Let’s Be Honest. Impeachment Hurt Trump’s Response to Coronavirus.
Published in The Washington Post
on March 23, 2020
President Trump has been roundly criticized for allegedly failing to prepare for the coronavirus crisis before it arrived in the United States. Those critics conveniently overlook something else that could have been distracting the president’s attention during that crucial period: impeachment.
It seems forever ago, but Trump’s impeachment was the major story in January and early February — the same time that disease was forcing China to lock down cities. Despite the near certainty that Republicans would not vote to convict the president, Democrats and most of the major media were almost entirely focused on impeachment. As a result, the White House was focused on addressing this threat to its survival, not on preparing for a threat from China that might never even materialize.
Trump’s efforts to prepare the nation for this pandemic has been far from perfect, but the one thing the president did do to stop the virus’s spread to the United States during that period — restricting air travel from China — was heavily criticized. Even former vice president Joe Biden criticized the president’s ban as “hysterical xenophobia.” At the time, partisan vituperation had reached a fever pitch because of impeachment. Given that impeachment managers were regularly calling Trump a king or incipient dictator, a more forceful response against the virus in January or early February likely wouldn’t have gone over well.
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Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.