PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — A Health Crisis

Occasionally, I will hear from people that they don’t care about politics, that what happens in Washington doesn’t affect them. They don’t like the chaos or behavior of the current administration, but the stock market is doing well, so they can look the other way in the face of the rise in autocratic fascism that is threatening our national security and destroying any sense of justice that is done without fear or favor.

But what happens in Washington goes deeper than we see, and the impact can have profound consequences. Federal career employees are committed civil servants who work faithfully protecting our country, maintaining safe waterways, ensuring justice and monitoring our well-being. What they do matters, and dismantling it creates chaos that can affect us all.

A case in point is what is happening as we face the possibility of a pandemic completely unprepared. In May 2018, the administration fired the official in charge of overseeing a U.S. response to a pandemic and disbanded the global health security team. No one is in place to steer the ship.

An example of the chaos that caused was what occurred when the Americans quarantined on the Diamond Princess returned to the U.S. Fourteen of the passengers were infected, and the CDC urged them not to fly on the same plane as the 314 others who were not infected. However, the Trump administration overruled the experts and put them on the same plane and now are unable to find a place to house the people who are in quarantine and not infected.

Further sign of the chaos that reigns in our response appeared when the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, Ken Cuccinelli, actually took to Twitter to ask if others were also having trouble the coronavirus map maintained by Johns Hopkins.

Cucinelli tweeted, “Has the Johns Hopkins map of the coronavirus stopped working for other people, or just me? I just tried again, and it looks like Johns Hopkins put the information behind a membership wall of some kind. Seems like bad timing to stop helping the world with this (previously) useful resource. Here’s hoping it goes back up soon.”

The fact that a deputy Cabinet secretary for Homeland Security, in a country that has an entire agency to deal with Disease Control, sent this message to the world is beyond terrifying. Incompetence costs lives.

Add to the fact that the most recent budget by the administration suggested a cut of $1.3 billion (a 19 percent reduction) to the CDC’s budget shows an utter lack of awareness of the impact global health has on our national security or economy.

People who have looked the other way as the Liar in Chief utters tens of thousands of falsehoods might have a reckoning when he lies about this current crisis, claiming “they have studied; they know very much; they are close to a vaccine” and that “all the U.S. citizens with the Coronavirus are getting better.” Add this to his tweet that the virus will abate “ as the weather starts to warm ” reveals President Trump’s unparalleled ignorance and the danger of having such a man as the chief executive with unchecked power.

It is tragic that it takes something of this magnitude, but my prayer is that hopefully those who have turned a blind eye to the gross incompetence and rank corruption of this administration because of rising stock market or a desire for unchecked power or agenda will have a gut check.

And those who think what happens in the governmental offices doesn’t affect them will come to see that when we have competent people you don’t notice what runs well. But when you have incompetent loyalists whose first priority is pleasing the leader and things fall apart, it is hard to have the center hold.

John F. Kennedy famously said, “Those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.” Let’s hope people wake up before we are all consumed.

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