‘Unconscionable’; MSNBC Pans Trump on Coronavirus as ‘Failure,’ Claims Feds Will Shirk Role

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Even after the first reactions Wednesday night to President Trump’s address over the coronavirus, MSNBC pundits Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, and guest/former Biden aide/Ebola czar Ron Klain continued to attack Trump administration as a “failure of leadership,” having acted in an “absolutely unconscionable” way by not having widespread testing, and engaging in “politically convenient disinformation.”

More ghoulishly, however, Klain predicted the federal will intentionally not deploy resources but instead leave local and state governments hanging when “the deep state is what fights the crisis like this.”

 

 

Klain returned to Maddow’s set at the 9:47 p.m. Eastern mark and condemned “the unevenness and the inexplicability of this travel restriction… really starts to stick out at you,” blasting the idea of European travel bans being of any significance as previous coronavirus-related restrictions “gave the President a false sense of security.”

Maddow picked up from there, stating she’s “so enrage[ed] that the U.S. testing situation is — continues to be a fiasco this far into this” and wondering why we haven’t just copy-pasted testing methods from other countries.

Klain replied by not panning CDC missteps or, well, anything. Instead, he dubbed it “it's a failure of leadership by the president and task force.”

Awhile after some actual, practical suggestions from Klain that didn’t involve bashing Trump (which must have been pain-staking), Klain went back to the well, like the good Biden operative that is, with the ugly prediction that the federal government will seemingly pull back (click “expand,” emphasis added):

KLAIN: One thing I put a star on is I think we’ve got to watch for what’s going to be a pivot, I think, in the Trump administration rhetoric. I think, increasingly, they’re going to say, hey, this is a state and local problem. We're here to provide technical expertise but solving this will be up to governors and mayors. I think they’re going to try to push this problem downward. The federal government does have tools, right? We have FEMA that we could use. They're really good at building things quickly after hurricanes and earthquakes. They might be able to deployed to build temporary hospitals in cities and places that need them. Governors could use the National Guard for that purpose.

MADDOW: Yeah, I’m imagining mass units. Hospital tents.

KLAIN: Exactly. That's again what we do when there’s a horrible hurricane or horrible tornado that kind of wipes out a medical facility, FEMA can sometimes do that. We need to be really creative about how this is going to happen. You see what is going on in Korea. It’s not just extreme care but testing, drive through testing, trying to get the testing out of the health care center, protect the personnel, protect you when you're being tested from being infected by others. We just need to be more creative. We're not really seeing that from the White House. We're seeing is kind of vague statements and vague direction but not that kind of push to action.

Before going to The Last Word and O’Donnell, Klain claimed that he trusts career government health experts, but “worr[ies] they are being muzzled by the President.”

He used that point as a springboard to extend the “deep state” tag from intelligence to health officials, again insinuating that they’re not currently doing what they could be doing:

Look, when you have a crisis like this, the deep state is what fights the crisis like this. It’s the men and women who are permanent government servants, people that work with me on the Ebola response, they’re still there. They’re great people, great scientists. Great public servants. They need to be turned loose to solve this problem, not distrusted and sidelined.

In the hand-over between shows, Maddow and O’Donnell showered slobbering praise on Klain usually reserved for Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Barack Obama (click “expand”):

 

 

O’DONNELL: I invite viewers to compare what they learn from Ron in your last 45 minutes of discussion to what they've been hearing from Trump administration officials, not the medical professionals but the actual White House staff because that's what Ron Klain was in the Obama White House. He was in a position without medical expertise but with expertise about how to make government work, how to make arms of the government work together in a crisis like this and of course, he did pick up a great deal of expertise about this kind of situation and about the medical elements of this situation. I haven't heard anyone from the Kellyanne Conways to the Larry Kudlows to the Trump appointees in the White House who have anything like the command of this subject that Ron Klain has in one sentence.

MADDOW: Not only the lack of command but the overt publicly — excuse me, politically convenient disinformation. Those two people you just cited — Kellyanne Conway and Larry Kudlow, both saying this is contained. Kudlow saying almost airtight, you know, as the number of U.S. cases started low and headed toward over 1,000 where it is now. The overt disinformation from the President on down has been — is actually one of serious challenges that we've got as a country in terms of how to deal with this and I don't think anybody was under any illusions they handled this well. I’m not sure any of us were cynical enough to expect they would handle it so overtly badly that they’d be one of the problems we needed to fix along the way.

Returning to the idea of wide-spread testing, Maddow slammed the federal government (not the career officials, but Trump) for having “just absolutely [blown] it when it came to us having tests and so we're the biggest industrialized nation in the world dealing with a significant epidemic while flying blind with no information,” rendering the delay “just absolutely unconscionable.”'

Referring to Tom Hanks and his wife as perhaps the most famous contractors of the virus, Maddow used her infinite wisdom to trash the President’s pronouncements as a “dart broad approach” of “blind-throwing darts” when “we need concerted smart science driven action.”

