Bare Cupboards

I loathe how Trump is interviewed. Reporters let him blather on, throwing blame for our current situation without clarifying facts. David Muir interviewed Trump on the news tonight. Trump claims to have come into the office with the cupboards bare — in a really bad position, with broken tests, blah blah blah. And Muir pushed back a little — it’s the third year of Trump’s presidency … if he knew there were massive gaps in our preparedness, shouldn’t he have filled them by now?

Which is a decent question, The Trump administration’s own budget request from Feb 2020 (i.e. the budget submitted after reasonable people realized this virus was going to be a problem) didn’t ask for any increase in funding for the strategic national stockpile.

But the line of questioning doesn’t address the omitted facts from Trump’s original claim. Firstly, Obama didn’t leave Trump a stockpile of functional SARS-CoV-2 tests because the virus had not been encountered in humans yet. There are probably millions of viruses we’ve not yet encountered, and Obama didn’t use his vast psychic powers to order the Time Force to travel into the future and bring back a few million tests (and, really, I think Obama was clever enough he’d probably have ordered them to travel farther into the future and bring back a vaccine and manufacturing instructions). That’s an outright silly assertion.

There were supplies that the national stockpile lacked. Why? The Obama administration asked for 65 million dollars to increase the stock. Didn’t get it. Equipment was used during the swine flu outbreak, and Obama wanted a 10% budget increase to replenish the supply. Didn’t get it. There was a Republican push to reduce budgets across the board — remember the tea party? The CDC had budget increases due to biosecurity concerns after 9/11, so they were an obvious target. The cut-budgets-or-sequestration debt ceiling debacle — with the predictable result that no agreement could be made on targeted budget cuts — farther reduced CDC funding. While it’s technically true that the Obama administration reduced funding for the CDC, there’s a lot of duress that’s glossed over. And it’s not like the Republicans were sidelined as a minority screaming about how we needed to spend this money.

Alas, to Trump’s benefit and the detriment of politics in general … there’s very little interest in diving into the details. Democrats assume Trump is some combination of incompetent and dishonest, Republicans assume Trump’s right and it’s all Obama’s fault.

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