The Thinker: Rich Galen


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It Only Works when it Doesn't Matter

Rich Galen

Monday April 6, 2020

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  • It is easy - too easy - to engage in the eye-rolling, cringing, and sarcastic laughter that accompanies the daily briefings by Donald Trump.

  • We know what he's like, so those are lazy responses.

  • Trump was elected as a businessman, but he's a businessman in a unique business. It is a family business. The construction business lends itself to one-person rule. In many construction companies the number of full-time employees are relatively few.

  • Most are independent subcontractors working for companies designed to be independent of the mother ship - if not only for tax purposes, then to provide a buffer against the very real possibility of a bankruptcy of one property so as not to sink the entire enterprise.

  • Donald Trump is not the only person who ever ran a company like this. But, he is the only person who ever ran a company like this and became President of the United States.

  • Trump bragged about his leadership style: How he didn't like planning ahead, how he liked to come down to this office in the Trump Tower and sort of make things happen.

  • That's still the way he manages, but as President that only works when it doesn't matter.

  • There are a growing number of articles recalling how the Trump administration had been warned that something like the COVID-19 pandemic might happen.

  • The Washington Post's Dan Balz - maybe the dean of American political writers - had a rare front page piece about how American was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic.

  • We were.

  • In spite of warnings as far back as the transition from the Obama Administration to the Trump team and as recently as, according to the Washington Post "The Trump administration received its first formal notification of the outbreak of the coronavirus in China on Jan. 3" Trump insisted this was not big deal.

  • The Right Wing media rolled out the Big Blunderbuss Brigade comparing COVID-19 to a cold or to seasonal flu and blaming the mainstream media for hyping a non-existent story.

  • As of 4 PM on Sunday, April 5 there have been 332,283 cases of COVID-19 in the United States leading to 9,499 deaths (according to

  • Ok. Preparedness.

  • A freak 2014 snowstorm in Atlanta a snarled traffic for hours and hours. Left thousands of people stranded in there cars, and hundreds of schools were turned into overnight shelters for students who couldn't get home.

  • Official snow totals? Three inches. Atlanta is not prepared for snow.

  • Want to be prepared for snow? Move to Minneapolis.

  • The issue isn't whether a city like Atlanta keeps thousands of snowplows sitting around for decades waiting to be pressed into service for an afternoon rush hour storm. The issue is having systems available to be pressed into service if a snowstorm - or tornado, or some kind of terrorist activity - does occur.

  • Dan Balz, in his piece, not only points out that the Trump administration had no capability for ramping up a testing program for COVID-19, and had little interest in building one. But he also points out we were caught flatfooted on September 11 in 2001, for the collapse of the financial system in 2008, for Hurricanes Andrew in 1992 and Katrina in 2005.

  • The big difference is the President involved (all of whom were named Bush, I now realize) never denied that the event had happened, never blamed someone else for not shooting down the planes or not propping up Lehman Brothers. Nor did they ever draw a fake hurricane track with a Sharpie.

  • It is not clear to me why Trump didn't seize the moment and declare himself a war-time President instead of maintaining the impending pandemic was "a hoax," but here we are.

  • 9,499 dead and we are heading into what Trump's appointed experts are warning is the worst period still ahead of us. That may be 10 percent of the final death toll.

  • It is now almost lost to history, but the Steve Bannon theory of destroying the bureaucracy was firing people who were working for the government and leaving their box on the organizational chart empty.

  • From the Post's front-pager on the dysfunction of this Administration:
    "It may never be known how many thousands of deaths, or millions of infections, might have been prevented with a response that was more coherent, urgent and effective.

    "Infighting, turf wars and abrupt leadership changes hobbled the work of the coronavirus task force."

  • The mishandling of the pandemic will probably cost Trump his re-election. Take no solace in that. It may cost 100,000 Americans their lives.

  • It only works when it doesn't matter.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to both the Dan Balz piece and the story about how dysfunctional the Administration has been.

    The Mullfoto is of Mullings Central enjoying a beautiful Spring day.

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