WH Admission on Pandemic Overshadows Trump’s Last Push for Reelection
By Staff, Agencies
A stunning White House claim that the US cannot control the fast-worsening pandemic is overshadowing US President Donald Trump's frantic last-ditch bid to turn around his reelection race with Democrat Joe Biden with eight days to go.
The comments by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on CNN on Sunday alarmed medical experts who argue that letting the coronavirus rage unchecked is akin to a policy of herd immunity that will cost many thousands of lives. But with daily new infections hitting record levels, Trump spent the weekend in a campaign blitz in which he openly flouted steps like masking and social distancing that could slow the spread of the disease and moaned that all the media talks about is "COVID, COVID, COVID."
"We are not going to control the pandemic," Meadows told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" Sunday, arguing that "proper mitigation factors" like therapies and vaccines should be the priority.
The window into the administration's thinking came as Trump spent the weekend constructing a giant confidence trick for voters, declaring the country was "rounding the corner beautifully" in the battle against COVID-19.
US Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, is refusing to accept standing US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on quarantining after his chief of staff and a 'body man' personal assistant were among five people in his orbit to test positive in a new White House coronavirus hot spot.
The latest signs that Trump is putting his political priorities ahead of his duty of care to the American people come as the President plans a frantic week of packed rallies that flout good social distancing practice.
But the weekend of grim health data and controversy means the climax of the campaign will be overshadowed by the pandemic — a tough reality for Trump since 60% of Americans in a recent CNN Poll disapproved of his crisis management.
Trump has all along downplayed the threat from the virus. He mocked mask wearing, turning the practice into a culture war issue, and pressured Republican governors to open their states before the virus was under control, helping to unleash a wave of infections in the Sun Belt during the summer.
As a result, his handling of the pandemic is a central campaign issue, and his behavior in recent days signals there will be no change to the White House's approach to the pandemic if he wins the election –no matter how bad the virus gets this winter.
The final week of the campaign opens with Trump trailing Biden in national popular vote polls by 9 or 10 points and by smaller margins in many of the states that will decide the election on November 3. If the polling is accurate, Trump does have a narrow path to reelection but will need to make good on his vow to massively expand his political base with new conservative voters, and he will have to almost run the table in competitive states.
The extent to which the White House has all but given up fighting the pandemic – for instance, public briefings by top government scientists have disappeared – was made clear by Meadows.
The issue with his comments is that a vaccine, even if it is approved by regulators in the coming months, is unlikely to be available to all Americans by well into next year. The kind of state-of-the-art treatments that helped Trump beat his case of Covid-19 are not yet available to the general public or the tens of thousands of Americans now getting infected every day. Public health officials like Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the CDC, have said masks are one of the most powerful weapons to fight the virus.
Biden leapt on Meadows' comments as he tries to make a case that Trump's denial and downplaying of the greatest public health crisis in 100 years means he should be disqualified from serving a second term.
He said the White House chief of staff had "stunningly admitted this morning that the administration has given up on even trying to control this pandemic, that they've given up on their basic duty to protect the American people.
"This wasn't a slip by Meadows, it was a candid acknowledgment of what President Trump's strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away. It hasn't, and it won't."
Trump and Pence – the head of the coronavirus task force – have consistently refused to model the social distancing and mask wearing that is the most effective way to cut infections until treatments and vaccines arrive.