Archives for category: Ignorance

Trump has been on a rant about teaching history, despite the fact that his own knowledge of American and world history is limited, possibly non-existent. He wants history to remain as it was taught in textbooks sixty years ago, when he was a student. This would be a white-centered, triumphal story of the American past, where the only blacks ever mentioned were George Washington Carver and (maybe) Booker T. Washington. White men did everything important, and everyone else was subservient and missing.

Like Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, Trump is outraged by the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, which begins with the arrival of the first African slaves on the shores of what was eventually to become the United States. Senator Cotton has proposed withdrawing federal funds for the teaching of this revisionist view of American history.

Trump wants to go farther and threatens to withdraw federal funding from any school or district that teaches the history described in the 1619 Project. Trump and Attorney General Barr insist that there is no systemic racism in the United States.

Trump read a tweet warning that the schools of California were using the 1619 Project and he said the Department of Education would investigate and suspend federal funding if it were true. He undoubtedly doesn’t know that the State Board of Education in Texas approved an African-American studies course last April

Trump is abysmally ignorant and hopelessly racist. We already knew that. In addition, he is threatening to break the law. There is a federal law specifically prohibiting any interference by any federal official in curriculum or instruction in any school. As we know, Trump believes he is above the law and can do “whatever he wants.”But 20 USC 1232a prohibits “any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system…”

Glen Brown, retired teacher in Illinois, suggests that Trump’s ignorance has had real consequences. In fact, it is dangerous and has contributed to the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

Brown has maintained a running roll of actions Trump has taken to avoid controlling the coronavirus, updated to mid-August 2020.

Check with Worldometer for the latest count of cases and deaths. Here are the world data. The U.S. has consistently accounted for about one-quarter of all the world’s infections. Maybe one day, as Trump claims, the disease will magically disappear, but it hasn’t happened yet.

This story appeared in the Washington Post. This refusal to follow medical advice will continue to spread the disease and cause unnecessary deaths. The world is watching our rudderless response to the pandemic and feeling sorry for us. Why ask a doctor for her best advice in a dire situation and then ignore it?

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) said Monday that he has no plans to close bars and curb indoor dining — minutes after White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx recommended those measures at a joint news conference with the governor.

Saying that the coronavirus situation in Tennessee was at an “inflection point,” Birx said Monday that diligence and targeted business restrictions statewide could have an effect on a par with a stay-at-home order.

“We can change the future of this virus in this state today,” she said. “If we continue to social-distance, if every mayor throughout this great state would mandate masks, close the bars and substantially increase indoor dining distancing, together we can get through this.”

But when Lee took the microphone later, he said there are currently no plans to close bars or limit dining. Some mayors can shutter businesses on their own, but the vast majority of Tennessee’s county health departments fall under Lee’s purview, the Tennessean reports.

“I’ve said from the very beginning of this pandemic that there’s nothing off the table,” Lee said after a reporter brought up the issue. “I’ve also said that we are not going to close the economy back down, and we are not going to.”

“But I appreciate their recommendations and we take them seriously,” he said, after thanking Birx for visiting his state and saying there were “productive meetings” about education plans and strategies to encourage mask-wearing, among other topics.

Lee has also declined to issue a statewide mask order, though he promoted their effectiveness Monday, and Birx said Monday that she believes the governor has a “sound strategy” and supports local officials taking the lead. Birx appealed to the mayors of rural counties in particular to mandate face coverings, saying that a majority of counties in Tennessee require them but that “we need 100 percent.”

On another front in the battle against COVID-19, the head of Baltimore’s Intensive Care Unit died of the virus.

Joseph J. Costa, chief of the hospital’s Critical Care Division, died about 4:45 a.m. Saturday in the same ICU he supervised. He was attended by his partner of 28 years and about 20 staff members, who placed their hands on him as he died. Costa was 56.

Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia has boldly asserted his claim to be the dumbest governor in the nation. This makes Florida Governor Ron DeSantis very unhappy, as he claims that title.

Kemp suspended all local laws and orders that mandate mask-wearing as the number of coronavirus cases rise in Georgia. He “encouraged” people to wear masks, but no mandates permitted.

Bob Shepherd explains why Florida is miffed:

 

FROM: the law offices of A. Wayne Kerr, Esq.

TO: The State of Georgia

OK. We here in Flor-uh-duh are not happy. We’ve spent years, literally, building our reputation as the dumbest state in the union. We’ve built rope swings over pits of alligators. We’ve worn “Seriously, I have drugs” T-shirts when we were carrying drugs. We’ve organized people to shoot down hurricanes. We’ve claimed in court that we weren’t drinking and driving because we only swigged alcohol at stop signs. We’ve committed criminal assault with fried chicken. We’ve passed resolutions banning Satan from our towns. We’ve committed armed robbery with transparent bags on our heads. We’ve elected Ron DeSantis our governor. We’ve passed stand your ground laws. We’ve driven on highways with a “Car in Toe” sign in the back window. And we’ve issued an order to open all our schools to full in-person instruction on the very day that we set a national record for new cases of Covid-19.

In short, we have worked extremely hard to build the brand of Flor-uh-duh Man. Now, the state of Georgia thinks it can capriciously encroach on our brand by rescinding its order to wear masks in public during the pandemic. This cannot stand. Please cease and desist from further stupid.

Thank you.

Trump demanded that schools reopen for in-person instruction in a few weeks, as the pandemic surges in more than half the states. He and his party have refused to pass the HEROES act to provide additional resources for schools.

DeVos blasted school districts that hesitate to open, fearing risk to students and staff. She said, patronizingly, that life has many risks: get over it.

THE ANSWER IS NO! TRUMP AND DEVOS ARE WILLING TO SACRIFICE LIVES TO RESTART THE ECONOMY! NO!

Trump doesn’t care about the lives of students and staff. He cares only about his poll numbers. DeVos is arrogant and doesn’t care what might happen to students and teachers and other staff in public schools. She never has.

Opening schools without elaborate and carefully planned protocols for testing, daily screenings, masks, small classes, and social distancing is insane.

Opening schools in the middle of a raging and uncontrolled pandemic is irresponsible. Whose loves will be sacrificed?

What example has Trump set by refusing to wear a mask? Didn’t he just falsely claim that 99% of COVID infections are “totally harmless”?

DO NOT OPEN—DO NOT EVEN THINK OF OPENING—UNLESS EVERYONE IS SAFE, STAFF AND STUDENTS ALIKE.

CORONAVIRUS IS DANGEROUS. IT IS NOT LIKE THE COMMON COLD.

President Trump on Tuesday dialed up pressure on state and local authorities to reopen schools, even as coronavirus cases spike, accusing officials who keep them closed as being motivated by politics.


He said in-person education was essential for the well-being of students, parents and the country as a whole, and he vowed to keep up the pressure on governors to open buildings.
“We want to reopen the schools,” Trump said. “We don’t want people to make political statements or do it for political reasons. They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep schools closed. No way.”


The president did not mention that his own reelection prospects may depend on whether voters see the country as having recovered from the economic and social devastation of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It’s also unclear whether the schools push will be a political winner for Trump.

Some parents are eager to return to normal but many others, fearful of the virus, have told districts they want to keep their children home this fall.


Virtually every K-12 school in the United States closed this spring in an effort to control infections, abruptly moving to online learning.

The system worked reasonably well for some families in some school districts but was an outright failure in others.

