Alan Zendell, March 29, 2021
Usually, when embarrassing mistakes are made at the highest level of government, especially when they result in loss of life, the first casualty is truth. We typically wait decades until all the principals involved are dead or otherwise beyond accountability for their actions, for records and personal notes to be declassified and revealed to the public. The good news, if we can call it that, with respect to the pandemic, is that the medical professionals who were ignored by the Trump administration aren’t making us wait that long. Now that they are no longer under threat from a vindictive Trump, they are all speaking frankly about what happened.
CNN’s Sanjay Gupta interviewed the six prominent health professionals who advised President Trump on how to respond to the pandemic. The results aired Sunday night, and were summarized today, here. I drew heavily on that summary in what follows.
Doctor Deborah Birx, the highly respected virologist who once trained under Anthony Fauci, served as COVID Response Coordinator under Trump. That’s the same Dr. Birx who cringed before a worldwide television audience when Trump asked her to confirm his suggestion that drinking bleach would cure COVID. Birx, who also has impressive diplomatic credentials, is normally circumspect, but even her best attempt at a poker face couldn’t stand up to Trump’s idiotic remark.
Two months after Trump left office, with the nation’s death toll rushing toward 550,000, Dr. Birx told Dt. Gupta that all but about 100,000 of those deaths could have been mitigated if the Trump administration had not politicized its response to the virus. In plain English, that means Trump’s decision to prioritize the economy against the advice of most leading economists over the lives of Americans may have been responsible for about 450,000 deaths, to date,.
Trump gambled that an all-out effort to develop a vaccine, as Dr. Fauci urged, would be sufficient. But he ignored everything every other bit of advice from his medical specialists, instead convincing his base that wearing masks and distancing was a socialist infringement of their personal freedom. The result was what Fauci called a horrifying number of avoidable fatalities.
Dr. Birx told Gupta that she joined the Trump administration to spare the United States from the devastation the virus was causing in Europe. She knew we weren’t prepared and she wanted to help. But “[a]fter speaking out in August about the coronavirus pandemic being ‘extraordinarily widespread’ across both rural and urban communities in the US, Birx received an [angry] call from former President Trump, after which she says she was blocked from speaking about the pandemic nationally.”
Dr. Robert Kadlec and Admiral Brett Giroir, both Assistant Secretaries of Health and Human Services under Trump, reported that they had no idea what was in the supply chain with respect to “personal protective gear, medicines, ventilators and other medical equipment” when the pandemic began, underlining Dr. Birx’s fear that we were unprepared. Kadlec and Giroir said they had to start from scratch, which is odd, because the Obama administration bequeathed them a thorough analysis and pandemic response plan. But Trump cut the staff that prepared them from his national security team because they weren’t necessary.
Both Drs. Fauci and Birx felt undermined by Trump’s late to the game pandemic advisor, Dr. Scott Atlas. While the former were trying desperately to prevent Trump from opening the country too quickly after a brief shutdown in March, Atlas was feeding the President conflicting data, which was far out of the mainstream of what the professional health care community was advising. As a result, Birx said, the president told her in April that the country would never be shut down again.
Former CDC Director Robert Redfield and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn both complained that HHS Secretary Alex Azar repeatedly pressured them to change the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, to agree with what Trump was saying from the White House. Azar denied the charge although it had been widely reported in the media at the time. Wanting to assure that people called to testify before Congress were armed with accurate data and recommendations, Fauci, Birx, Hahn, and Redfield formed their own doctor’s group in defiance of Trump’s directives during the 2020 presidential campaign. In response, they and their families started receiving death and other threats.
The picture these respected doctors and health administrators painted was a of a president unwilling to accept the reality of the pandemic and its impact on American lives and the economy. It was the ultimate test for a president who claimed to care about the American people, and he failed, utterly. Finally unmuzzled, the doctors confirmed what most of us already believed. Trump was guilty of criminal malfeasance.