March 12, 2020

A Coronavirus Story

Why can’t this administration get anything right? Not only is President Trump’s latest travel ban essentially useless and a great inconvenience to many, but also, it was announced incompetently. What follows is a personal story of damage done by an inept chief executive.

With my usual trepidation, I watched the president make his address from the Oval Office last night. What most concerned me was the announcement of a ban on travel from Europe beginning at midnight Friday. It was not clear if the ban began midnight Washington time, Greenwich Mean Time, or some other time. I did not immediately realize that time was not the only ambiguity in the president’s statement.

My son was in France for professional development. (He is a winemaker.) He was scheduled to return to the U.S. in about 10 days. I immediately sent him a text message:
I hope Trump isn’t trapping you in France.
He replied:
It’s possible.
I responded:
Good luck!
My son telephoned me a few minutes later to thank me for the alert. He had already made travel arrangements to return home by Friday night. He reported that airline fares were going up as he was booking a flight. Almost two hours later, I saw a tweet from Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli. I texted his tweet and a comment: Check this out. Check with the embassy.
Cuccinelli explained, an hour after Tump’s address, that the travel ban “does not apply to American citizens or legal permanent residents or their families.”

This morning, I received two text messages from my son:
Leaving anyway. No guarantee there will be any flights in a few days.

On my way to Paris by train. Then flying to Gatwick tonight and on to JFK.
I answered:
You’ve probably done the wisest thing. The president is an idiot.
We have a president so incompetent that he cannot get a simple announcement right. Does anyone on the White House staff check these things? How many other Americans did Trump scare to death and screw up their lives unnecessarily with his incomplete message? Where was Cuccinelli when the president’s statement was being written? (Trump was clearly reading from a Teleprompter.)

Of course, one has to ask if the latest travel ban from Europe makes any sense. And why the United Kingdom is exempt from the policy. (Is this an exception for his friend Boris Johnson? There are surely virus infections in the U.K.) Anyway, Trump may think that he is keeping the coronavirus at bay, but, surprise, it’s here already and spreading widely.

We cannot get a Democratic president soon enough.

Update: This morning, I checked the State Department Web site for information. There was none.

The travel ban might have made more sense weeks ago; it does not now. Further, if we are concerned about people bringing the virus from Europe, it is logical to believe that Americans can carry the infection as well as can Europeans. In other words, if the ban made sense at all, there should have been no exceptions. The exception for U.S. residents is clearly for political, not medical, reasons. The disposition for the U.K. is still an unexplained mystery.

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