Colleges and universities also shut down, though their remote learning was generally seen as more successful.
Now schools at all levels are struggling to develop plans for the fall, with many planning a mix of in-person and online classes…

During an afternoon dialogue at the White House, federal, state and local officials made the case for in-person schooling, saying it was imperative for the education and social-emotional well-being of children, and critical for parents who need to go to work.

They noted that schools provide children with meals, mental health counseling and socialization.
“Parents have to get back to the factory. They’ve got to get back to the job site. They have to get back to the office. And part of that is their kids, knowing their kids are taken care of,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.


Children, officials added, are far less likely to become ill and die of the virus than older people, though little was said about the teachers and staff who might be at risk.
“We cannot simply focus on virus containment at the expense of everything else,” said Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at HHS.


The confidence projected from the White House stood in contrast with the angst in many local districts working to develop plans for the fall. Most big cities and many others are developing hybrid models that alternate days in the building and days at home to minimize the number of students present at any given time.



Those models are being developed in part to comply with guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that recommends “enhanced social distancing” in buildings. For instance, the CDC recommends that desks be placed at least six feet apart, something that might not be possible if all students are on site.


Administration officials did not address these hybrid plans directly, though Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that schools “must fully reopen and fully operate this school year.”


One guest, Patrick Daly, principal of St. Vincent de Paul High School in Petaluma, Calif., said he plans a hybrid system, where students learn from home on certain days. Trump replied that he hoped the school could be in-person full time.

“I know you want to try,” he said.
CDC Director Robert Redfield noted that the agency never recommended that schools close in the first place. And he appeared concerned that his agency’s guidance has made districts reticent to open.
“Nothing would cause me greater sadness” than learning that schools view the guidance as reason not to open, he said.


Schools can safely reopen if they arrange for appropriate social distancing, face coverings and strong personal hygiene including hand-washing, Azar said.

He and some other administration officials were seen wearing masks at the White House, something the president has resisted.


Making his case for a return to normal, Trump repeatedly played down the rising number of coronavirus cases, saying treatments and vaccines are coming soon. He said there are only more cases because the country is doing more testing, a point health experts dispute.

Politico reported on a phone call that DeVos had with the governors, in which she demanded that schools reopen and ignore the risks.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia responded:

“The reality is no one should listen to Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos when it comes to what is best for students,” said Lily Eskelsen García, National Education Association president. “Trump has not once proven credible, compassionate or thoughtful when it comes to this pandemic.”

The White House is hammering a message of reopening schools even as coronavirus cases spike throughout the country, insisting it’s okay to move ahead and that decisions last spring to close doors came from states rather than health experts at the CDC.

Ignore them. They don’t care about human life. They care about the stock market and the election.

Ignorance is usually not a good defense when you get caught. In Trump’s case, it is the default response when things go wrong.

You could write a book about what Trump doesn’t know. He doesn’t know that Greenland is not for sale. He doesn’t know that Finland is not part of Russia. He doesn’t know that Frederick Douglass is a historical figure, not someone living today. He doesn’t know that climate change is real and dangerous to the planet. There are so many things that he never learned in school or in his adult life.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post figured out that the White House now uses “he didn’t know” as an all-purpose excuse. When the story about Russians paying a bounty for dead American and coalition forces in Afghanistan was published, the White House defense was that no one told Trump. Long ago, this was called “plausible deniability.” In the case of Trump, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that he didn’t know. What he thinks he knows is wrong (hydrochoroquine does not cure COVID-19, drinking disinfectants does not prevent getting the disease, windmills do not cause cancer, the pandemic is not over, etc.).

Milbank writes:

If things weren’t already bad enough for President Trump — economic collapse, botched pandemic response, mass unrest — U.S. intelligence believes Trump’s “friend” Vladimir Putin paid Taliban fighters bounties to kill U.S. troops.

But the White House is ready with a defense: The president has no earthly idea what’s going on.
Totally in the dark.

Not a clue!

“The CIA director, NSA, national security adviser, and the chief of staff can all confirm that neither the president nor the vice president were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany declared at Monday afternoon’s briefing.

So, asked NBC’s Kristen Welker, Trump was kept “out of the loop by his own intelligence community?”

“It would not be elevated to the president until it was verified,” the press secretary explained.

Shouldn’t the president have been told about such a serious matter?

“There are dissenting opinions,” McEnany ventured.

Reporters pointed out that intelligence, by definition, is generally unverified, and that the bounty intelligence was solid enough that U.S. officials shared it with the British.

McEnany indicated Trump’s advisers didn’t find it “necessary” to brief him.

But “given these reports,” asked Jeff Mason of Reuters, “does the president have a specific message for Moscow?”

“No,” McEnany said, “because he has not been briefed.”

In fact, McEnany suggested, Trump still hadn’t been briefed on the Russian bounties by Monday afternoon, even though administration officials were, at that hour, briefing lawmakers.

Previous presidents have claimed not to have been briefed about things they shouldn’t have known about, as when then-Vice President George H.W. Bush claimed he was “out of the loop” on the Iran-contra affair during the 1980s. But this is quite unusual: The White House insisting the president was out of the loop on something he should have known about. It’s as though Trump’s ignorance is a point of pride.

The out-to-lunch excuse has been getting more use as things get worse for Trump. On Sunday, Trump shared a video in which a man chanting “white power” (Trump’s tweet thanked the “great people” in the video) and deleted it only after an outcry that included Republicans. McEnany claimed Trump “did not hear that particular phrase” when he watched the video.

By Trump’s own account, he was kept in the dark by China on the coronavirus. He was oblivious to the significance of Juneteenth or of Tulsa when he scheduled a campaign rally on that day in that city. And John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser says Trump was unaware of many things, including Britain’s status as a nuclear power.

Ignorance may be the only bliss for Trump as his presidency dissolves into failures. As other countries keep the coronavirus in check, states that followed Trump’s encouragement to reopen early — Florida, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina — are seeing record levels of infections. His allies are calling for a campaign shakeup as polls show the unpopular president trailing Democrat Joe Biden by nearly 10 points.

His rally in Tulsa was a debacle. His dalliances with white supremacists (McEnany declined Monday to disavow the display of Confederate battle flags at Trump rallies) has galvanized the opposition. Bolton revealed that Trump sought reelection help from China. And now, Russians have apparently put bounties on the heads of U.S. troops.
McEnany opened her briefing with a statement decrying “anarchy in our streets,” “chaos,” “shootings,” “rioting,” “domestic terrorism” and “rampant destruction.” Standing against anarchy, she said, “is President Trump’s vision for the future.”
That’s quite a reelection pitch.
But, in one sense, McEnany has a point about anarchy: When it comes to the nation’s troubles, our head of state is MIA.
Trump’s own secretary of health and human services is saying the “window is closing” to get control of the situation — but Trump’s spokeswoman says that “we’re encouraged to see that fatalities are coming down” and that mask wearing should be a “personal choice.”

Okay, so Trump isn’t going to act to stop the virus’s resurgence. How about action to stop Russia from paying for the killing of U.S. troops?

“The president is briefed on verified intelligence,” McEnany said.

“If he hasn’t been briefed,” the Dallas Morning News’s Todd Gillman asked, “how is he certain that Russia didn’t put out these bounties?”

