Covid-19: Donald trump’s final challenge

Four years ago when Donald Trump was elected president of the United States I was upset, but hoped that he would accept good advice and grow into the role. As part of that I remember thinking of a couple challenges for him to show that he could really do what he claimed he could.

One of those claims was that he could be a better president because he was a successful businessman. His bankruptcies and broken contracts made me doubt that claim and the recent revelations from his tax returns have only reinforced that opinion. But there was the opportunity to show his business acumen. As America has attempted to reduce carbon emissions and shift to renewable energy sources, the Obama administration touted the opening of the Solyndra plant to manufacture solar photovoltaic panels. This would have helped improve our energy independence and balance of trade. But partly because of dumping of panels on the U.S. market by China (as well as cutting prices to obtain contracts), Solyndra went bankrupt and defaulted on their loan.https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/08/solyndra-what-a-mess/446784/

With help from the Trump policy of applying tariffs and tighter supervision of contracts, the new administration could have shown the Democrats how to run a business right. But President Trump touted clean coal, lambasted wind turbines and pretty much ignored solar energy. Nevertheless solar energy production in the U.S. has grown 35 fold since 2008.

My second challenge was based on Trump’s repeated gripes about the Iran nuclear treaty of 2015. The United States has had a longstanding policy of trying to block Iran from developing nuclear weapons. https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Timeline-of-Nuclear-Diplomacy-With-Iran

After 15 years of sanctions and import bans, several years of negotiations culminated in the JCPOA in 2015. This agreement <blockquote>on July 14, 2015 that limited Iran’s nuclear program and enhanced monitoring in exchange for relief from nuclear sanctions. Prior to that, Iran had been engaged in efforts to acquire the capability to build nuclear weapons for more than two decades. Although it remained uncertain whether Tehran would have made the final decision to build nuclear weapons, it had developed a range of technologies, including uranium enrichment, warhead design, and delivery systems, that would give it this option in a relatively short time frame.┬áTehran maintains that its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful</blockquote>

The agreement was heavily criticized by Republicans who blocked an approval resolution in both houses of Congress. And President-elect Trump claimed he could make a better deal. i thought an excellent way to demonstrate it would be to get an agreement with North Korea and then get Iran to sign a similar agreement. Although President Trump backed out of the JCPOA, there even seemed to be some movement in that direction when he met with Kim Jong Un in Singapore in 2018. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/11/donald-trump-and-kim-jong-un-meet-at-historic-summit-in-singapore.html

That meeting led to further discussions and a photo handshake at the DMZ in 2019. https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-korea-dmz-kim-moon-20190630-story.html But negotiations stalled out, and North Korea resumed missile testing in March 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51701731

But all that was eclipsed by the growing crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic. As of March 7, the U.S. only had 353 cases and 19 deaths. Those numbers are now being matched by many states on a daily basis. For instance, New Mexico had 1210 cases and 14 deaths on November 8. On that same day, Kansas only had 134 cases and no deaths. But cases there have grown 134% in the last 14 days. Texas had 6935 cases and 37 deaths with 43% growth. Overall U.S. cases are averaging 111,000 a day and up 59% in the last 14 days. . The death rate is somewhat better than back in April as doctors have learned how to manage Covid-19 better. Also, the infections are spreading among younger people who are not invulnerable, but less likely to die. Nevertheless, deaths from Covid-19 are growing also.

However, the White House Coronavirus Task Force which used to have daily televised briefings has all but abandoned work in the last two months. And with 70 days to go before President-elect Biden can take charge to implement his plans, President Trump emerged from a weekend of golfing to fire his Secretary of Defense. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/09/us/politics/esper-defense-secretary.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage

And White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who 2 weeks ago announced that the U.S. was not going to be able to control the coronavirus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tN9T73GWam0, has now been infected himself. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/white-house-chief-staff-mark-meadows-tests-positive/story?id=74071081

Joseph Biden articulated plans to get the pandemic under control and is assembling a team of scientists with expertise in infectious diseases and public health to implement them. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/09/us/politics/coronavirus-pandemic-biden.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

But that implementation is limited to public exhortations and awaits inauguration day in January 2021 to begin. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/11/09/biden-covid-19-task-force-includes-trump-whistleblower-rick-bright/6218601002/

The Trump administration has touted a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 and several companies have made incredible progress on developing and testing candidate vaccines. Pfizer has shown 90% effectiveness in early results for its vaccine. https://www.statnews.com/2020/11/09/covid-19-vaccine-from-pfizer-and-biontech-is-strongly-effective-early-data-from-large-trial-indicate/ But the first doses of that vaccine probably won’t be available until December with widespread distribution waiting till April or May when sufficient doses will have been manufactured.

In the mean time, hundreds of thousands more Americans will die. And we could save 100 thousand of those lives by the simple intervention of wearing a mask. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-1132-9

We already used that method combined with social distancing, reduced customer access to businesses especially restaurants, and limiting large gatherings. However, those methods depend on effective leadership and appealing to a broad range of Americans for success. And that is blocked by a President who prefers to pretend that we have already rounded the corner.

Joseph Biden can’t change executive orders or propose legislation until January. But the White House Coronavirus Task Force is an ad hoc working group with members selected by the President himself or Vice President Pence. A simple way to push our Covid-19 response into warp speed would be to appoint Vice President elect Kamala Harris as co-chairman of the Covid-19 Task Force and allow her to bring in the team recruited by Biden and begin leading measures to slow the growth and actually reduce the number of Covid-19 cases (and deaths).

So, my final challenge to Donald Trump is to do just that. It will show true leadership, save lives, and give him a talking point if he decides to do a Grover Cleveland and run for president again in four years.

I have absolutely no hope that he will actually take such an action, but it’s nice to dream.