White House discussing phasing out coronavirus task force

The White House is mulling over the winding down of its coronavirus task force, US Vice President Mike Pence announced on Tuesday, even as the country is exceeding the grim death milestone of 70,000.

“But it's — it really is all a reflection of the tremendous progress we've made as a country. The president stood up the White House Coronavirus Task Force to marshal — in January — to marshal a national response”, the vice president, who leads the task force, told reporters. 

While it is not clear whether the task force would be replaced by a different type, Pence said doctors like Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, two prominent figures in the task force’s briefings, will continue to work with the White House on the pandemic.

Dr. Fauci appeared to be unaware of the announcement. "That's not true, I've been in every task force meeting, and that's not what they are doing," Fauci told CBS News earlier Tuesday. 

Later in the day in Arizona, President Trump confirmed his vice president’s remarks and suggested that it’s time to move on to other phases. "I think we're looking at phase two and we're looking at other phases ... the task force has done a phenomenal job," he said. 

In an interview with CNN, a senior administration official linked the decision to reopening the economy, saying, the administration is shifting focus toward “putting Americans back to work”.

Trump’s obsession with a fast-track economic recovery is quite understandable. The US economy is in free fall with as many as 30 million Americans out of work and countless businesses collapsing. 

Trump is well aware of how this situation can dent re-election chances; thus, feeling the scramble to salvage the economy. 

Holding regular briefings about the pandemic is least helpful to the flailing president as the meetings keep the pandemic in the spotlight, making it harder for the White House to justify urgent measures to reopen the economy.  

In Trump’s calculation, losing 200,000 American lives does not equate to losing a second term. But failing to restore the economy is for sure a one-termer predictor.

Aside from the economic aspect of the decision, the briefings have also provided a glimpse into how the White House has turned into the Trump House. 

The gavel-to-gavel coverage of the meetings has damaged Trump’s image unprecedentedly, contributing to the growing disillusionment of American voters with his handling of affairs including the pandemic. 

Recent polls have shown Trump trailing the presumptive Democratic nominee Biden in battleground states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. 

Following shrinking polling data, Trump had erupted at his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, CNN and The New York Times reported. 

The timing of Pence’s announcement and Trump’s argument with his campaign manager helps reveal the true motive behind the decision. 

It is quite likely that the phasing out of the coronavirus task force has been suggested by Parscale in an effort to salvage the president himself no matter how many more American lives are lost to the administration’s poor handling of the situation.  

First Published in Tehran Times

News Code 158490


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