After arguing with some of the governors of the states hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic over the federal government’s responsibility to provide adequate assistance in responding to the crisis, Donald “I don’t take responsibility at all” Trump offered to send ventilators to the United Kingdom where his British doppelganger Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been diagnosed with the deadly virus.
The astonishing offer was made as the president leveraged the crisis for the best possible public relations opportunity for his now-threatened reelection campaign by offering a televised address at a needless ceremony to mark the departure of the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort from the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia to head to the heavily-infected New York City where officials warn that they will shortly run out of medical facilities to care for the rapidly escalating number of patients suffering from the coronavirus.
The USNS Comfort is a Mercy-class hospital ship that will arrive in New York Harbor on Monday and add an additional 1,000 hospital beds to the 53,000 places that the city typically has available. New York state estimates that it will need at least 140,000 beds to treat patients at the rapidly approaching peak of the pandemic.
"My administration has also taken action to disbend, and suspend federal student loan payments" pic.twitter.com/XsyqfLZX57
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 28, 2020
The ease with which Trump offered desperately needed ventilators to another country — after refusing to heed the pleas of governors in states already overwhelmed with the predicably exponential spread of the disease due to the Trump administration’s molasses-slow response to the outbreak in its early stages when quick action could have slowed the contagion — shocked those to whom the president’s mantra of “America First!” would seem to preclude such a generous helping hand.
Trump also shocked both the people in the New York metropolitan area and the authorities in the tri-state region that comprise it by publicly announcing that he was considering an executive order restricting the interstate travel of anyone from the region to prevent the further spread of the disease, despite the fact that much of the area is on already lockdown.
Here's Trump saying he's considering imposing an enforceable quarantine on New York because "they're having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers going down — we don't want that. Heavily infected." pic.twitter.com/yaC1AwYTJg
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 28, 2020
Trump also sent a tweet expanding on his off the cuff answer to the reporter’s question.
I am giving consideration to a QUARANTINE of developing “hot spots”, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A decision will be made, one way or another, shortly.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2020
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the president’s idea “unworkable” as soon as he heard about it — from the media, not Trump himself.
“’I spoke to the president about the ship coming up and the four sites, I didn’t speak to him about any quarantine,’ Mr. Cuomo said at an afternoon briefing, referring to a hospital ship and four emergency hospitals being installed in New York,” The New York Times reported.
“’I don’t even know what that means,’ the governor said of a potential quarantine of New York. ‘I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable. From a medical point of view, I don’t know what you would be accomplishing. I don’t even like the sound of it,’” the newpaper reported Cuomo as commenting.
A spokesperson for Mayor Bill DeBlasio indicated that his administration had also not been consulted by the president in advance of his comments.
“’We don’t have any details and aren’t sure what the president means by his comment,’ the spokeswoman, Freddi Goldstein, said. ‘What we know is that while New York City is the epicenter of this crisis right now, it’s in all 50 states. What we need is more supplies for our hospitals — that’s how we can save lives,’” the Times reported.
Trump’s decision to hold a public relations media event in the midst of a crisis in which medical professionals have urged the public to isolate and practice “social distancing” also generated criticism from those who saw it as a bad example to set for the nation and a waste of valuable time that should have been spent on more urgent priorities.
According to The New York Times:
“We don’t need Donald Trump in Virginia doing a photo op,” Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic governor of Virginia, said in an interview. “We need respirators and we need masks, like every other state in the country. He ought to be staying in Washington, in his job. It’s a total waste of time.” Mr. McAuliffe said that a presidential visit to a naval base meant that officials who needed to be addressing a public health crisis had to instead “spend their time doing a Trump re-election photo op. He ought to stop the politicking and lead the nation.”
With the president dragging a number of senior administration officials along to the ego- and campaign-boosting publicity grab —including Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway, his next Chief of Staff Congressman Mark Meadows, and acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell — Trump is both indicating that these folks don’t have anything more important to do at this juncture and that they are expendable if they get infected during the unnecessary exposure the trip to the Naval base provided them.
Unfortunately, the expendability of the majority of the Trump administration is what landed us in this mess to begin with. An offer to provide an ally with assistance would barely raise an eyebrow if a competent president had responded quickly to the intelligence briefings that warned Trump of the impending crisis and instituted a national effort to prepare well in advance of the beginning of the arrival of the virus in this country.
Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.