Trump Failed the Covid Test

I have praised the Trump administration’s accomplishments many times, but there is one huge blot on Trump’s record: his administration’s response to the covid epidemic. Via InstaPundit, Jeffrey Tucker of the Brownstone Institute comments on Megyn Kelly’s interview of Trump. Kelly, to her credit, began the process of asking Trump the tough questions about covid:

We need to know why the churches, schools, and businesses were closed at the urging of the White House. We need to know why we faced travel restrictions, why government printed and spent multiple trillions that produced crushing inflation, why the hospitals were shut to elective surgeries and diagnostics, and how it came to be that the fourth branch of government – the administrative state – became the only government in the last year of his term and largely remains so today.

Tucker’s invocation of the administrative state is telling. Trump deserves credit for calling out the deep state, but the fact is that from 2016 until now, the deep/administrative state has been beating Trump like a drum. When did he actually take on the administrative state, and when did he ever win? His only defense with regard to covid (which he doesn’t candidly assert) is that he couldn’t help what the federal government–Fauci et al.–did. But that doesn’t cut it.

The government was under the leadership of Donald Trump. He greenlighted the entire thing, starting on March 12, 2020, with his travel restrictions against Europe and the UK, continuing the next day with his state of emergency that put the National Security Council in charge of a virus, and continuing the next day with his edict that “bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms and other indoor and outdoor venues where groups of people congregate should be closed.”
There are so many questions crying out for answers. In this interview, however, he says that he left it up to the states under a federalist idea. This is the line bandied about in Mar-a-Lago and no one around him dares question it.

It is demonstrably untrue. The one state that stayed almost entirely open – South Dakota – was in defiance of the White House in doing so. The first state to open up after that was Georgia under Governor Kemp, whom Trump blasted for the decision. Moreover, Trump has repeatedly bragged about how he shut down the country, as if that makes him awesome.

Even his discussion of which governors did well is disingenuous.The sole basis of his reasoning is a loyalty test, detached from the substance of Covid policies. He celebrates South Dakota’s Kristi Noem and South Carolina’s Henry McMaster because they have endorsed him for the 2024 election. Meanwhile, he derides the two governors who received the most backlash for opening up their states, Georgia’s Brian Kemp and Florida’s Ron DeSantis.

See the original for links. At the InstaPundit link above, John Tierney adds:

Trump has no good answers about his disastrous Covid response. He dodges Kelly’s questions and makes ridiculous accusations against DeSantis and ridiculous assertions (like claiming credit for saving 100 million lives). And he keeps pretending that his administration wasn’t pushing lockdowns and masks by allowing Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx to set administration policy. (Birx bragged about conning Trump into extended lockdowns.)

Covid was by far the biggest test Trump faced as president, and he flunked it.

That is sad, but true. I will add a personal note: my wife and I were in Palm Beach in December of 2020, and we spent an evening at Mar-a-Lago. We loved being in Florida because it was open for business. The restaurants and bars were full, people were out and having fun. The contrast with our own shut-down state was striking.

But why were many thousands of people able to come to Florida, including attending events at Mar-a-Lago, and have a good time? Not because of pro-shutdown Donald Trump. Rather, because Ron DeSantis bucked Trump and insisted that Florida’s residents and visitors retain their freedoms.

As the race for the GOP presidential nomination begins, it is time for an accounting. Who was right about covid, and who was wrong? Sadly, Donald Trump–like Anthony Fauci, Andy Cuomo, Gavin Newsom, Tim Walz, Gretchen Whitmer, and Joe Biden–was wrong.

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