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By Greg Sargent Opinion writer April 7, 2020 at 10:13 a.m. EDT Once again, President Trump is employing his magical reality-bending powers to make a catastrophic failure of leadership on his part disappear. This latest effort is more infuriating than usual, however, because it came as part of a process that is designed to enable government leaders to learn from their failures and self-correct. If Trump opted to do this — that is, learn from the failures exposed by this process, rather than immediately rushing to pull out his little reality-altering wand — it could save untold lives. As it happens, new investigative reporting by the New York Times has just confirmed the broad contours of the reality Trump tried to expunge, to no avail. At his press briefing on Monday evening, Trump unloaded over the news that an internal government report documented that hospitals across the country are suffering severe supply shortages, which could mean wrenching decisions about how to allocate equipment among those hospitalized with the coronavirus. Trump attacked the report’s author — an official in the inspector general’s office at the Department of Health and Human Services — and essentially said the findings are Fake News. “That’s just wrong,” Trump seethed. “Did I hear the word ‘inspector general,’ really? It’s wrong.” Trump then suggested the findings might be politically tainted. “Where did he come from, the inspector general? What’s his name?” Trump said, adding: “Could politics be entered into that?” In a sense, what’s really going on here is that Trump is in a rage because medical professionals battling on the front lines of the coronavirus candidly described the hardships they’re facing, in part due to his own catastrophic failures. A devastating report After all, the report — which was actually written by a woman — was compiled from hundreds of interviews with hospital administrators across the country. They reported “severe” and “widespread” shortages of testing supplies and personal protective equipment that are “putting staff and patients at risk.” Importantly, the report sounded the alarm about the “lack of a robust supply chain” for needed equipment. And it noted that administrators anticipate a shortage of life-saving ventilators that could pose “difficult decisions” about allocations among the sick and dying. The report called for a renewed focus on “government intervention and coordination” at the “national level” to facilitate “distribution of supplies throughout the country.” In other words, hospital administrators want the federal government to do more to speed lifesaving equipment to them, before it’s too late. It’s important to stress that this report is explicitly offered as a series of constructive suggestions from hospitals who are begging for more help in saving American lives. The report is not a “review” of the government’s performance. It presents these findings as an “aid” to enable the government to assist hospitals as they address an ongoing “public health emergency.” Remarkably, Trump’s main takeaway from this can be only that it made him look bad. Confusion bordering on disarray Enter this new investigation from the New York Times, which documents that the Trump administration’s approach to medical equipment supply chains is producing “new confusion, bordering on disarray.” According to the Times, numerous states and hospital systems report that they thought they had procured equipment, only to see the federal government commandeer it. This could have a legitimate aim — such as an effort to allocate equipment where it’s most needed — but it’s hard to know for sure, due to the sheer confusion about why this is happening. The Times reports that a “hybrid” distribution system has evolved. Federal officials are relying on private health-care providers to procure supplies and then sell roughly half of them to companies and localities that have placed orders. The feds are directing the sale of the other half based on need. Exacerbating all of this, the administration simultaneously has “repeatedly called on states to find medical supplies on their own without relying on the federal government," as the Times puts it, creating all the confusion. As Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) of Illinois told the PBS News Hour, this means the federal government is procuring equipment and delivering it to private companies, and then letting states “bid against each other for those goods.” All this has contributed to the shortages urgently documented in the inspector general’s report Trump raged about. More lives at risk Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, told me that Trump must bring clarity and transparency to supply chains, by fully exercising the Defense Production Act to take charge of distribution, or by issuing clear guidelines to states to avoid bidding wars. The current chaotic response, Konyndyk argued, flows from Trump’s “failure to take responsibility” for it. “When you have a chaotic response against a deadly pandemic, by definition you’re putting lives at risk,” Konyndyk said. “We can’t do this without effective leadership.” Yet Trump refuses to accept that the system highlighting these problems might actually be working legitimately as designed — and thus refuses to learn from what is being revealed. Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, pointed out that under the system put into place after Watergate, inspectors general are supposed to do more than just highlight abuses and wrongdoing. “Much of what they spend their time doing is making constructive recommendations to facilitate more effective government functioning,” Bookbinder told me. “The current president is so intent on stifling anything that could reflect negatively on his administration that he is undercutting a system that helps the government do a better job, which in the current crisis could save lives." So this latest ongoing display is not just beyond depraved. It could lead to more deaths. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/07/trumps-latest-depraved-display-could-lead-more-deaths/