Screenshot, Axios on HBO

What's worse than putting Jared Kushner and his canoe of douchebros in charge of America's pandemic response? How about making a plan then scrapping it because Kush decided it would be politically advantageous to let the virus rip through blue states and then blame Democratic governors for letting their own citizens die?

OH,YES, THEY FUCKING DID.

For months now we've been hearing about the presidential son-in-law and his handpicked posse of MBA brahs, the "A-team of people who get shit done," as one described the group to Politico. Kush and his dude crew were so confident that they knew better than the doctors and epidemiologists and infectious disease scientists and government procurement officers that they shoved all those dorks to the side and decided to handle the nation's coronavirus response themselves.

Well, first they tossed the Obama team's pandemic response plan in the trash. Then they told the nerds to go play with their pocket protectors or whatever, and got to work on their Mighty Morphin Power Ranger Super Bigly Brain COVID-19 Response Plan.

Only they didn't know what the fuck they were doing, so they just started reaching out to their contacts and buying up lots of random stuff on the government dime. Stuff like $52 million of coronavirus tests that randomly showed up in a DHL truck at the United Arab Emirates embassy in DC. After shipping them out, the government discovered that the tests were defective, possibly because they hadn't been properly refrigerated. Oopsie! So who was responsible for the fuckup? Who greenlighted the transaction? No one knows! That's kind of the point of the Power Ranger Helmet — you can't see which dipshit kid is under the costume.


Vanity Fair's latest hair-raising tick-tock describes the wind-down of the Kushner brain trust, after Donald Trump decided it would be better to "slow the testing down, please" and the White House settled on NO PLAN as their plan to deal with coronavirus. For all their feckless hubris, Kushner's team did come up with a national testing and procurement strategy. They spent all of March feverishly messaging each other over WhatsApp and came up with a plan to ensure adequate testing for all Americans so that states wouldn't have to compete with each other for scarce resources. Which is exactly what the government is supposed to do in a time of national crisis — albeit not via a crew of civilians with no relevant experience working outside regular channels and ignoring public records laws.

And they may have been arrogant, but they weren't idiots. They knew damn well that coronavirus wasn't going to just "disappear like magic." One line from their draft reads, "Current challenges that need to be resolved include uneven testing capacity and supplies throughout the US, both between and within regions, significant delays in reporting results (4-11 days), and national supply chain constraints, such as PPE, swabs, and certain testing reagents." They might have spent a lot of time reinventing the wheel, but they did at least acknowledge that a national testing, procurement, and contact tracing strategy was the only way to beat this thing.

But then ... it "just went poof into thin air," as one participant told VF.

Trusting his vaunted political instincts, President Trump had been downplaying concerns about the virus and spreading misinformation about it—efforts that were soon amplified by Republican elected officials and right-wing media figures. Worried about the stock market and his reelection prospects, Trump also feared that more testing would only lead to higher case counts and more bad publicity. Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, was reportedly sharing models with senior staff that optimistically—and erroneously, it would turn out—predicted the virus would soon fade away.

So Trump decided to just ignore COVID and hope it didn't kill too many people? And Dr. Birx told him that would probably work out fine, go for it? Thanks a bunch, Birxy!

By April, the White House had decided it would be easier to make political hay out of dead Americans than, you know, to try to keep them alive.

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner's team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. "The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy," said the expert.

That logic may have swayed Kushner. "It was very clear that Jared was ultimately the decision maker as to what [plan] was going to come out," the expert said.

On April 2, Kushner stood at the podium during a briefing and lectured the state governors for trying to mooch ventilators from the federal government.

"The notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile," he said during that day's coronavirus MAGA rally. "It's not supposed to be states' stockpiles that they then use."

Just two weeks earlier, Trump announced his administration's plan to leave the states to their fate: "Governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work, and they are doing a lot of this work. The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we're not a shipping clerk."

And now 155,000 Americans are dead, the economy is in shambles, and our kids are facing months more isolation and dislocation because Jared fucking Kushner and his demented father-in-law made a political calculation that it would be better to let Blue State Americans die than to mount a federal government response. A response which they had ready to roll out, and then threw in the trash next to the Obama team's pandemic response plan.

We're just going to banhammer our own selves here before we say anything unacceptable.

Something something something WITH VOTES.

[VF]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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