To see the relevant MSNBC transcript from March 11, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show
March 11, 2020
9:47 p.m. Eastern

RACHEL MADDOW: Now that you had a couple of minutes to absorb what the President proposed and what he said, let me ask you what was most important — most interesting about the announcement.

RON KLAIN: Well, I think the unevenness and the inexplicability of this travel restriction, which we talked about a little bit earlier, really starts to stick out at you. The exemption of the U.K. even though there are 12 countries in Europe that actually have fewer cases than the U.S. The fact that people can travel to and from Korea. There’s a warning about it, but it is not banned even Korea has the second most cases in the entire world.

MADDOW: Wait, so the President has been bragging on the travel ban that he instituted related to China.

KLAIN: China, yeah.

MADDOW: He has now instituted a travel ban for travel from Europe to the U.S., excluding the U.K.

KLAIN: Yes.

MADDOW: But there has never been a travel ban in terms of South Korea to the U.S.?

KLAIN: Correct. And I think, and again, even with the China travel ban, with the European travel ban, there’s been a lot of exceptions to it, exceptions essentially for commerce, for businesses to ship things back and forth, with the people that come along with the goods, and so these travel bans, I think they do have some effect, at slightly slowing the pace, but they aren't a virtual wall to protect our country. We're seeing that. The disease is here. It's spreading and I think the problem was this. It gave us — it gave the President a false sense of security or maybe he tried to convey a false sense of security and if it bought time, that time was squandered. I look back on this, Rachel and what we’re going to see is, we knew this was coming in December, we knew it was coming in January, the President talked tough on travel and in the meantime, we weren't getting ready on testing, we weren't getting our health care facilities ready. We weren't doing the things we needed to do knowing this was coming. We had the warning. That’s — that’s the real tragedy here. We had a warning that this was coming and the kind of numbers that’s coming and we are still sitting here having a conversation here about testing. Tom Hanks got tested because he was in Australia. If Tom Hanks was in New York, it would be almost impossible for him to get tested.

MADDOW: It is so enraging that the U.S. testing situation is — continues to be a fiasco this far into this and I have read everything I think that has been written about what went wrong and how it was botched up, and given it has, and given what a crisis it is for our country that there continues to be not widely available testing, I keep coming back to what I know is a stupid question about it, which is why can't we copy the tests and the testing protocols that some of our closest allies around the world are using? I mean, the President exempted the U.K. from the European travel ban. Well, the — the Health Minister in the British government has just tested positive for coronavirus and is symptomatic. The — the U.K. government just announced they’re going to up their testing rate by 500 percent. We seem to be stuck in neutral and unable to improve on this terrible situation.

KLAIN: Yeah, it's a failure of leadership by the president and task force. I mean, look, we have and so what the White House has done the past week is essentially said we're going to privatize testing. We’re going to allow the big testing labs, Quest and Lab Corp, to run the test and so if you go to a doctor and want to get tested, they’re going to send your test to one of these private labs. Now, leaving aside the fact that leaves us without a clear and consistent database on the tests, we really need to be doing in this country is testing the people who are not raising their hands to be tested.

(....)

9:55 p.m. Eastern

KLAIN: One thing I put a star on is I think we’ve got to watch for what’s going to be a pivot, I think, in the Trump administration rhetoric. I think, increasingly, they’re going to say, hey, this is a state and local problem. We're here to provide technical expertise but solving this will be up to governors and mayors. I think they’re going to try to push this problem downward. The federal government does have tools, right? We have FEMA that we could use. They're really good at building things quickly after hurricanes and earthquakes. They might be able to deployed to build temporary hospitals in cities and places that need them. Governors could use the National Guard for that purpose.

MADDOW: Yeah, I’m imagining mass units. Hospital tents.

KLAIN: Exactly. That's again what we do when there’s a horrible hurricane or horrible tornado that kind of wipes out a medical facility, FEMA can sometimes do that. We need to be really creative about how this is going to happen. You see what is going on in Korea. It’s not just extreme care but testing, drive through testing, trying to get the testing out of the health care center, protect the personnel, protect you when you're being tested from being infected by others. We just need to be more creative. We're not really seeing that from the White House. We're seeing is kind of vague statements and vague direction but not that kind of push to action.

MADDOW: Did you tonight when you found out that the President was going to be giving this Oval Office address, did you expect him to make a national disaster declaration?

KLAIN: Well, I read the speculation one way or another and it was — I never bet on what Donald Trump is going to do at any particular —

MADDOW: Would it have been helpful if he did that? There was reporting tonight

KLAIN: Yeah.

MADDOW: — that the President didn't like the sound of that, essentially that it contradicted his overall, it’s-going-to-be-okay message.

KLAIN: Look, Rachel, I don’t really care what label he puts on it. He called it a public health emergency three months, but hasn’t acted like it’s a public health emergency. He could call it whatever he wants to call. He could call it fraud for all I care. The question is when he wakes up tomorrow morning and the people of the white house wake up tomorrow morning, what are the ten to do's to fight this problem and where are they on the ten to do's? Congress gave them $8 billion last week. How much money is spent in the first five days, in the first ten days, 20 days, you know? It's just some basics about blocking and tackling. These are fundamentally logistical challenges that require leadership and accountability.

