It shouldn’t be a partisan question about whether or not President Trump should hire the most capable and experienced people to participate in planning how the coronavirus should be fought and how this nation is to emerge better than it was before. It would be nice however if there was more than our trusted friend, Dr. Fauci. Here’s a more usual example of the hiring done at this critical time.
Not a Joke: The Trump Admin Hired a Dog Breeder to Run Its Coronavirus Task Force
BY BESS LEVIN APRIL 23, 2020
The unfortunate thing about the Trump administration, beyond the nepotism, incompetence, mass corruption, idiot kids, white nationalism, wholesale assault on the concept of truth, and pure evil, is that oftentimes it’s beyond parody. For instance, we already knew the federal government’s response to the coronavirus crisis has been catastrophically bad, from the months of insisting the virus was fake news, to a criminal lack of early—and current!—testing, to listening to Dr. Jared Kushner’s advice on the matter, to pushing for a dangerously premature reopening of the country. But despite everything we know, it would just be too much to learn that, at one point, a dog breeder was running the administration’s coronavirus task force. And yet!
Reuters reports the nearly impossible-to-believe news that back in January, Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar “tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19.” The aide was Brian Harrison, 37, and the move was somewhat surprising, given that prior to joining the administration in 2018 as Azar’s deputy chief of staff, he spent six years running a company called Dallas Labradoodles, which is not, in fact, some kind of code name for a firm doing cutting-edge medical research or developing vaccines or doing anything remotely related to humans. Instead, Dallas Labradoodles, which Harrison sold for $225,000 in April 2018, pretty much does exactly what you’d expect: sells Australian Labradoodles, which are a cross between poodles and Labrador retrievers. Which are actually quite cute dogs! They are supposedly “friendly, social, loyal, loving, smart, curious, and happy”! Which is nice for the people adopting them, though less helpful vis-à-vis the pandemic that has killed more than 47,000 Americans to date and infected over 850,000! Funny how that works!
This January, Harrison became a key manager of the HHS virus response. “Everyone had to report up through him,” said one HHS official. One questionable decision, three sources say, came that month, after the White House announced it was convening a coronavirus task force. The HHS role was to muster resources from key public health agencies: the CDC, FDA, National Institutes of Health, Office of Global Affairs and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. Harrison decided, the sources say, to exclude FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn from the task force. “He said he didn’t need to be included,” said one official with knowledge of the matter…. The HHS denied it was Harrison’s decision to leave out Hahn and the FDA, but declined to say who made the call. The agency lauded Harrison’s work on the task force. In a statement, Hahn said the FDA was focused on the coronavirus epidemic, “not on when we were added to the task force,” and that the agency was not “excluded.”WATCHBob Bergen (Porky Pig) Reviews Impressions of His VoicesMore Vanity Fair VideosMOST POPULAR
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Others said the lack of a strong FDA role early on had direct consequences. Two sources familiar with events say the White House wasn’t getting information from the FDA about the state of the testing effort, a crucial element of the coronavirus response.
As is now known, agencies that fall under HHS’s jurisdiction, like the CDC, were plagued with issues that cost the U.S. valuable time in stopping the spread of the virus, including a glitch that made the first tests it created useless and wasn’t fixed for weeks. (The lack of tests “limited hospitals’ ability to monitor the health of patients and staff,” the HHS inspector general said in a report released earlier this month, adding that the equipment shortage “put staff and patients at risk.”) A virus-surveillance program never panned out, and rather than share information, Azar and his staff allegedly “sidelined key agencies that could have played a higher-profile role in addressing the pandemic,” according to current and former officials. “It was a mess,” said a White House official who worked with HHS.
Meanwhile, while a dog breeder has been given a top role in the crisis, people with actual relevant experience have been kicked to the curb. On Wednesday the New York Times reported that vaccine expert Dr. Rick Bright was removed from his post ”after he pressed for rigorous vetting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug embraced by President Trump as a coronavirus treatment” (which an early trial showed may actually lead to increased deaths of coronavirus patients). If only Bright had a side business breeding Pomeranians, perhaps he’d still have a job!
On a related note, if you’ve been working the circus-clown circuit for the last few years but are thinking about making a career change, now would apparently be a great time to shoot the Trump admin a résumé. We can almost guarantee you’ll get a call back.