With the CDC’s announcement that Americans should prepare to have daily life disrupted due to Coronavirus, we need to start getting serious about the threat of this possible public health emergency.
Unfortunately, our political environment is so caustic, politicians on both sides seem willing to use even the threat of pandemic to score political points. It’s sickening. That kind of behavior can lead to mass hysteria, driving misinformation and even more suffering should the virus spread.
Schumer and Romney’s knee-jerk criticism of the president are entirely political in nature and wholly irresponsible. They reflect a Washington and media environment where everything has to be about Trump. The response to this threat isn’t the Trump administration’s plan. It’s the government’s plan.
It’s an American response.
Whether you’re Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow, the issue of Coronavirus isn’t about Trump or party politics. It’s about public health, protecting Americans and preparing for the potential of a deadly, national emergency.
The Coronavirus is spreading. It is not contained or under control. While we have standards and processes in place from a public health standpoint to control the spread of infection in our hospital systems, as well as other systems that bode well for limiting the scope of the illness as compared to other nations, America will feel the effects of this virus more in the coming weeks, absent a vaccine.
The world is long overdue for a global pandemic. We’ve known this for some time.
Officials in both parties have known this for years. The Bush administration through the CDC and Department of Health and Human Services began pandemic planning in earnest, particularly after fears of a possible spread of the H1N1 virus. The Obama administration had a responsibility to continue that planning and presumably the appropriate agencies did.
Our federal government, along with our state and local departments of health, conduct research, create new protocols for response and plan for emergencies on an ongoing basis. To lay any effort, no matter how good or deficient, at the foot of any presidential administration or one official is nonsense.
For his part, the president’s tweeting of thin assurances on pandemic planning are risky and best left to public health officials, physicians and scientists working on the response. Oversimplifying the complexities of this threat and the required responses will not assure anyone and will not be perceived as leadership by the public.
The administration should be conducting reporter briefings with top career and political officials from the appropriate agencies almost daily now to allow subject-matter experts the ability to drive the narrative, not politicians. This should not be viewed as an opportunity for the White House to score political points either.
We need to be methodical, calm, fact-based, science-based and — yes — non-partisan in our approach to pandemic planning.
Chuck Schumer says the president should have asked for $3 billion supplemental funding instead of $2 billion. As someone who helped plan a number of pandemic planning sessions during the Bush administration with state officials across the country, I can tell you that a pandemic is not a problem solved by throwing more money at it.
It takes intergovernmental and interagency coordination.
It takes public education and personal responsibility.
It doesn’t take tweets or sniping after a hearing. It takes sober leadership.
Let’s pray the president, Congress and all our elected officials can put partisan bickering aside and help protect Americans from this threat.
That’s their number one job.
Tom Basile has been part of the American political landscape from Presidential campaigns to local politics. He served in the Bush Administration from 2001-2004, as Executive Director of the NYS Republican Party and has held a range of senior-level communications roles in and out of government. Basile's critically-acclaimed book, "Tough Sell: Fighting the Media War in Iraq" (Foreword by Amb. John R. Bolton), chronicles his time in Baghdad fighting media bias and driving fairer coverage of the Iraq war. In 2011, he was featured in Time Magazine's Person of the Year spread about political activism around the world. Basile is an adjunct professor at Fordham University, a local elected official and runs a New York-based strategic communications firm. He is a member of the New York Bar and sits on a number of academic and philanthropic advisory boards. Learn more about him at TomBasile.com or follow him on Twitter @Tom_Basile. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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