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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

After fatal failures, it's clear Trump must keep smearing the messenger

Dr. Deborah Birx, President Donald Trump's White House

Dr. Deborah Birx, President Donald Trump's White House coronavirus response coordinator, in July. Credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Mark it as an extraordinary moment when an ex-president’s coronavirus pandemic advisers suggest that hundreds of thousands of American lives were squandered by the chaos and inaction of the administration they served.

Our Vietnam and Iraq disasters resulted from military operations ordered from the top. Our COVID-19 crisis was aggravated by chaos and passivity at the top.

The public already knew the overall situation described by leading government doctors Deborah Birx, Anthony Fauci and others in a CNN special that aired over the weekend. But that doesn't nullify the continued impact of how badly former President Donald Trump and his team choked.

Birx said that in February 2020, "I wanted to make sure that we stopped saying that ‘the risk to Americans was low.’ I could see the avalanche coming, and I could see that we were not prepared, and I thought I could do something."

But in the White House, "there was a group that really believed this wasn't as a big of a deal as we were making it," Birx said. "Then there was the other group that just was more fatalistic — that no matter what we did — the outcome was going to be the same."

Nobody can say what might have changed if, during Trump's famous riff about "light inside the body" and injecting disinfectant, Birx hadn't held her tongue, but instead had made clear on television that the boss was delivering an erroneous message.

Even now, Birx pulls punches and speaks out in the passive voice. After more than 550,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. she told her interviewer: "I look at it this way: The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially."

Yet this is too much for the ex-president to answer in a real way, despite having nothing to lose at the polls anymore. After the doctors' interviews aired, Trump responded as he did on so many occasions — with personal smears.

In a rambling news release from Florida, Trump denounced his former advisers as "self-promoters trying to reinvent history to cover for their bad instincts and faulty recommendations."

This after the former president, famous for his self-promotion, tried to reinvent the history of his election loss, displayed poor instincts by saying the coronavirus was about to vanish and gave faulty recommendations about masks, hydroxychloroquine and social distancing.

Trump also called Birx a "proven liar with very little credibility left" — a comment reminiscent of those made frequently by many critics about Trump.

Whether it's "fake news" or "treason" or "witch hunts," his slurs of others still let on what he is up to. In that vein, George Conway, spouse of ex-Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, tweeted of Trump's latest attack: "Quite a confession of dereliction of duty from the former guy."

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