The press secretary replied by condemning the “absolutely irresponsible decision of the New York Times to falsely report that he was briefed on something that he in fact was not briefed on.”

How dare the Times report that Trump was informed! Get it right: This president’s ignorance is total — and you can quote the White House press secretary on that.

My favorite Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank summarizes where our “leaders” are in responding to the global pandemic. No wonder the EU won’t allow Americans to enter its borders.

Sen. Rand Paul doesn’t much care what Anthony Fauci has to say. The Kentucky Republican gets his public health advice from Friedrich Hayek.

Hayek, the Austrian-born economist and libertarian hero, died in 1992. But Paul, an ophthalmologist before he took up politics, still takes medical guidance from the 20th-century philosopher.

“Hayek had it right!” Paul proclaimed at Tuesday’s Senate health committee hearing on the coronavirus pandemic.

“Only decentralized power and decision-making based on millions of individualized situations can arrive at what risks and behaviors each individual should choose.”

Paul focused his wrath on Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease official. “Virtually every day we seem to hear from you things we can’t do,” Paul complained. “All I hear is, we can’t do this, we can’t do that, we can’t play baseball.”

Fauci assured Paul that “I never said we can’t play a certain sport.”

Unsatisfied, Paul demanded: “We just need more optimism.”

So that’s what we need. The United States is hitting new records for infection, largely because President Trump and allied governors across the South and Southwest ignored public health guidance. While other countries beat back the virus, we’re on course to have 100,000 new cases a day, Fauci said, and doing little about it. But we just need to be more upbeat!

Not for the first time, it feels as though 21st-century America is 14th-century Europe, reacting with all manner of useless countermeasures to the plague: balancing ill “humors” and dispelling evil “vapors” caused by planetary misalignment, religious marches and public self-flagellation, cures involving live chickens and unicorns, and the wearing of amulets and reciting of “abracadabra.”

Now, we have science to tell us how to beat the coronavirus — with face masks and social distancing. Yet our response is resolutely medieval.

The president ridicules mask wearing as politically correct and unmanly. His campaign staff tears down social distancing signs at his mass rally. Governors of hard-hit states tamper with data, sideline public health experts and blame the spread on Latino farmworkers, civil rights demonstrations and increased testing — anything but their reckless and premature relaxing of restrictions.

And then there’s Vice President Pence, head of the White House coronavirus task force. “I’d just encourage every American to continue to pray,” he said at Friday’s task force briefing.

I’m all for prayer. But prayer without face masks won’t defeat the virus.

“The attitude of pushing back from authority and pushing back on scientific data is very concerning,” Fauci told senators Tuesday, bemoaning a “lack of trust” in government. “We’re in the middle of a catastrophic outbreak and we really do need to be guided by scientific principles.”

A lack of urgency about the virus caused the testing debacle. A lack of regard for science caused the hydroxychloroquine debacle. A contempt for public health advice caused the reopening debacle. A president’s vanity caused the anti-face-mask debacle. An immunology debacle likely comes next: If Trump rushes out a vaccine before the election, would anybody believe it’s safe?

Belatedly, more than a dozen states have paused or scaled back their rash plans to reopen without heeding public health guidance. But we still have the White House proclaiming “remarkable progress” against the pandemic because the latest victims are younger — as though they won’t infect the old and the sick. Trump insists he wasn’t joking when he said he told health officials to “slow the testing down” to suppress the number of reported cases. He’s proceeding with plans for an in-person, mask-optional convention in Florida, now a virus hot spot.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blames street protests (even though New York, Washington and Minneapolis experienced no such surge in cases) and “overwhelmingly Hispanic” workers, and as cases spiked last week, he claimed that “nothing has changed.” Like other GOP governors and the Trump administration, he also blames an increase in testing — which doesn’t explain the higher rate of positive tests.

Pence, too, rejects the obvious conclusion that “the reopening has to do with what we’re seeing” in the viral spread. (It’s the evil vapors!) He said Sunday that it’s a “good idea” to wear face masks — just after attending a church event at which half the 2,200 people, including the choir, eschewed masks.

At Tuesday’s committee hearing, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who is retiring, urged Trump to “occasionally wear a mask” so his admirers “would follow his lead and help end this political debate.”

But neither Alexander’s pleadings, nor those of the various health officials testifying, are likely to break down America’s medieval resistance to science. Paul, citing the successful reopening of schools in Europe, demanded U.S. schools reopen (ignoring that Europe has contained the virus). Invoking the superiority of Hayek’s theories to the findings of public health officials, Paul said “we shouldn’t presume that a group of experts somehow knows what’s best.”

I invited Paul Horton, a history teacher at the University of Chicago Lab School, to write on the topic, “Why study history?” He wrote this essay.

Betsy Devos’ War on History is Just Another Trip to Fantasyland

Without history we are lost. Without history we are disconnected, thrown into limitless space and time that has no ground or purpose. Learning history is central to learning individual identity and how that individual identity fits into a larger picture or purpose.

Up until the “age of mechanical reproduction,” to use Walter Benjamin’s phrase, history was passed from generation to generation in the form of face to face storytelling. The griot, the elder, or grandma and grandpa, wove meaning into the telling of family and human history. The storyteller wove the individual, family, and human stories together into a fabric or pattern of meaning, into a place and a purpose. The teleology of the individual became a part of a fabric of a larger human story that had beginning and ending points with a purpose.

In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as storytelling has been largely lost in an endless sea of competing narratives and digital noise, we are losing our sense of the past. To be sure, academic and popular historians continue to pen compelling narratives, insisting that narrative storytelling is not a lost art. But, as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has demonstrated, fewer and fewer students read books, and the required history books that they do read are neither compelling narratives nor accurate depictions of national or global pasts.

In the United States, history texts are censored to cut objectionable social and political history at the behest of conservative state school boards in the South who seek to restrict “critical thinking.” As more and more Americans become more concerned with their “white identity,”(Jardina, White Identity Politics, 2019) Western Civilization and European History courses are making a big comeback to seize ground in curricula, displacing recently added World or Global History courses that make use of the best contemporary research.

History has been demoted in the curriculum to a step-cousin of literacy, standardized testing, the so-called “Advanced” Placement course, and, in its most current iteration, an instrument of propaganda designed to promote a whitewashed American exceptionalism that folds neatly into Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ Dutch Reformed version of providential history, a history dominated by those like her who have received grace and have been rewarded as “visible saints” and who see themselves charged with rebuilding the great Puritan “city upon a hill.”

DeVos has used the decline in History and Civics scores on the 2019 NAEP to discredit public education and “government schools,” but she does not know what she is talking about as usual. (see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/04/23/betsy-devos-calls-low-history-civics-marks-stark-inexcusable-are-naep-scores-worth-fretting/ )

As the NAEP has also made abundantly clear, students are reading less and they are not reading books and narratives. If DeVos or her predecessor, Arne Duncan for that matter, were to ask history teachers what the problem was, the history teachers would point to the problem of digital learning or the coming of the “igeneration.” Students who have grown up with iphones have shorter attention spans, give less attention to detail and context, as reading degenerates into scanning. The prevalence of scanning rather than has made students more resistant to reading for understanding and analysis. According to studies conducted by Sam Wineburg and his colleagues at Stanford History Education Geoup, the average students’ ability to critically analyze historical texts is abysmal (see article linked above).

