Trump’s not bothering to hide his political interference in vaccine push

President Donald Trump’s political interference in the scientific and ethical process underwriting the quest for a Covid-19 vaccine — on stunning display on a chaotic Wednesday — is deepening the damage of his disastrous pandemic response.

In a breathtaking spell of propagandizing, Trump has no medical expertise and has incessantly downplayed the emergency bulldozed into the White House Briefing Room to kneecap one of the nation’s top health officials, Dr. Robert Redfield. The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had told lawmakers it could be Fall 2021 before there are sufficient vaccine stocks to allow everyday life to resume. He also said masks work.
“I think he got the message maybe confused,” the President said of the vaccine comments and added that Redfield “didn’t understand the question” on masks — even though the doctor’s answers had been clearly considered and carefully worded.
The President’s undercutting of Redfield came in a week in which he has repeatedly rejected the best advice of health authorities, including by holding an indoor campaign rally. He’s also challenged the science of global warming as historic fires rage in Western states. But he’s not the only top government official chafing at pandemic-induced restrictions that are designed to keep people safe from a highly infectious pathogen.
In an extraordinary statement on Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr lashed out at state governors using executive powers to impose restrictions that keep businesses closed to save lives and slow the spread of the virus.
“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders, is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” Barr said during an appearance hosted by Hillsdale College, a private, conservative school in Michigan.
Trump is trying to create an impression of a return to normality before Election Day — one reason he pushed so hard for the return of Big Ten college football. A conference with Midwestern swing states that announced Wednesday would kick off its season in late October. Promoting a vaccine — whether one has completed clinical trials or not — appears to be a crucial part of the President’s strategy.
His pressure on Redfield left no doubt that his short-term electoral considerations are far more important to him than a credible inoculation that Americans trust.
The President’s power play also left the CDC chief untenable, even though his statements were nearly accurate.
After a telephone call from the President and Trump’s public rebuke, a CDC official told CNN that Redfield now realized that he misunderstood the questions about the vaccines.
His climbdown left his credibility shattered and means that any future statements he makes will be viewed through the prism of Trump’s bullying interference based on ongoing efforts to undermine science.
Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of Medicine at George Washington University, said the President’s performance on Wednesday was “stunning.”
“What Dr. Redfield said today made complete sense. It was common sense. What he said was it’s going to take a very long time to vaccinate the US,” Reiner told CNN’s Erin Burnett.
More broadly, Trump’s behavior showed how a President who disdains details and has never leveled with Americans about the virus had been such a failure in mitigating the worst health crisis in 100 years.
By repeatedly talking about a vaccine as if it was already available and not subject to rigorous clinical trials, Trump also cast doubt on the process of scientific evaluation that will be required before regulators approve it.
His comments are unlikely to build trust in a vaccine that was already being greeted with skepticism among many Americans in polls. A lack of confidence in the program is the nightmare scenario since a vaccine is the best hope of eventually ending the pandemic and restoring vibrance to American life.
There’s the real country, where it will take many months for all Americans to get vaccinated once one is approved and manufactured. This country lost 1,200 citizens on Tuesday alone, will shortly mourn its 200,000th victim, and has rising cases from a base that’s far higher than other wealthy nations.
This country is run by a President who told reporter and author Bob Woodward in February that the coronavirus was “deadly” but kept the accurate scale of the threat from Americans in a way that likely cost tens of thousands of lives. Other costs of that decision are astronomical. Some 30 million Americans lost jobs in a consequent economic crisis, millions of young people are caught up doing school and college on Zoom, and the travel industry has collapsed.
Then there’s Trumpland, constructed on a framework of lies and misinformation designed to trick voters in November from dwelling on his poor performance. It’s a place where masks recommended by people like Redfield don’t work.
Where Trump’s assurances of mass vaccinations are just weeks away for millions in a nation “rounding the corner.” Where everyone’s getting rich on stocks to make up for lost jobs in the crashed economy, cramming thousands into an indoor presidential campaign rally would, in this imaginary scenario, not be dangerous. The return of Big Ten football would be another sign of normality restored by a “tremendous” government effort that had saved millions of lives.

About Abu Sillah

Abu is a Journalist, Marketing Consultant, & PR Specialist from Prince George's County, MD. He is the CEO of The DMV Daily and Marketing Manager of The Wig Café, LLC. In May 2018, Abu obtained his B.A. in Sociology from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and is now attending Bowie State University for his M.A. in Organizational Communications.

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