The United States recently passed yet another grim milestone in the 2020/2021 pandemic when Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reported that the COVID-19 death count had passed 600,000 in the United States. Nonetheless, there is reason for optimism where the pandemic is concerned. Around 65% of U.S. adults, according to the New York Times, have been at least partially vaccinated for COVID-19, and President Joe Biden — who has been promoting vaccination aggressively — hopes to get that number up to 70% by July 4. Biden obviously takes the pandemic much more than former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly downplayed its severity in 2020.
Trump's dysfunctional response to the worst global health crisis in more than 100 years is the focus of a new book by Washington Port reporters Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta: "Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration's Response to the Pandemic That Changed History," which Post reporter Dan Diamond discusses in detail in an article published on June 21. Here are five bombshells in the book, according to Diamond.
1. Trump wanted to quarantine infected Americans at Guantánamo Bay
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is where is where the Bush Administration kept suspected terrorists following the 9/11 attacks. And it is also where, according to Abutaleb and Paletta, Trump wanted to keep Americans who tested positive for COVID-19. In February 2020, Abutaleb and Paletta report, Trump asked aides, "Don't we have an island that we own? What about Guantánamo?"
2. Kushner had a meltdown after learning about a delay in mask shipments
In late March 2020, according to Abutaleb and Paletta, Robert Kadlec — preparedness chief at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — informed then-White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner that there would be a delay in shipments of protective face masks, which wouldn't be available until June. And Kushner reportedly became unglued, shouting at Kadlec, "You fucking moron! We'll all be dead by June!"
3. Trump feared that COVID-19 testing would cause him to lose the election
In March 2020, the month in which the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic, the United States wasn't doing nearly as much testing as it should have been. But Trump, according to Abutaleb and Paletta, believed the U.S. was doing too much — and his reason was entirely political. Trump, during a March 18, 2020 phone conversation with then-Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, reportedly shouted, "Testing is killing me! I'm going to lose the election because of testing! What idiot had the federal government do testing?"
4. No one knew exactly who was in charge of Trump's COVID-19 response
Trump had two separate COVID-19 task forces in 2020: a White House task force led by then-Vice President Mike Pence, and a task force led by Kushner that focused on private sector efforts in response to the pandemic. According to Abutaleb and Paletta, the Trump Administration's COVID-19 response was so chaotic that it was hard to know who exactly was in charge.
In their book, Abutaleb and Paletta, "One of the biggest flaws in the Trump Administration's response is that no one was in charge of the response. Was it (Dr. Deborah) Birx, the task force coordinator? Was it Pence, head of the task force? Was it Trump, the boss? Was it Kushner, running the shadow task force until he wasn't? Was it Marc Short or Mark Meadows, often at odds, rarely in sync? Ultimately, there was no accountability, and the response was rudderless."
5. Mark Meadows berated a top HHS official
After former Rep. Mark Meadows replaced Mick Mulvaney as White House chief of staff, he became — according to Abutaleb and Paletta — a source of misery for Kadlec. When there was a delay with the rollout of remdesivir (a drug used to treat COVID-19), Meadows reportedly screamed at Kadlec, "I'm going to fire your ass if you can't fix this." According to Abutaleb and Paletta, "That was what the response had turned into: a toxic environment in which no matter where you turned, someone was ready to rip your head off or threatening to fire you."
On Monday, CNN reported that a new study from the University of California Berkeley's Othering & Belonging Institute has found worsening racial segregation in most major U.S. cities over the last 30 years.
"The study found that 81% of regions with more than 200,000 residents were more segregated in 2019 than they were in 1990, despite fair housing laws and policies created to promote integration," said the report. "Some of the most segregated areas included Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit in the Midwest and New York, Northern New Jersey and Philadelphia in the mid-Atlantic. Conversely, large metropolitan regions that saw the biggest decrease in segregation included Savannah, Georgia, San Antonio and Miami."
"According to the study, segregated communities of color have lower incomes, higher unemployment, lower home values and are less educated than segregated White communities," said the report. "However, the report indicates that Blacks and Hispanics who grew up in segregated White communities were able to earn significantly higher incomes than those in communities in color."
Housing segregation has been enabled by a litany of policies at the federal, state, and local level, including access to credit and discriminatory urban renewal programs. Even now, there is tacit support from some politicians to keep people of color out of certain neighborhoods, with former President Donald Trump moving to gut fair-housing rules in 2020 for the sake of "suburban housewives."
"One explanation for increased segregation is that while Asians and Hispanics remain the fastest-growing minority groups in the country, they are becoming more segregated from White communities," said the report. "This is driving up the nation's aggregated level of segregation, he said. The study did not explore why these groups are not integrating."
You can read more here.
Donald Trump's record was again torched Saturday with some new General Services Administration (GSA) data showing that his administration fell fall short of its claims about how much border wall it built -- and that it fudged the numbers as well.
But as Trump prepares to tour some of the small amount of wall he did build, perhaps just as humiliating was the rough treatment he got from the conservative Washington Times. His home team newspaper greeted its readers Monday with this large, top-of-Page-1 headline reading:
"Trump's claims on construction of border wall system undercut by GAO audit."
The body of the story wasn't any gentler:
"Congress' chief auditor sure knows how to rain on former President Donald Trump's parade.
"As Mr. Trump prepares to make his first post-presidency trip to the border next week, the Government Accountability Office has delivered a scorching report card on his border wall. It calculates that he completed only 69 miles of the wall system he promised Americans — not the more than 450 miles he claimed.
"The GAO said the administration front-loaded construction of fence panels to meet Mr. Trump's deadline, and that meant shortchanging the roads, lights and other technology for the highly touted "wall system."
"Although 458 miles of new fence panels were erected before Mr. Trump left office, just 69 miles had all of the components that the Border Patrol had planned.
"While the wall panels are typically the most costly part of border barrier construction, the full wall system remains incomplete," the GAO said."
"That appears to undercut Mr. Trump's claims in recent months that the wall has been finished but for some "small remaining openings in areas of the almost 500-mile long wall."
"Mr. Trump's office didn't respond to a request for comment for this article."
The rest of the Washington Times front page contained articles far less likely to evoke cries of "Fake News!" from Trump world -- including tomes on parents hating critical race theory and a new outrage: "Liberals remember Alamo for slavery." So, the Times hasn't lost its right-wing bite, apparently just a little of its fear of Trump.
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