The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis has released a report claiming that the Trump administration engaged in “deliberate efforts” to undermine the U.S. response to the pandemic for political purposes. Unfortunately, the subcommittee’s report itself appears to be motivated by political purposes.
First, let’s consider the source. The subcommittee is chaired by James Clyburn, one of Joe Biden’s closest political allies. In fact, Clyburn probably had more to do with Biden’s ascension to the presidency than anyone in America, Biden included. It was Clyburn’s support of Clueless Joe in the South Carolina primary that took the Biden campaign off of life support and propelled it to victory. (I look forward to a House report from a GOP majority scrutinizing Biden’s ineffective response to the pandemic.)
The odious Maxine Waters is also on the subcommittee. So is Jamie Raskin, the ultra-leftist who, I’m sad to say, represents the district in which I live.
What about the substance of the report? Much of it is based on a few positions Trump took that were contrary to the advice of public health officials and other experts. The disagreements pertained, for example, to reliance on herd immunity and the authorization of certain covid treatments like hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma.
I don’t think the Trump administration ever adopted a herd immunity strategy for combatting the Wuhan coronavirus. As I read the report, it objects mostly to him hosting a meeting with people who favored the strategy. The horror!
In any case, one cannot infer a “deliberate effort” to undermine the response to the pandemic from disagreements about various methods to combat it. This is true even if Trump at times took positions that differed from those of public health officials and certain experts.
Generally speaking, Trump followed the recommendations of these folks. When he didn’t, he followed the advice of other medical professionals such as Dr. Scott Atlas. Trump might (or might not) have been wrong to do so, but that’s very different from deliberately trying to undermine the pandemic response.
Experts on both sides of the various disputes were wrong about certain matters. This isn’t surprising. The Wuhan virus was novel. No one really knew how to curb it. Everyone was shooting in the dark.
The advice Trump got from all quarters generally wasn’t based on relevant data, of which, for many months, there was very little. It was based on past practices of questionable relevance, guesswork, and prejudices.
The House subcommittee report also relies on the views of Deborah Birx, a disgruntled former adviser to Trump. Birx didn’t cover herself in glory with her advice. If anything, she was more fallible than most on issues relating to the pandemic.
Only rank partisans like Clyburn, Waters, and Raskin could conclude from the evidence they present in the report that Trump deliberately undermined the pandemic response for political purposes. Indeed, this conclusion is implausible on its face.
Trump understood that a pandemic would undermine his reelection prospects. He also understood that there is no way to cover up a pandemic. People either end up hospitalized and/or dead from the virus or they don’t.
Accordingly, it’s difficult to believe Trump would deliberately undermine the pandemic response, and the partisan document produced by Clyburn and company fails to show that he did.