Nightmare Scenario (II)

Subtitled “Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History” this book covers the period from January 24, 2020 to October 30, 2020 laying out what you would have expected had happened to get us to where we are now.

Without warning, Trump pivoted the conversation. Larry Ellison, the cofounder and executive chairman of Oracle, who had recently held a fundraiser for Trump, had called the president to tout remdesivir, a drug designed to treat Ebola that the NIH was studying to see if it could help treat coronavirus patients, the president said. Trump said that Ellison was one of the smartest people on the plan. “Larry Ellison called me and said remdesivir works,” he said. “I’m clearing you to have the FDA approve it today.” Trump had another order for Azar. Laura Ingraham, the Fox News firebrand, said that the old antimalaria medication hydroxychloroquine worked as a cure against coronavirus. Trump told Azar that Ingraham had taken hydroxychloroquine while traveling in Africa and had not become ill. It had worked, Trump said. He ordered Azar to approve the use of hydroxychloroquine immediately. (pages 220-1)

Trump wasn’t only willing to ignore science, he was prepared to reinvent it, and many of his enablers would bend to his will. (page 224)

Clinical trials for other COVID-19 treatments had a hard time recruiting participants because so many people were participating in hydroxychloroquine studies. (page 228)

Aside from the president, only one person in the White House stood above everyone else, was more powerful than the rest, untouchable, unquestionable: Jared Kushner. (page 251)

His key ally remained Mark Meadows, who loathed the task force’s doctors and often called them screaming about their statements and decisions. He would not let the likes of Redfield, Hahn, Brix, Anthony Fauci, or NIH director Francis Collins keep him from delivering for Trump. He regularly called the agency leaders on their cell phones to chastise them for public comments they had made or for moving too slowly on something the White House wanted. When he didn’t feel he was getting what he wanted, he would call Azar. “Ger your boys in line!” he would tell him, and Azar would oblige. He was grateful for his relationship with Meadows, after all; it had helped him keep his job. (page 284)

As it became clear that the CDC’s guidelines were being subjected to unprecedented political interference, public health officials and scientists bemoaned the fall of the world’s premier public health agency. (page 288)

Collins and Marks watched the press conference on Caputo’s cell phone, and “both immediately had their hair on fire,” on senior administration official recalled. Hahn, Azar, and Trump had completely misrepresented the data, which indicated a relative reduction in mortality, not an absolute reduction. There had been a 35 percent improvement among patients who had received plasma with a high level of antibodies compared to a group that had received plasma with a low level of antibodies. That was not at all the same thing as saying that thirty-five out of a hundred patients would have been saved. A result like that simply didn’t exist. Marks and Collins were in disbelief that Hahn, an oncologist, could have misunderstood the data so horribly. The politiczation of the FDA had reached its nadir. (page 300)

Trump had long made clear to aides that he needed a doctor’s viewpoint in the room that matched his own, someone who had a medical degree but who understood the enormous economic and political costs of shutting down, someone with indisputable credentials. It was too close to the election to get rid of key advisers, and the resignation pact of Birx, Stephen Hahn, and Robert Redfield had complicated things….Some aides had notice a doctor (Scott Atlas) making the rounds on Fox News. (pages 352-3)

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the fastest vaccine ever to be developed had been one for mumps in the 1960s – and that had taken four years. (page 371)

Manufacture at risk meant producing doses of a vaccine before it was know whether it worked. (page 375)

Two of them – from Pfizer and Moderna, which was partnering with the NIH – relied on a new, unproven technology. They were mRNA vaccines, which teach the body how to recognize the spike protein on the coronavirus’s surface and defend against it. Researchers had been studying the genetic technology for decades, but it had never been used in an approved vaccine before. (page 375)

But the obsession with getting the vaccine before the election soon became all-consuming. (page 377)

The convalescent plasma incident had taught Hahn something that others had believed for a long time: many of the people in the White House and throughout the administration really weren’t trying to do the right thing; they were looking out for themselves, for Trump’s reelection, and first and foremost for their own political careers. The sheen and prestige Hahn had once associated with visiting the White House and meeting with the president were gone. (page 384)

Trump’s escape from death in early October had prompted him to droop any pretense of battling the pandemic. He wanted packed, maskless audiences for his rallies and encouraged the masses to believe that they were invincible like he was. Many Americans followed their leader. (page 413)

Meadows finally said the quiet part out loud on October 25 in a CNN interview: “We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas.” (Anthony Fauci would later say “I tip my hat” to Meadows for admitting this.) It was an honest acknowledgment of the White House’s strategy in those final months. There was to be no effort to mitigate the spread of the virus. There was to be no promotion of mask wearing or social distancing. The government was going to let the virus run its course so as not to infringe on people’s liberties. It was going to let the virus run its course in an effort to win the election. (page 415)

But Birx wasn’t going to let it go. She shot back right away, “Those people only listen to you, Mr. Vice President, and the president. They don’t listen to me.” The room froze. In two sentences, she had captured the whole year, the whole mess, the whole tragedy. Those people. (page 423)

There is no good time to face a public health crisis. But the coronavirus hit in a presidential election year, under a president uniquely ill-suited to lead. (page 427)

9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Stephen Douglas on August 2, 2021 at 1:00 am

    You don’t need the inside scoop from anyone. His own words on national TV should be enough for a reasonable jury to convict him.

    “I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters just like you, just to see what would happen,”ย 

    “I was just kidding.” Is not a defense.


    • Posted by Rex the Wonder Dog!๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿพ๐Ÿพ๐Ÿพ on August 2, 2021 at 1:02 pm

      You donโ€™t need the inside scoop from anyone. His own words on national TV should be enough for a reasonable jury to convict him.
      Oh my little Monkey Boi, how I have missed you and your wingnut comments ๐Ÿ’๐Ÿคธโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ’


  2. Posted by Stephen Douglas on August 2, 2021 at 1:28 am

    I wasn’t trying to undermine the election results…
    ” In fact, it is just the opposite,” Trump added in his Saturday statement. “The documents were meant to uphold the integrity and honesty of elections and the sanctity of our vote.”

    Lock him up.


  3. Posted by Stephen Douglas on August 2, 2021 at 9:17 am

    Damn unions!

    ” The broadest classification of political donors separates them into business, labor, or ideological interests. Whatever slice you look at, business interests dominate, with an overall advantage over organized labor of about 16-to-1. Even among PACs โ€” the favored means of delivering funds by labor unions โ€” business has a close to 7-to-1 fundraising advantage.”

    If you think that’s bad, Google “Dark money behind the big lie” and see who, among (many) other things, paid for those busloads of ‘patriots’ from all over the country for Jan 6.

    Makes Trump look like nothing more than a pawn; a useful idiot.


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