John Oliver took a different approach during Sunday night’s Last Week Tonight with two main stories instead of one. The first one serving as the show’s intro and it spotlighted Donald Trump failed the country with is disastrous handling of the coronavirus.
“For many, Trump’s handling of the coronavirus is going to be a significant factor in the vote,” said Oliver. He pointed out that Trump claims that the U.S. is doing a “tremendous” job handling the virus but the stats show a different story. The U.S. has 4% of the global population, yet 20% of the world’s coronavirus cases.
Even so, his base is giving him the benefit of the doubt. In clips from interviews, many say that Trump is “doing the best he can”.
“Is he?” questions Oliver. “I guess that depends doesn’t it? Is he doing the best that any president can or the best that he can? Because if it’s the second one, you may actually be right. We should all be grateful that he hasn’t bottled his urine and started selling it as ‘Trump Immunity Juice’.”
Every president faces a defining crisis and, without a doubt, the pandemic is Trump’s — and his response has been a disaster. Oliver brings up receipts that illustrate some “massive f*ck ups” that many of us have forgotten. This includes that one time when he suggested we leave Americans infected with COVID-19 on a cruise ship because they would increase the number of cases in the country. He said that he liked “the numbers where they are”.
To even further unpack Trump’s massive failures when it comes to handling the coronavirus, Oliver broke it down into three crucial areas where more work could have been done: preparation, coordination and communication.
When it comes to preparation, previous presidents were very aware of a threat like COVID-19. George W. Bush created a pandemic response plan in 2005 while Barack Obama created a pandemic preparedness team.
In a speech Obama made in December of 2014, he eerily summarized what we are going through right now, saying that our country needed to build an infrastructure to be ready for a virus similar to the Spanish Flu.
Trump’s administration disbanded Obama’s pandemic preparedness team, they cut the CDC staff in operating in China by more two-thirds and ended a pandemic early warning program.
“Even when the pandemic began, Trump took an appallingly long time to take it seriously,” said Oliver. Trump would complain how China took a long time to be forthright with the U.S. about the virus. However, when the administration found out the U.S. acted “unforgivably slow”.
The first report of the coronavirus in Wuhan was on December 31, 2019. Alex Azar, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, couldn’t get through to speak to Trump about the virus until January 18. Even when he did, Trump interrupted him asking when flavored vaping products would be back on the market.
Trump said that the virus would go away even though there was community spread reported on February 26. Trump did eventually ban travel from China into the U.S. and constantly patted himself on the back for that.
He put the ban on February 2, two weeks after the first known case in the U.S. The ban was also announced after 45 other countries already imposed travel restrictions on China. Even though there were restrictions, there were massive exceptions. U.S. citizens and immediate family members were still allowed to come from China. That said, nearly 40,000 people came in from China in the two months after Trump imposed restrictions.
We also found out that the first cases of COVID-19 in New York primarily came from Europe and it took Trump six weeks to impose restrictions on travelers from there. Even then, ehen he made a speech announcing those restrictions, it made it sound as if Americans would not be allowed back into the country which caused chaos in airports across the country.
When it came to coordination at the beginning of the pandemic the Trump administration was terrible. They were not able to coordinate crucial supplies like PPE which left medical professionals to their own devices to keep them protected.
Oliver said, “The White House denies mishandling anything.” Trump tried to blame the previous administration for medical professionals not having the appropriate PPE despite the fact that he has been president for three years.
Mike Bowen, an executive at one of the top PPE production companies in the country has been sounding the alarm for years saying that most of the country’s mask supply comes from abroad. In January, when Bown saw what was happening he attempted to contact anyone he could in the government to ramp up production of masks in the U.S. He didnt get any response and later testified in front of Congress to address the consequences due to the lack of response from the administration — and it was dire.
Like everyone else on Earth, the U.S. had to scramble for medical equipment like everyone else on earth and it created chaos. To add to that, Trump made Jared Kushner the leader of a Supply Chain Task Force and he failed miserably.
That brings us to the final area of what could have prevented a lot of this: communication.
Oliver said, “Trump has repeatedly undermined public messaging from the very start despite the fact that as we now know, he knew extremely early on just how bad things could get.”
In private he admitted the severity of the virus, but in public during press conferences, he downplayed the spread of the virus. Oliver simply stated: “Trump just lied.”
He added that even as it became clear to everyone that this was very much more than the flu, Trump constantly undermined his own administration. On April 3, the CDC finally advised that Americans should wear masks in public but Trump undercut it. He leaned into the word “voluntary” when it came to wearing a mask. To that, he said, “I don’t think I’m gonna do it”.
“And just like that, wearing a mask was a political issue,” said Oliver. “He didn’t wear a mask in public until July.”
Because he said it was voluntary from the jump, Americans were listening to him. In news clips, people were saying that if Trump wasn’t worried about the virus, they weren’t worried.
“It has been genuinely remarkable just how consistently trump has undercut public health messaging,” said Oliver. He went on to point out that over a decade ago the CDC put out six principles in how a leader should communicate during a crisis: Be First, Be Right, Be Credible, Express Empathy, Promote Action, and Show Respect.
Oliver commented, “Trump did the precise opposite of every single one of those.”
When it came to empathy, the hardest of the six to do badly, Trump failed. Oliver brought up the fact that he did not think of what medical professionals had to go through at the start of the pandemic. In New York, there were mass graves, makeshift morgues and medical professionals having emotional break downs. “It was utterly brutal,” said Oliver.
During a Trump press conference in the Oval Office at the start of the pandemic, one man expressed his concern about what his colleagues are going through and the post-traumatic trauma due to all the deaths. Trump’s response? He just passed pens around to the people.
As we have seen in the past eight months, the lack of preparation, coordination and communication has had real-world effects.
“I know that Trump wants everyone to believe that nothing more could have been done — but that’s just not true. Other countries have done more and suffered less,” Oliver stated.
Has trump done a good job handling the pandemic? Well, he got the disease so that should give you an appropriate answer. When it comes to Trump’s failures, there was so much more that Oliver couldn’t get to such as using the racist term “kung flu” to the fact that he never developed a comprehensive plan to fight COVID. Trump also removed an independent watchdog for coronavirus funds and asked people to slow down testing. He even made baseless claims that doctors were inflating coronavirus death counts for money and who can forget when he suggested that sunlight and ingesting disinfectants could help cure coronavirus. On top of all that, he has repeatedly undermined the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“If Biden is elected, it’s not like he will magically end this pandemic, but he’ll at least take it seriously and it’s pretty bleak that alone sounds good — but it really does,” said Oliver. “At this point, Trump is clearly bored of hearing about COVID and I am sorry about that. But do you know what has been completely exhausting for the rest of us? Worrying about it all the time.”
He continued, “This virus has taken so much from us: our peace of mind, our routines and nearly a quarter of a million Americans — and its frankly pathetic that in response the only thing Trump has offered people in this country over the past eight months are damaging lies, staggering incompetence and occasionally when he’s feeling generous, some sh*tty f*cking pens.”