Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Two months after the outbreak of the coronavirus, #TrumpVirus began trending on Twitter. Why? Because it’s the only chance that the Democrats have of winning back the White House in 2020.
Saddled with broken primaries whose nominee, after a possible brokered convention, will either be a Socialist who admires Communists, a senile lecher who admires young girls, or a billionaire who admires power, the coronavirus is a much more effective candidate than Sanders, Biden, or Bloomberg.
#TrumpVirus follows in the footsteps of #TrumpHurricane which attempted to blame a natural disaster and local corruption in Puerto Rico on President Trump. And that just dusted off the smears and slanders of Hurricane Katrina and substituted Puerto Ricans for black people and Trump for Bush.
Not to mention the CDC for FEMA.
The truth about disaster relief and pandemic management is that it hasn’t changed much between administrations. The Bush administration dealt with SARS in much the same way that the Obama administration addressed swine flu. And the Trump administration is doing most of the same things.
That’s because the actual decisions are being made by bureaucrats based on existing protocols.
The best example of this was the decision to fly back infected American passengers from the Diamond Princess. This fateful decision helped spread the virus inside the United States.
President Trump had been told that nobody with the coronavirus would be flown to America.
The State Department decided to do it anyway without telling him and only made the announcement shortly after the planes landed in the United States.
According to the Washington Post, as unfriendly an outlet to the administration as there is, “Trump has since had several calls with top White House officials to say he should have been told, that it should have been his decision and that he did not agree with the decision that was made.”
Who in the State Department actually made the decision? That’s a very good question.
According to a State Department briefing, the missions were carried out by the Directorate of Operational Medicine within the Bureau of Medical Services. You might think that sounds like it would be part of HHS or NIH, but the Bureau of Medical Services is actually an arm of the State Department.
The Directorate of Operational Medicine is a part of the Bureau assigned to deal with crisis response with a $250 million portfolio and a lot of employees that almost no one outside D.C. ever heard of. At least unless you remember an event at which Barack Obama honored Dr. William Walters, the head of the Directorate, for evacuating Ebola patients to the United States.
“Now, remember, the decision to move Kent back to the United States was controversial. Some worried about bringing the disease to our shores. But what folks like William knew was that we had to make the decisions based not on fear, but on science,” Obama said.
By “some”, Obama meant, among others, Trump, who had been a strong critic of the move.
Despite Obama’s end-zone dance, the State Department had badly botched the Ebola evacuations.
Under Bush, the CDC had prepped an evacuation aircraft for flying out contagious Americans. The Obama administration shelved the gear because of the cost, and then failed to make use of it. The evacuation process led to the same infighting between the State Department and the CDC as now.
Dr. William Walters is still on duty. In 2017, Walters was boasting of prepping more Ebola evacuations even over President Trump’s opposition to the practice. And he was once again at the wheel now.
“The question was simply this: Are these evacuees?” Walters explained the decision to evacuate coronavirus patients to the United States. “And do we follow our protocol? And the answer to that was yes on both accounts.”
Consulting President Trump was not part of the protocol even on a major national security issue.
In a Congressional briefing, Walters boasted that, “the Department executed the largest non-military evacuation of U.S. citizens in its history. The safe and efficient evacuation of 1,174 people from Wuhan, China and people onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan is a testament to the agility, proficiency, and dedication of our workforce to accomplishing our core mission – advancing the interests of the American people.”
And the triumph of the administrative state and its bureaucratic protocols over the President.
At a State Department briefing, Walters stated that, “The chief of mission, right, through the U.S. embassy, is ultimately the head of all executive branch activities.”
That is the problem. Right there.
Walters got his job in 2011. He’s a relic of the Obama era. That doesn’t mean that his politics are those of his former boss. But this is not about him. It’s about the reality that the White House doesn’t make many of the most vital decisions and doesn’t even know that they’re being made until it’s too late.
And what that means, beyond the politics of the moment, is that the people don’t decide.
You can vote one way or another and the real decisions that matter will still be made by the head of a directorate that is a subsection of a bureau that you never heard of, but that has a budget in the hundreds of millions, a small army as its disposal, and will follow whatever the protocol is.
This is how the country is really run. And that’s the problem.
The underlying problem with our government is that it’s too big to control. Voting in an election or even sitting in the Oval Office doesn’t mean you’re in charge. The problem goes beyond the current obsession with the Deep State. The real issue has always been the Deep Industry or the administrative state.
If the coronavirus becomes a critical problem in this country, the blame will go back to an obscure arm of the State Department, but it will never be placed there. Whatever happens a year from now, no one outside a small professional class will have ever heard of the Directorate of Operational Medicine.
The media will spend all its time bashing President Trump, Pence, assorted cabinet members, and perhaps the CDC, without ever drilling down to the facts, even though it has them at hand. The media’s rule of thumb is that natural disasters and disease outbreaks are always successfully managed by Democrats and mismanaged by Republicans. Katrina and Maria were disasters, but Sandy was a success story. The coronavirus is a catastrophe, but the Ebola virus was brilliantly handed by smart people who are handling the coronavirus response. But it’s different because the guy in the White House is.
The truth is that all of these were mismanaged by the same agencies, many of the same people, and by a government infrastructure that excels at drawing up big budget proposals, but is inept at solving problems when they actually emerge, and just follow whatever protocols will cover its collective asses.
All the rest is a matter of the uncontrollable, the innate qualities of the storm or the disease, and the story that the media chooses to tell about the disaster in the service of its political agenda.
Even during the dying days of impeachment, the media was forced to realize that there was more interest in the coronavirus than there was in its attacks on Trump. The unfortunate decision to evacuate infected people to this country, against President Trump’s explicit wishes, provided the media with the opportunity to combine its attacks on Trump with the coverage of the coronavirus for ratings gold.
And if the stock market goes on falling, and the economy declines, it can even pull off a narrative coup.
Just as after Katrina and Maria, watch for the outpouring of lies, the claims that New Orleans had reverted to cannibalism and that everyone in Puerto Rico was dead, will be matched and exceeded.
There will be a cure for the coronavirus. But there’s no cure for the spread of viral fake news.
There is however a cure for the decisions that led to a coronavirus problem in the United States.
It’s called the Constitution.
America was meant to have a small government under the control of the people, not the bureaucrats. The real disease is bigger than the coronavirus. It’s a fatal illness called big government. Unlike the coronavirus, it has a total mortality rate. No society that has succumbed to it has ever survived.
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