Pollak: Politico Continues Media’s Quest to Blame Trump for Coronavirus

Trump CDC (Jim Watson / Getty)
Jim Watson / Getty

Politico continued the media’s effort to trash President Donald Trump’s response to coronavirus, citing “current and former officials” Saturday who fault the president for what they call “Trump-inspired disorganization.”

The sources for Dan Diamond’s article Saturday evening are described as “13 current and former officials, as well as individuals close to the White House” — remarkably similar to the “10 current and former Trump administration officials, as well as two people close to the administration” cited in Diamond’s Feb. 26 article attacking Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director Robert Redfield.

The article begins by attacking President Trump for disagreeing with Vice President Mike Pence about whether to evacuate passengers off a cruise chip near California, the Grand Princess, on which coronavirus had broken out.

The president, Politico reports, wanted to keep the passengers on the ship, though he ultimately deferred to Pence as leader of the nation’s coronavirus fight.

What Diamond does not note is that Politico — among others — devoted extensive coverage to criticisms of the decision to evacuate Americans last month from another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, which had been quarantined in Japan. That is the context in which the administration is making similar decisions.

The fact that President Donald Trump is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t suggests that there is something other than reasonable criticism on offer.

Politico faults the Trump administration for “failing to secure enough testing to head off a coronavirus outbreak in the United States,” a claim that — if true — would be laid at the feet of the CDC. But while admitting that, Politico uses “current and former officials” to say that Trump’s “atmosphere” at the White House is really to blame.

The “atmosphere,” Politico alleges, is one that discourages officials from giving the president bad news. But that fails to distinguish between how the government functions under Trump from how it functions under anyone else.

(There were similar allegations of a bad “atmosphere” during the Obama administration when it came to intelligence reports about the fight against the so-called “Islamic State.” An inspector general’s report later found that there had been no deliberate attempts by the Obama White House to distort the intelligence, but that a perception that the administration did not want to hear “bad news” led intelligence analysts to self-censor in some of their reporting.)

Politico also faults Trump for failing to appoint “a sole leader to fight the outbreak, as President Barack Obama did with Ebola in 2014.” The implication is that Obama did a good job with Ebola.

But the Obama administration was perceived at the time to have bungled the response, and only belatedly put Ron Klain, a political staffer with no relevant experience, in charge.
Diamond also criticizes Trump for replacing his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), in the midst of a crisis. While it is not clear that had anything to do with coronavirus, one of the hallmarks of Trump’s administration has been the swift removal of people perceived to be doing less than the best job possible.

It may not be how “politicos” think Washington ought to function, but it is how the business world works — and it is part of the reason Americans elected Trump. (Arguably, it has worked, and is working.)

Politico‘s latest criticism is indistinguishable from hundreds of others that have appeared in the mainstream media since the president took office, driven by unnamed sources with apparent axes to grind and vague complaints about the president’s management style.

In a similar vein, the Washington Post accused the Trump administration Saturday of “squander[ing] time” in the fight against the virus, after even the New England Journal of Medicine said that early travel restrictions “may have helped slow the spread of the virus.” The Post‘s sources: “16 current and former administration officials.”
In an atmosphere where Trump’s critics have a strong incentive to a) inflame the crisis, and b) blame it on him, it is remarkable how little the method of criticism has changed.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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