Secondly, as popular historian David McCullough has long contended, most history textbooks are so dull and watered down that students hate to read them. Because much of what students want to learn is deleted by conservative state schoolboard watchdogs, students correctly liken reading these books to eating a thin, tasteless gruel. The compelling narrative histories of Joy Hakim offer an exemplar of history writing that should be used at every grade level.

Thirdly, standardized testing has effectively consigned the acquisition of meaningful and enriching historical narratives to the dustbin of history. With the coming of the punitive No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Every Child Succeeds Acts under Bush II and Obama, narrative histories have been pulverized into standardized test item data points that are separated from meaningful context. The Common Core Standards, as implemented during the Obama administration, emphasize basic reading literacy skills measured by multiple choice tests or basic regurgitation short essays that repeat the same words and phrases that are graded by algorithms.

Rather than reading narrative histories and novels, students read selected historical documents. The problem with this emphasis is that it borrows from the outdated New Criticism approach that fails to connect documents to broader contexts. Historical thinking requires a constant analysis of the connection between the document and context. This is where Sam Wineburg and his Stanford History Education group fall short. For example, Common Core lessons developed as a model of how the Gettysburg Address should be taught does not consider the broader contexts during the Civil War and American society when the address was penned. (see Horton, “Common Core and the Gettysburg Address,” Education Week, Nov. 21, 2013)

Moreover, The Common Core revision of the American Social Studies curriculum, C3, makes a similar mistake. The curriculum deemphasizes history in favor of the social sciences (History makes up 70% of the required high school curriculum), and it emphasizes the Document based question. This is not in itself bad, but DBQs need to be done right. Here the DBQ Project that originated in Evanston, Illinois High School, is far superior to the materials produced by the Stanford History Education group in providing narrative contexts for the analysis of documents. Again, what is missing from C3 is the vital importance of narrative reading research papers of varying lengths. Any historian will tell you that analysis of documents must be pieced together into a sustained and coherent argument that connects documents to broader contexts and interpretations. Critical analytical thinking is the product of this process. (see, Paul Horton, “History Matters: The C3 Social Studies Standards are Fool’s Gold,” Education Week, Jan. 16, 2014)

A former student who helps program Amazon robots for Amazon warehouses told me that she learned how to think and solve problems from my history class that used this constant analysis of going back and forth between document and context to weigh proximate cause and pattern recognition issues. Teaching authentic history is teaching thinking skills that can be applied to any problem. Is it a coincidence that so many lawyers are history majors?

Fourthly, standardized testing for literacy pushes history and social studies to the margins of the curriculum. As testing for basic literacy became used to score the performance of teachers and schools, the teaching of history was deemphasized. Principals predictably moved all of their resources to training that would raise reading comprehension scores. This required making use of Common Core materials that did not make use of historical narratives, and that focused on discrete documents severed from a broader picture as noted above. As the former Direction of the National Council for History Education in Illinois, I received many complaints from History teachers across the state that indicated that History departments in middle and highs schools were dropping history courses and combining English and Social Studies Departments. A preservice History Teaching Professor at Western Illinois University complained that “because History is not tested” as a part of the recent Common Core testing regime “it really did not matter.” This is certainly what many building principals were thinks as they moved resources and teaching assignments away from Social Studies and History departments. I have no doubt that this phenomenon of resource depletion was a common pattern across the country in recent years.

Finally, at the upper end of the high school curriculum, I would argue that AP History testing has played a huge role in diminishing the learning of History. Although the AP History courses have been redesigned recently, the emphasis on standardized multiple-choice regurgitation on 50% of the test items (that up until a few years ago set the mean for subjective portions of the tests) again emphasizes data points over thinking and interpretation. I was a very successful AP History teacher at several schools as my students achieved very high average scores on their tests. But, as I became a grader and began to talk about the tests with teachers from around the country and the world, my enthusiasm for the AP program diminished considerably. Most teachers reported that after cramming for the AP tests their students did not appreciate any intrinsic value in studying history and that the long-term impact of cramming and regurgitation registered little retention in long-term memory. The biggest problem with AP is that students learn to view the History course as something with transactional rather than intrinsic value. Students take the course and the tests to earn scores to test out of required survey history courses in college. This process demeans the value of history as something important to learn. Significantly, excellent college courses in history are not taken by many of our most capable students who are more worried about organic chemistry and finance. Harvard Historian Jill Leplore reports that when parents find out their students have signed up for history, “their parents tell them to run away.”

The biggest single problem with AP is that building Principals like to up the metrics of AP enrollment in their schools to boost their school’s reputation. This sounds good for district and school PR, but problems abound with this approach. We see it on the grading end where graders routinely find folders containing twenty-five blue books that score 0 because the students taking the test don’t write more than a sentence or two, leaving the rest of the blue-book blank. The problem is that many of the students selected into AP classes lack the reading skills to master History at the AP level, there are not enough History teachers who are trained to teach the AP adequately, and that the course is to rapidly paced and requires too much regurgitation.

History is plainly in crisis in this country, but not because “government schools” are bad as DeVos claims. At the broadest cultural level, the Humanities are under attack and have been defunded at all levels in favor of utilitarian ideas about finding a vocation. When a corporate and American Academy for the Arts and Sciences sponsored commission issued a report that recommended twelve principles for the teaching of the Humanities and the Social Sciences was issued several years ago called “The Heart of the Matter,” the report embraced the Common Core Standards as a necessary foundation for Humanities and Social Science education. The signatories apparently did not understand that the Common Core Standards were coupled with a standardized testing regime that diminished the very values that its authors sought to valorize.

If we are to save history in the United States, or at least increase NAEP scores, we must replace standardized testing with Project based learning, exciting narrative reading, and essay and paper writing. While document analysis is at the core of historical thinking, that analysis must be subsumed within the reading of compelling narrative histories that tell the exciting and engaging stories that all students love to read. Students need to work on history projects that “light the history flame” rather than regurgitate tired, discrete, meaningless facts. Students love stories and we need to get back to history as storytelling, history that cannot be reduced to multiple choice test items or computer graded essays.

We are clearly adrift in the United States. We are lost and we are facing several existential crises at once. In the words of novelist-historian Kurt Andersen, we have entered “Fantasyland.” “The American experiment” according to Andersen, “the original embodiment of the Great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, every individual free to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. From the start, ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, each of us free to reinvent himself by imagination and will. In America, those exciting parts of the Enlightenment have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts.”

But, says Andersen, “Little by little for centuries, then more and more faster and faster during the last half century, Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation, small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become. The cliché would be the frog in the gradually warming pot, oblivious to its doom until too late.” (Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500 Year History, p.5)

I submit that the crisis of magical ahistorical thinking is every bit as pressing as the crisis of environmental sustainability. Indeed, as the work of J.R. McNeill and so many other environmental historians demonstrate, historical understanding and sustainability go hand and hand. A return to learning history will allow us to better think about how to turn down the heat.

A team of reporters from the Washington Post interviewed 82 sources, including administration officials, advisors, and outside experts to tell the story of what happened inside the White House during a crucial period in responding to the pandemic. Trump was indecisive, he vacillated, he consistently put politics over science. He was more willing to listen to FOX News hosts and political advisors than to scientists. He was consistent in only one thing: abdicating any national leadership. He was content letting the states forage for their own supplies, bid against each other, take the lead. He made clear that he was responsible for nothing. He was quick to tout quack cures and quick to find others to blame for his own lack of leadership. His critics have long said that he was unfit to lead the nation–he only plays the role of president; early in his presidency, he claimed that he could run his business and the federal government and still have time for his customary golf weekends. He has proved beyond doubt that he is unfit to lead. He is the quintessential Do-Nothing President, whose major activities consist of tweeting, blaming others, and whining about the free press.

