‘A failed state’: Columnist slams Trump’s 'dysfunctional' administration for being ‘too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering’

‘A failed state’: Columnist slams Trump’s 'dysfunctional' administration for being ‘too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering’
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House COVID-19 Coronavirus task force, delivers remarks and answers questions from members of the press Thursday, April 2, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

Some of the best political reporting and analysis looks at the big picture, which is what journalist George Packer does in a think piece for The Atlantic that slams President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Packer is hardly the only person who is critical of Trump’s COVID-19 response, but Packer’s article goes way beyond being simply anti-Trump — coronavirus, as Packer sees it, is simply underscoring dysfunction in the federal government that was already there to begin with.


Before the pandemic, Packer asserts, the U.S. was already plagued by “a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public.” Those problems, according to Packer, “had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity — to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.”

The Trump Administration, Packer laments, responded to the coronavirus pandemic like a developing country “with shoddy infrastructure and a dys­func­tional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.” And he believes that Americans are living in a failed state.

Packer writes, “The administration squandered two irretrievable months to prepare. From the president came willful blindness, scapegoating, boasts and lies. From his mouthpieces, conspiracy theories and miracle cures. A few senators and corporate executives acted quickly — not to prevent the coming disaster, but to profit from it. When a government doctor tried to warn the public of the danger, the White House took the mic and politicized the message.”

The type of dysfunction that has characterized the Trump Administration during the coronavirus pandemic, Packer adds, existed long before Trump was elected president in 2016. The “harbinger” of Trumpism, he writes, “wasn’t Barack Obama but Sarah Palin, the absurdly unready vice-presidential candidate who scorned expertise and reveled in celebrity. She was Donald Trump’s John the Baptist.”

Packer concludes his article by stressing that one of the lessons to be learned from the pandemic is that foolish tribalism is not serving the U.S. well.

“We can learn from these dreadful days that stupidity and injustice are lethal — that, in a democracy, being a citizen is essential work. That the alternative to solidarity is death,” Packer asserts. “After we’ve come out of hiding and taken off our masks, we should not forget what it was like to be alone.”

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