The Trump administration’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic is the albatross hanging over the president’s re-election campaign and now it’s really coming back to bite them in the butt.
The revelation that several of Vice President Mike Pence’s aides, including his Chief of Staff Marc Short, have contracted the coronavirus — just weeks after Trump himself, his wife Melania, his Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, former Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway and other White House insiders all were infected — demonstrates how incompetent this administration has been in implementing personal protection protocols within their own workplace, much less in protecting the American populace from the ravages of the disease, now at the highest level it’s been since the pandemic began
The desperation that the Trump campaign is feeling at this point has led them to ignore recommendations from the CDC and keep Vice President Pence on the road holding rallies despite the fact that he has been in close contact with people known to be infected and should rightfully be in quarantine right now.
With a little over a week before election day, however, such a sidelining would be mighty inconvenient for the president’s last-minute push for votes in crucial swing states, so Pence continues to appear before largely maskless crowds, turning his appearances into potential superspreader events.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was forced to defend Pence’s continued campaigning — despite the VP’s exposure to active COVID-19 infections — when he appeared on CNN‘s State of the Union this morning.
Meadows did his best to downplay the seriousness of the latest White House outbreak of coronavirus by refusing to even confirm the number of people who have been affected by it, saying that “we don’t give out that kind of information.”
Instead, Meadows insisted that Vice President Pence was allowed to avoid quarantine since he was categorized as an “essential worker.”
CNN host Jake Tapper pushed back on that categorization, asking exactly how electioneering was considered essential in the larger scheme of the pandemic.
“Well, actually he’s not just campaigning, he’s working,” Meadows replied, going on to cite the administration’s Middle East peace agreement as one example of the other issues Pence was working on instead of isolating himself per CDC guidelines. “I’m not saying he’s not campaigning. I’m saying that is only part of what he’s doing.”
“As we look at that, essential personnel, whether it’s the vice president of the United States or anyone else, has to continue on,” the White House Chief of Staff continued.
Meadows then cited the CDC guidelines that allow essential personnel like Pence to do their jobs while wearing a mask.
“I can tell you that what he’s doing is wearing a mask, socially distancing and when he goes up to speak he will take the mask off, put it back on,” he said.
With the onset of colder weather and a move to indoor activities across the country, America has been experiencing a massive second wave of COVID-19 cases with new infections up 32% over the past two weeks and reaching a new record.
With the pandemic and its consequent economic effects now likely to be the major determining factor in who wins the upcoming election, the latest medical setback in the Trump administration could not be more ill-timed for the president. Particularly when the President’s top aide basically admits defeat in the face of the surging virus.
“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Meadows told Jake Tapper.
“Why not?” Tapper responded.
“Because it’s a contagious virus,” the Chief of Staff tried to explain.
“Why not make efforts to contain it?,” the incredulous Tapper asked.
“What we need to do is make sure we have the proper mitigation factors to make sure people don’t die,” Meadows said in an admission that the administration isn’t even trying to block the spread of the coronavirus anymore.
Hopefully, this latest example of the administration’s inability to even effectively enact basic safety protocols and protect its own staff will signal to voters that a change is needed if our nation ever expects to successfully combat this pandemic. Somehow, infecting your followers seems to be a losing strategy to gain re-election.
You can watch an excerpt from the footage of White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ conversation with Jake Tapper on CNN‘s State of the Union in the videos below.
MEADOWS: We're not going to control the pandemic
TAPPER: Why not?
M: Because it's a contagious virus
T: Why not make efforts to contain it?
M: What we need to do is make sure we have the proper mitigation factors to make sure people don't die pic.twitter.com/0DYgk4rB3T
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 25, 2020
Original reporting by Justine Coleman at The Hill.
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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.