By
Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Robert Costa and Lena H. Sun

May 2, 2020 at 11:20 p.m. EDT

The epidemiological models under review in the White House Situation Room in late March were bracing. In a best-case scenario, they showed the novel coronavirus was likely to kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans. President Trump was apprehensive about so much carnage on his watch, yet also impatient to reopen the economy — and he wanted data to justify doing so.

So the White House considered its own analysis. A small team led by Kevin Hassett — a former chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers with no background in infectious diseases — quietly built an econometric model to guide response operations.

Many White House aides interpreted the analysis as predicting that the daily death count would peak in mid-April before dropping off substantially, and that there would be far fewer fatalities than initially foreseen, according to six people briefed on it.

Although Hassett denied that he ever projected the number of dead, other senior administration officials said his presentations characterized the count as lower than commonly forecast — and that it was embraced inside the West Wing by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and other powerful aides helping to oversee the government’s pandemic response. It affirmed their own skepticism about the severity of the virus and bolstered their case to shift the focus to the economy, which they firmly believed would determine whether Trump wins a second term.
Trump denies saying things he previously said about the coronavirus

For Trump — whose decision-making has been guided largely by his reelection prospects — the analysis, coupled with Hassett’s grim predictions of economic calamity, provided justification to pivot to where he preferred to be: cheering an economic revival rather than managing a catastrophic health crisis.

Trump directed his coronavirus task force to issue guidelines for reopening businesses, encouraged “LIBERATE” protests to apply pressure on governors and proclaimed that “the cure can’t be worse than the problem itself” — even as polls showed that Americans were far more concerned about their personal safety.

By the end of April — with more Americans dying in the month than in all of the Vietnam War — it became clear that the Hassett model was too good to be true. “A catastrophic miss,” as a former senior administration official briefed on the data described it. The president’s course would not be changed, however. Trump and Kushner began to declare a great victory against the virus, while urging America to start reopening businesses and schools.

“It’s going to go. It’s going to leave. It’s going to be gone. It’s going to be eradicated,” the president said Wednesday, hours after his son-in-law claimed the administration’s response had been “a great success story.”
The span of 34 days between March 29, when Trump agreed to extend strict social-distancing guidelines, and this past week, when he celebrated the reopening of some states as a harbinger of economic revival, tells a story of desperation and dysfunction.

So determined was Trump to extinguish the deadly virus that he repeatedly embraced fantasy cure-alls and tuned out both the reality that the first wave has yet to significantly recede and the possibility of a potentially worse second wave in the fall.

13 times Trump said the coronavirus would go away.

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, President Trump has repeatedly said that the virus will disappear.
The president sought to obscure major problems by trying to recast them as triumphs. He repeatedly boasted, for instance, that the United States has conducted more tests than any other country, even though the total of 6.75 million is a fraction of the 2 million to 3 million tests per day that many experts say is needed to safely reopen.
And though Trump was fixated on reopening the economy, he and his administration fell far short of making that a reality. The factors that health and business leaders say are critical to a speedy and effective reopening — widespread testing, contact tracing and coordinated efforts between Washington and the states — remain lacking.

“We wasted two months denying it. We’re now wasting another two months by just dithering around,” said Kathleen Sebelius, a former Kansas governor and health secretary in the Obama administration. “The administration seems to have washed their hands of it and said [to governors], we’re out of it. You’re on your own. Figure it out.”
“That’s really the story of all this,” agreed one outside adviser to the Trump administration. “The states are just doing everything on their own.”

This story documenting Trump’s month-long struggle to reopen America is based on interviews with 82 administration officials, outside advisers and experts with detailed knowledge of the White House’s handling of the pandemic. Many of them spoke on the condition of anonymity to recount internal discussions or share candid assessments without risk of retribution.

Some of Trump’s closest advisers rebutted on the record the suggestion that the pandemic response has been anything but successful.

“This is a historically new challenge, and we’ve really risen to the occasion,” Kushner said in an interview. “When history looks back on this, they’ll say, man, the federal government acted really quickly and creatively, they threw a lot at the problem and saved a lot of lives.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany agreed. “President Trump’s swift and unprecedented action has saved American lives,” she said, pointing out that governors from both parties have praised some of the administration’s work.

Trump’s interactions with the states during the time were jarringly inconsistent. One day, he called himself a wartime president with total authority; the next day, he said he was merely President Backup, there to help states as he deems necessary.

Trump crowned himself “the king of ventilators” and boasted of his work shoring up supply chains, yet shamed governors for asking for too many supplies for besieged hospitals and health-care workers in their states. At one point, he seemed to suggest that hospitals were selling protective gear provided by the federal government on the black market.

And though administration health officials produced detailed guidelines for reopening, those released by Trump were intentionally vague and devoid of clear metrics, making it easier for the president to avoid responsibility and harder for local leaders to interpret. For instance, Trump initially embraced the aggressive reopening plan by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), only to quickly abandon Kemp after public outcry.
“It’s not going to be coming back like some people think, and part of my job, I think, is to explain to the people of Ohio that we’re really not going to be all the way back,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), whose safety-first approach has won him enormous praise in his state. “We’re not going to be all the way back until we have a vaccine that is available to everyone.”

70 Days: The U.S. was beset by denial and dysfunction as the coronavirus raged

Trump tried to manage the perception of his performance by holding daily, hours-long press briefings that confused and repelled large swaths of the country. As the death toll mounted, the briefings became less about providing critical health information and more a forum for Trump to air grievances, shift blame, stoke feuds, spread misinformation and inspire false hope.

“It’s one hell of a difficult situation,” said economist Arthur Laffer, an outside Trump adviser. “Whatever he does, if something goes wrong, his critics will say, ‘I told you so!’ So he’s dealing with that, which isn’t a healthy environment.”

Trump’s confidants argue that the president has been moved by the pandemic. “Sometimes — and I felt this way with 9/11 — things are so big, so horrible, that if you’re the guy in charge, it makes you a little more humble,” said former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who as Trump’s personal lawyer has been speaking regularly with the president. “If you think about how he’s handled it, it is tough, it can be humbling.”

Yet if Trump felt humbled, he managed to avoid revealing much humility. Aside from reading perfunctory remarks scripted by aides, the president voiced little compassion for the tens of thousands who have lost lives or the tens of millions who have lost their jobs.

By month’s end, as businesses in Georgia, Colorado, Texas and elsewhere started to reopen, the total number of dead climbed past 60,000.

“It could get a whole lot worse, and anyone who doesn’t recognize that is really fooling themselves,” said Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “As we go back out again, the virus is still there. If we don’t have systems to contain it, it can explode again. . . . There is no quick fix.”
President Trump holds a briefing in response to the coronavirus pandemic at the White House on March 31.

Seeking a silver bullet

For a week straight in late March, as businesses shuttered and jobless claims shot up, Trump talked about reopening the country quickly. He picked a start date of April 12, because he liked the idea of church pews packed with parishioners on Easter Sunday. Then he beat a hasty retreat.

