpg

Charlie Baker

Baker, a moderate Republican, added, “I’ve got a feeling that if someone has the chance to sell to you and to sell to me, I am going to lose on every one of those.”

Trump chuckled at the remark, clearly finding mirth in the misfortune of not only the governor but his constituents.

Trump replied he still wanted governors to obtain their own medical equipment—such as respirators and protective gear for doctors and nurses.

“Prices are always a component of that also. And maybe that’s why you lost to the feds, OK, that’s probably why,” Trump said, admitting that the federal government has greater buying power than any state. 

The conference was a made-for-TV event at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington.

Trump repeated his belief that the onus should be on the states—and not the federal government—to obtain needed equipment to combat the pandemic.

“The federal government’s not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping,” Trump had earlier said at a White House briefing. “You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.”

By contrast, Presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson had seen it as the responsibility of the Federal Government to ensure that help was directed where most needed.

Roosevelt is still revered as the President who saw Americans through the Great Depression. And Johnson receives praise for his championing of civil rights for blacks and efforts to eliminate poverty.

On the same day as Trump’s conference call with American governors, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city—then the center of the worst Coronavirus outbreak in the country—was two to three weeks away from running out of crucial medical supplies. 

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