(....)

9:58 p.m. Eastern

KLAIN: Well, I absolutely trust Dr. Fauci. I trust the career officials at the Centers for Disease Control but I — I worry they are being muzzled by the President. They’re being forced to soft pedal advice and we know already that Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who was the first person to say that this was inevitable kind of got sidelined and subjected to a right-wing attack that her brother’s Rod Rosenstein and all kinds of —

MADDOW: She’s part of the deep state and that’s the reason —

KLAIN: — part of the deep state —

MADDOW: — why she said it was a serious problem.

KLAIN: Look, when you have a crisis like this, the deep state is what fights the crisis like this. It’s the men and women who are permanent government servants, people that work with me on the Ebola response, they’re still there. They’re great people, great scientists. Great public servants. They need to be turned loose to solve this problem, not distrusted and sidelined.

(….)

MSNBC’s The Last Word
March 11, 2020
10:01 p.m. Eastern

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: I invite viewers to compare what they learn from Ron in your last 45 minutes of discussion to what they've been hearing from Trump administration officials, not the medical professionals but the actual White House staff because that's what Ron Klain was in the Obama White House. He was in a position without medical expertise but with expertise about how to make government work, how to make arms of the government work together in a crisis like this and of course, he did pick up a great deal of expertise about this kind of situation and about the medical elements of this situation. I haven't heard anyone from the Kellyanne Conways to the Larry Kudlows to the Trump appointees in the White House who have anything like the command of this subject that Ron Klain has in one sentence.

MADDOW: Not only the lack of command but the overt publicly — excuse me, politically convenient disinformation. Those two people you just cited — Kellyanne Conway and Larry Kudlow, both saying this is contained. Kudlow saying almost airtight, you know, as the number of U.S. cases started low and headed toward over 1,000 where it is now. The overt disinformation from the President on down has been — is actually one of serious challenges that we've got as a country in terms of how to deal with this and I don't think anybody was under any illusions they handled this well. I’m not sure any of us were cynical enough to expect they would handle it so overtly badly that they’d be one of the problems we needed to fix along the way.

(....)

10:04 p.m. Eastern

MADDOW: I mean, it feels like we're sort of stumbling through this but in the end, we're coming to the same conclusion about cancelling large events now.

O’DONNELL: And Rachel, the idea of okay, the basketball games will be played without the audience in the arena, there's a real business to be done that way. The television side of the business, there’s obviously still a very viable business to be done without the ticket sales, unless, unless a player contracts the virus, which is where we are now. I mean, the amount of physical contact, I mean, you know, your hands can't touch your face. Well, you sure can't play basketball with other people if that's the case and so all they needed was that one player and they just — they just did what you would do, thinking about that one player, project that out how long has that player been carrying this? How many other players in the NBA has he actually, literally touched in just, say, the last week

MADDOW: And — and those calculations, as Ron Klain was saying, if we were in a regime in which, like they are in South Korea, in which there was widespread testing in which not only was everybody symptomatic getting tested but everybody that was a traced contact of anybody who was known to have the virus was getting tested and there was just widespread surveillance testing within the population to ferry it out in places that we didn't know about, then you’d be having a completely different conversation about the sort of workplace risk to NBA basketball players than you would in our country where it is a mystery because the federal government, the Trump administration blew it — just absolutely blew it when it came to us having tests and so we're the biggest industrialized nation in the world dealing with a significant epidemic while flying blind with no information that you need to take the first steps to make sure this is brought under control. It’s just absolutely unconscionable.

(....)

10:07 p.m. Eastern

O’DONNELL: But that's a real face now. That — Tom and Rita Hanks is a real thing, a real fact for Americans to consider if it can happen to them, even though they are in Australia, it can absolutely happen to anyone. I think that’s a reality now through Tom Hanks that a lot of people might not have had without Tom Hanks’s announcement about this tonight.

MADDOW: For that to be happening while — Mr. Hanks and his wife are in Australia which is where they are diagnosed which is key to learning this, that's why they were able to get diagnosed because they were in Australia and not here. Who knows how they could get access to a test here. But the President tonight issued a travel ban from Europe as the way he's going to try to address coronavirus in this country because he knows how to do travel bans. I mean, how about Australia? That's where Tom Hanks and his wife appear to have it. I mean, this dart board approach, this blind-throwing darts that he's doing in terms of trying to make it seem like he's — he’s — he’s — he’s got some rational response here, Shengen area countries from Europe will be restricted in terms of their travel from the United States starting on Friday and we're excluding the U.K. where their health minister just tested positive, it's just — it’s random action at a time we need concerted smart science driven action.

NB Daily Coronavirus MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show The Last Word Lawrence O'Donnell Rachel Maddow Donald Trump Ron Klain
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