Two physicians on the White House task force, Deborah Birx and Anthony S. Fauci, presented dire projections based on publicly-available models showing that without continued social distancing and other mitigation efforts as many as 1.6 million to 2.2 million Americans could die. With a continued lockdown, there would be an estimated 100,000 to 240,000 fatalities. Although some in the administration doubted the death toll would ever rise that high, they shared Birx and Fauci’s goal of persuading the president to take the pandemic more seriously.

Task force members prepared to extend social distancing guidelines, already in place for 15 days, for an additional two weeks and then reassess. But Trump — who also had been influenced by watching television footage of body bags being carried out of a hospital near his Queens boyhood home in New York — surprised them by agreeing to extend social distancing for 30 days, until the end of April. For the doctors, this was a quiet victory.

“He’s a guy that goes with his gut,” said a senior administration official involved in task force discussions. The doctors, this official added, “don’t have that luxury. Their jobs are to make sure he understands where they are on the science and data.”

Trump, meanwhile, used his presidential megaphone to promote what he thought was a silver bullet:
hydroxychloroquine. Night after night in late March and early April, he kept hearing about the controversial anti-malarial drug on his favorite Fox News Channel programs, where television doctors and commentators touted its efficacy. He also heard about the drug in a flurry of conversations with Giuliani and other friends.

Hydroxychloroquine became a presidential obsession. He asked about it in meetings — “What’s the hold up?” he would complain — and repeatedly asked Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn if he was moving as quickly as possible to approve it, officials said.

Hahn said in an interview Saturday, “I can assure you 100 percent that the president has never pressured me to make a decision regarding any regulatory aspect of the FDA’s work.”

The commissioner added that in each of their conversations about hydroxychloroquine Trump has said something along the lines of, “It might work, it might not work, but he doesn’t see any reason why a doctor can’t make that decision. And he totally acknowledged that we might discover it may not work.”

In one Oval Office meeting, Trump asked advisers about a French study released in late March that tested whether hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin were effective against covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The small, non-random study was dismissed by many public-health experts, yet Trump seized on it as evidence the drugs might work. As the president said repeatedly in public, “What do you have to lose?” Hahn had to explain that the combination of the medications could cause heart toxicity.

On April 3, Fox host Laura Ingraham paid Trump a visit in the Oval Office to talk up hydroxychloroquine. She brought with her two regular on-air guests in what she dubs her “medicine cabinet”: Ramin Oskoui, a Washington-based cardiologist, and Stephen Smith, a New Jersey-based infectious disease specialist. Hahn attended as well, as Smith made a detailed presentation, complete with a spreadsheet, about how hydroxychloroquine works and its value as a treatment during hospitalization.

“I’m a guy who looks at data,” Smith said in an interview. “I came as a scientist and physician. I trained under Dr. Fauci and respect him a lot.”

Oskoui declined to comment.

Some senior Republicans who heard about the meeting cringed about a television host’s special access to offer medical advice to the president, but it fit a pattern of Trump soliciting input from media stars rather than government experts.

In what was widely seen as an effort to placate Trump, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for the drug, and the drug was added to the Strategic National Stockpile. But the president conflated those efforts with outright approval of the drug, which the senior official said “gave a little more ammo because it created the optics that approval had basically been given to the drug.”

Trump at times went to extreme lengths to promote hydroxychloroquine. Keith Frankel, a vitamins executive who occasionally socializes with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., said the president asked him to call California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on his cellphone and try to make a deal for the nation’s largest state to buy millions of tablets of hydroxychloroquine from an Indian manufacturer. Frankel said he got Newsom’s phone number from Trump.

Frankel was not working through official U.S. government channels, according to a senior government official. California did not agree to take the drugs being offered, Frankel said, adding that after consulting with Trump he also spoke to hospital officials in New Jersey and the state health commissioner in New York.

“A guy I know sells products to these guys in India who are making the drug,” Frankel said. He said he learned of the Indian manufacturer through a connection in Turkey. Several million of the pills could have been supplied, he said, but “there ended up being no deal.”

Frankel, who said he was recovering from the coronavirus himself, claimed the drugs would have been sold at cost to the states. “It was totally honest and philanthropic,” he said, arguing that taking the drug had helped him recover.
Trump embraced hydroxychloroquine, as well as azithromycin, as “one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine.” In the weeks that followed, however, the dangers became more clear. A Veterans Affairs study released April 21 found that covid-19 patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine were more likely to die than those who were not. Three days later, the FDA warned that doctors should not use the drug to treat covid-19 patients outside a hospital or clinical trial because of reports of “serious heart rhythm problems.”

Although Trump stopped touting the drug publicly, privately he maintained his support for hydroxychloroquine and got upset with government officials presenting studies or bringing him evidence of its risks or failings, encouraging them to have a more positive outlook, aides said.

Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator; Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams listen as President Trump speaks during a briefing at the White House on April 22.

As April began with the extension of social distancing, tensions grew within the administration between the doctors and scientists advising the response and the economic and political aides with longer-standing relationships with the president.

Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Pence, exerted significant influence over the coronavirus task force, setting the agenda and determining seating arrangements for meetings as well as helping to orchestrate press briefings. Short also is one of the White House’s most vocal skeptics of how bad the pandemic would be. He repeatedly questioned the data being shared with Trump, and in internal discussions said he did not believe the death toll would ever get to 60,000 and that the administration was overreacting, damaging the economy and the president’s chances for reelection, according to people who have heard his arguments.

Day after day, Short pressed other officials to reopen the entire country, encouraging more risks to get the economy humming again. Short succeeded in pushing for Trump to resume travel, as Pence had done, over the objections of some officials, who argued that leaving Washington endangers the principals and their staffs. Trump plans to visit a mask manufacturing plant in Arizona on Tuesday.

Short aligned with Hassett, Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, among others, who shared the belief that the economy had been shut down for long enough. A former senior administration official briefed on the internal dynamics described the consensus mind-set among this bloc as believing health officials were “like the school nurse trying to tell the principal how to run the school.”

Hassett’s data analysis helped affirm this view internally. Hassett said he merely built a tool to evaluate the evolution of data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. He confirmed that he shared his charts internally and that they often showed fewer deaths than IHME or others were projecting — but that he was drawing a curve based on real-time mortality data versus what the charts predicted would happen for the same days.

“I have never, ever said that that’s my projection of what the death count was going to be, and no administration policy has been influenced by my projections,” he said, adding, “It’s an utterly false story that I’ve been a rosy-scenario guy inside the White House.”

The task force members with medical degrees — Birx, Fauci and Hahn, as well as CDC Director Robert Redfield, Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams and Brett Giroir, who leads the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps — splintered off in mid- to late-March and began meeting on their own almost daily, three senior administration officials said. Some in the “doctors group” were distressed by what one official dubbed the “voodoo” discussed within the broader task force.

The CDC, which traditionally takes the lead in public health responses, has not held a media briefing since March 9. But Redfield said he enjoyed “a prime position on the ladder of the decision-making process.”

“The one thing that has been extremely gratifying is that the public health message has been respected as the public health message,” Redfield said.

The doctors group strove to present a unified front to the president on various medical and scientific issues. They recently discussed how antibody tests, designed to identify people with possible immunity from the virus, are not a panacea to reopening the country because the results sometimes are inaccurate.

“There’s a little bit of a God complex,” one senior administration official said of the group. “They’re all about science, science, science, which is good, but sometimes there’s a little bit less of a consideration of politics when maybe there should be.”

