How a disdain for government undermined U.S. pandemic response


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Yuval Levin:

I do.

I agree with what George has said. And I think the way that he’s it in his recent pieces in “The Atlantic” has been quite right.

But I would focus particularly on the White House staff and the team around the president, which expresses the president’s own attitude about the relationship he should have to the rest of the government.

The White House staff is there to enable the president to receive information in the form of decisions to be made and to process it, to listen to expertise, to make decisions.

And the fact is, that process has never existed in this White House. There has never been a functional structure of decision-making. That’s a problem at any time, but it becomes an enormous problem at a moment of crisis, when you have to have a reliable chain of command, you have to have a reliable process for making decisions, you have to have distinctions between what’s said in public and what is said in private, and how the president thinks about his task of communicating to the public in a reassuring way.

None of that, none, is happening in an effective way in this administration. And what you’re finding is a president whose understanding of the job has not been formed by any experience at any level in government.

For the first time in our history, we have a president who has not served either as a senior military officer or as a senior public official before becoming president. Instead, he comes into the job as a performer, and he sees himself in the job as a public performer putting on a show.

And the fact is, in a crisis, the president has to be an inside player, where he has to be making decisions and operating the arms of the government from within. This president just has no conception of how that is supposed to work, no trust in the rest of the system. And in a time of pressure and crisis, it shows.