With health professionals and other new faces suddenly in his midst, Trump sought comfort from the familiar. Hope Hicks, an original staffer on the 2016 campaign who left the White House in 2018, returned in March in a senior adviser capacity.

Hicks accompanied the president to most every meeting and planned his daily schedule, aides said, suggesting themed events, tweaking his scripted public comments and even calling Cabinet secretaries to convey the president’s directives. She attended coronavirus task force meetings most days, even though Trump often skipped them, sitting prominently along with doctors and economists.

Trump has peppered his new chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and other senior aides with phone calls “in almost every single hour of the day,” sometimes well after midnight, according to one senior official. The president was often in a sour mood, complaining about media coverage and carping that he does not get enough credit.

‘The system is broken’

One of the more political issues during this period was the fight for supplies, such as ventilators, testing machines and swabs, and masks and other protective gear. Amid disruptions to the global supply chain, governors pleaded with the White House for help obtaining equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile, but the administration did not quickly meet their needs, and Trump derided governors when he thought they were asking for too much or not praising him enough.

Kushner struck a nerve on April 2 when he said that “the notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.”

Drive-throughs were the centerpiece of the administration’s national testing plan, pieced together by Kushner and his team and hastily rolled out by Trump on March 13 in the Rose Garden. The president promised that 5 million tests would be distributed before the end of the month. A few days earlier, Pence had been even more optimistic, announcing that more than 1 million tests already had been distributed and another four million would be sent out by the end of that week.

But Trump’s promise of a drive-through testing site at your neighborhood CVS or Walmart never materialized. The administration ultimately stood up 78 testing sites, rather than the thousands initially promised, and then the president placed responsibility for testing on the states.

“The need to reopen, that was not based on a clear road map of how people were going to be tested,” said Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. “The system is broken at every point.”

Trump has tried to claim testing as an unambiguous success. “We want to get our country open, and the testing is not going to be a problem at all,” he said Monday in the Rose Garden. “In fact, it’s going to be one of the greatest assets that we have.”

Yet even as the administration helped significantly ramp up testing capacity, problems persisted. Several states grew frustrated as they tried to procure testing supplies through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Federal and state officials said it was unclear who was in charge, leading to rampant confusion, and tests went unused because there were not enough other supplies to administer them.

A federal official who recently met with Birx said “she knows they are far behind on testing, no matter what the president says.”

In a White House meeting with other officials in early April, Birx said that many of the testing labs were still only operating at 10 percent of capacity. Birx said she needed to learn where all the machines and labs were, and that the government did not know.

During one call, Kemp told the president testing was such a problem in Georgia that he was working with the National Guard.

Trump has often touted a testing system created by Abbott that can run nearly 500 tests in 24 hours. But the vast majority of Abbott’s tests are going unused because of a shortage of materials and staff to run them, two senior administration officials said.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said Trump was either confused about what is required to administer tests or deliberately glossing over the urgent problems.

“The truth of the matter is that the president doesn’t seem to understand the difference between testing capacity and getting testing results,” Pritzker said. “We don’t have the supplies to run those tests.”

In Wisconsin, for instance, Gov. Tony Evers (D) requested 60,000 plastic tips needed to store reagents and 10,000 testing swabs and numerous reagent kits from FEMA in late March. But by April 21, the day Pence visited Wisconsin to tout the administration’s pandemic response, Wisconsin had only received 2,800 tips and 3,500 testing swabs, according to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).

When members of the congressional delegation appealed to FEMA Director Peter Gaynor and some of his deputies, the agency said in a conference call that it did not have enough supplies and that the state would need to work with the CDC, according to Pocan, who was on the call. Then, on April 8, FEMA changed its policy to make it the responsibility of states to procure supplies from commercial distributors, Pocan said.

“Just telling us to go to the private market isn’t a solution,” Pocan said. “It’s an excuse.”

Without assistance from Washington, Wisconsin began working with Illinois, Michigan and other states in a regional alliance to obtain supplies and develop a strategy. States in other regions of the country also are partnering with one another, forming a patchwork of alliances.

“The government is showing up in split screen, where Washington is dominated by whatever President Trump is thinking moment by moment,” Sebelius said. “What’s very difficult in a country that is as big and mobile as the United States is to have the state-by-state or city-by-city decision-making process. Nothing could be more confusing to people.”

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) quietly entered into negotiations with South Korea, with the help of his wife, Yumi, a Korean American. Exasperated with the lack of tests in his state, Hogan spent about 22 days arranging to procure 500,000 tests, negotiating with eight different Maryland agencies, the Korean embassy and officials at the State Department.

Once the FDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection signed off on the deal, a Korean Air jet touched down at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport on April 18 to deliver the supplies. Hogan said he was worried federal officials would try to commandeer the tests, so he had Maryland Army National Guard members and Maryland State Police officers escort and protect the cargo.

“It was like Fort Knox to us, because it was going to save the lives of thousands of our citizens,” Hogan said. “That was so important to us that we wanted to make sure that that plane took off from Korea safely, landed here in America safely, and that we guarded that cargo from whoever might interfere with us getting that to our folks that needed it.”

The move infuriated Trump, who has long chafed at Hogan’s criticisms and, according to advisers, saw Maryland’s deal with South Korea as a bid to embarrass the president.

White House officials argue the administration has been unusually attentive to the needs of states. After early complaints, the administration ramped up production and delivery of ventilators and the supply is now considered sufficient. Trump had 25 one-on-one calls with governors from at least 14 states in April, aides said, while members of the Cabinet and coronavirus task force had at least 113 such conversations.

“The media have been distracted by examples of disagreement instead of focusing on the vast examples of partnership and coming together of state and federal governments,” said Douglas Hoelscher, the White House’s director of intergovernmental affairs.

Kushner said Saturday that criticisms from governors are outdated and that every state’s testing needs have now been satisfied. He challenged any governor who claims unmet needs to contact his office.

“We’ve figured out how to get all of the states enough complete testing kits to do the testing that they’ve requested,” Kushner said. “We can get to a really big number in May. The biggest thing holding us back is not supplies or capacity; it’s the states’ ability to collect more samples.”

‘Get open, get open, get open’

The weekend of April 11, Trump took a break from his daily news conferences in observance of Easter. He spent considerable time on the phone with friends and advisers and began to shift toward concluding that the country could not afford to remain locked down much longer. He was irate with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, officials said, screaming and swearing at one ally about how things were so unfair.

The president set his sights on a May 1 reopening.

Trump had been agonizing over the economy, watching the number of Americans filing unemployment insurance claims climb each week. He fretted about the unemployment rate rising to 15 percent or even higher, a milestone that advisers warned him would seriously jeopardize his reelection.

In a private April call with supporters on immigration, Ken Cuccinelli, a top immigration official, said that the numbers would be “so stunning . . . that it will be a messaging hit.”

In a sign of how Trump’s priorities were changing, two Situation Room meetings on Saturdays in April began with presentations by Hassett and Kudlow about the economy. They both warned the president of double-digit unemployment and tens of millions of Americans losing their jobs.

In one of the meetings, Hassett had such a negative outlook on the economy that he asked people in the room not to repeat his comments to others, according to people familiar with the meeting. At one point, he suggested that GDP could fall 40 percent and that tens of millions people could lose their jobs. Hassett has since made similar comments publicly, warning of unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression.

Trump heard that message from others as well. He held regular calls with a group known internally as “Kudlow’s guys” — generational peers with high media profiles, including Laffer, financier Steve Forbes and economist Stephen Moore.

“Get open, get open, get open — we kept pressing that point,” Moore said. Otherwise, he recalled telling Trump, “You’ll have a mini-Great Depression. You’ll have body bags of dead businesses and jobs that will never be resurrected.”

On April 14, Ingraham returned to the Oval Office to meet with the president. The Fox host reiterated her belief that the country needed to reopen and argued for limits on contact tracing, a person with knowledge of the meeting said.

As Trump watched television during this period, he sensed popular support. Outside state capitols, a smattering of activists flouted social distancing guidelines to protest governors who had issued stay-at-home orders. Many of them waved Trump campaign flags or sported other Trump-branded paraphernalia.

To create political cover for Trump, White House aides scrambled to put together a business advisory council made up of chief executives from across a range of industries.

“The primary concern from everybody was really safety: Consumer safety, guest safety, and making sure that there was confidence and comfort from the public to be able to go back to wherever, whether it’s a store or a shopping mall or a bank or a restaurant,” said Thomas Keller, a celebrity chef and restaurateur who participated.

Other members said they were only invited to one conference call, and the group has been largely dormant since, with no clear mechanism to share ideas.

As the White House prepared to roll out new guidelines for reopening, CDC and FEMA officials sent a 36-page document on April 10 outlining in detail the recommended stages of reopening, including detailed instructions for schools, child-care facilities, summer camps, parks, faith-based organizations and restaurants.

But on April 16, when Trump and Birx released their guidelines for a slow and staggered return to normal in places with minimal cases of the coronavirus, many of the details fine-tuned by the CDC were stripped out.

Officials continued to debate how restaurants, bars and houses of worship should operate. The CDC circulated a 17-page document with strong recommendations, but many in the White House resisted, particularly when it came to restricting parishioners from singing in choirs or sharing hymnals and offering plates, and suggesting that restaurants use digital menus and avoid salad bars. The document has not been made public and is still in the editing process.

Trump formally embraced the quarantine protesters on April 17 with a trio of all-caps tweets: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.”

Inside the White House, there was disappointment about Trump’s tweets since many of his aides had hoped to frame his decision on reopening as a presidential test he had met with calm. Privately, several of them acknowledged that the “LIBERATE” tweets brought Trump back into the realm of conspiracy and anger, which he considers safe harbor when he feels boxed in.

Even as Trump berated aides last week over the poor pace of testing — “We have no message on testing,” he complained, according to a senior administration official who directly heard the president — he publicly focused elsewhere. West Wing aides are planning to book more media appearances by Kudlow, Hassett and Mnuchin in coming weeks, with fewer by Birx and Fauci.

“The White House apparatus is totally shifting to the economy,” the senior official said, noting that Trump is convening discussions about reopening this weekend at Camp David.

‘Almost a cleaning’

With Trump engaged in a war of words with governors over testing, public health experts were sounding an alarm about another vulnerability: contact tracing. Finding and isolating infected people and their contacts had been the cornerstone for successful mitigation efforts in South Korea, Singapore and other countries.

For parts of the United States to reopen, health departments need to be ready to extinguish any new outbreaks immediately. That would require an enormous corps of health workers known as contact tracers to track down anyone who might have been exposed to someone with covid-19.

But as with testing, the federal government has placed the onus on states to devise their own contact tracing programs. So state and local health departments started developing programs on their own, or formed regional partnerships.

“We need a national commitment to get this done in order to defeat the virus,” said Michael Leavitt, a former Republican governor of Utah and health secretary in the George W. Bush administration.

Inside the West Wing, there were sharp fights over contact tracing and whether to approve the use of smartphone apps. For example, in a recent Situation Room meeting, Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller questioned contact tracing because so many people were asymptomatic, advisers said.

Trump, however, rarely mentioned contact tracing. His focus was on more personal challenges. One senior White House official said that the president was among the most animated when discussing what his press appearances would be like: A call-in to the radio? A morning photo opp? An evening news conference? Hicks had to move along the conversation in coronavirus meetings by telling the boss they would decide later.

On April 21, when New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) visited the White House to meet with Trump, the president asked if he would join him at that afternoon’s press briefing, an idea Hicks encouraged, according to officials with knowledge of the episode.

Cuomo declined and left the White House without news photographers snapping pictures of him with the president.

The next day, Trump’s focus was squarely on his declining political fortunes. His reelection team — including Kushner, campaign manager Brad Parscale and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel — staged something of an intervention. They presented fresh polls that painted a picture so grim they hoped the president would be persuaded to curtail his daily press briefings, as the data suggested the performances had damaged him.

One of the polls, an internal RNC survey of voters in 17 battleground states, had former vice president Joe Biden leading Trump 48 to 45 percent, according to an adviser briefed on the 20-page polling memo. The coronavirus ranked as the most important issue to voters, and 54 percent of those surveyed said Trump was too slow to respond to the crisis, while 52 percent said they believed the government should be doing more.

Worse still were the matchups with Biden on a range of core characteristics. Just 36 percent said they considered Trump more honest and trustworthy; 35 percent said he was more compassionate and empathetic; 44 percent said he was more competent; 43 percent said they believed he fights more for people like them; and 36 percent said he was more calm, steady and relatable.

Trump did outperform Biden in some areas, such as being better at getting things done and better in handling a crisis. Still, on a question that historically has helped determine whether incumbents win reelection — whether the country is headed in the right direction — just 37 percent said they believed it was.

The decision to share the data with Trump backfired. The president went into one of his rages. He said he did not believe the numbers, arguing that people “love” his performances at the briefings and think he is “fighting for them,” according to a person with knowledge of the conversation. He berated Parscale for the polling data, threatening that he might sue his campaign manager — although it was unclear whether he made the remark in jest, and the two would later bury the hatchet.

On April 23, the day after his campaign team’s polling intervention, Trump continued with his usual behavior. During a lengthy and at times hostile question-and-answer session with reporters, Trump mused aloud about being treated with ultraviolet light or injecting bleach or another household disinfectant into the body to cure the coronavirus.
“I see the disinfectant, where it knocks [the virus] out in a minute — one minute — and is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside, or almost a cleaning,” Trump said, referring to the human body.

Injecting or ingesting disinfectants is dangerous and can be deadly. Trump would later claim he was being sarcastic, but there was no trace of sarcasm in the president’s comments.

That day, 1,857 Americans died of the coronavirus. The next week, the number of cases reported in the United States surpassed 1 million.

And by month’s end, as Trump cheered businesses reopening in Georgia, Texas and several other states “because we have to get our country back,” the total dead climbed past 63,000, with no sign of slowing down.

Steven Singer warns that public schools are facing deep cuts in state funding due to revenue losses caused by the pandemic.

Hey, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week, just the time to start mobilizing against cuts that could cause the layoff of nearly 300,000 teachers.

That means larger class sizes, fewer electives, cuts to the arts, to everything that is not tested.

Don’t expect Trump to stand up for teachers. He said famously in 2016 that he “loves the uneducated.” He wants more of them. They are the ones who march around with their weapons demanding freedom from public health measures to protect lives.

A society that is unwilling to invest in its children is sacrificing its future.