MSNBC: Trump Is “Collaborating” With The Virus

On MSNBC George Packer lauded his latest article for the liberal magazine in which he claimed that America has become a “failed state” and even went so far as to accuse President Trump of “collaborating” with the virus.

Full transcript:

WILLIE GEIST: Joining us now, professor at Princeton University Eddie Glaude Jr., and bestselling author and staff writer for The Atlantic, George Packer. George is out with a new piece, entitled: “We Are Living in a Failed State; The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.” George writes this, quote, “When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills – a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public – had gone untreated for years.”

Good morning to you both. George, I’ll start with you right there in that piece. A lot of people have pointed out that this has shined a light on the goodness – the fundamental goodness of the American people. And no question it has. And we’ve seen that among regular people and the heros working in our hospitals and on the front lines. But it has also shined a light on our vulnerabilities.

GEORGE PACKER [THE ATLANTIC]: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been as heartened as everyone by the sacrifice and the generosity of ordinary people across the country. And it’s also heartening to see that there does seem to be an emerging that is consensus stronger, maybe, than some of the partisan divisions that we’ve known for years, that science should be our guide in this.

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But I can never forget those weeks in March, and they really are continuing now in April, when we looked to our national government for guidance, for instructions, for basic information, and it wasn’t there. And it reminded me, we’re not a textbook failed state. I’ve reported from a few failed states, and that’s not us. The police are functioning. When you call 911, an ambulance will come. But our national government was in chaos and was dissembling and was deceiving us and was unable to provide either information or help when we desperately needed it. And it reminded me a little bit of what it is like for citizens to find, that when they look to their national leaders in a crisis, they find that no one’s there and they have to make decisions on their own, without that guidance.

GEIST: And, George, as you know and as you’ve reported on, there have been many failures of government over the last generation. You can go through the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11, the financial crisis of 2008, We can add Katrina in there, as well. So this is not a new problem in the United States. But is there something unique about this particular problem and the way this government has handled it?

PACKER: If you use the health metaphor, our body politic today is much weaker than it was 9/11 and even weaker than it was in 2008, during the financial crisis and the beginning of the great recession. We’re now more polarized, more divided. Our government has been demoralized by constant attack from within and without. It’s been defunded. And our economy, in some ways, is more unequal now than at any time in the last 40 years, when inequality has been a growing problem. So all of those symptoms made us an easy target for coronavirus to really wreak havoc in our society.

And so, I think what’s different now is the virus is more personal, more intimate, and also more broad scale than either the recession or 9/11. And our response is weaker because, for years, we’ve allowed these ills to go untreated. And now, with leadership in Washington that almost seems at times to be collaborating with the virus. I compared Trump, who has called himself a wartime president, to the French General Marshal Petain, who was the – in charge when the Nazis invaded and who essentially gave up and allowed them to occupy the country, and created his own Vichy Republic. It’s a harsh comparison but, at times, Trump seems to be collaborating with the virus and doing its work for it.

So all of those things have made us a much easier target. And recovery is going to be much harder this time around than in those earlier crises that you mentioned, Willie.

GEIST: That’s an extreme comparison, obviously. Eddie, I want to ask you about the vulnerable people in all of this. We know physically vulnerable from a health standpoint, we know who’s vulnerable there. But also the economically vulnerable, the socioeconomically vulnerable, the culturally vulnerable. The people that this virus has attacked, in particular.

EDDIE GLAUDE: You know, I really enjoyed George’s piece in The Atlantic, Willie, because on one level, what he said and what he argued is that what we’re witnessing is the collapse of an entire or a whole way of governing. Because the virus has revealed the growing gap, and I’m quoting him, “The growing gap between triumphant capital and beleaguered labor.” So all of the fissures, the breakages within our society, that’s where the virus lives, and it’s feeding on people.

And what we see, over and over again is that the most vulnerable, pre-corona, right, are, in some ways, the most vulnerable during corona, and will be the most vulnerable post-corona, if they survive. And so, part of what I want to say, as the President and all of his minions talk about opening the society, to folks who are in my community particularly, I want you to understand this as an invitation to the grave. That what Donald Trump is saying, by not talking about robust testing, by not addressing the inequalities that, in some ways, define our country, as George has brilliantly laid out in his piece, in some ways, he’s inviting, creating the conditions for more death. For more death.

But I think it’s important, and I should say this really quickly, that the way in which George lays out his argument, there have been choices made in order to produce this particular situation. Of course, we didn’t choose the coronavirus, but we’ve made choices to provide an environment where the coronavirus thrives. And I want to underscore this. We’re choosing mass unemployment, we’re choosing not to test at the federal level. We’re making choices, and those choices are predicated, in my view, Willie, on a political ideology that is driven, in so many ways, by just unadulterated greed, and the result is suffering. And we just need to tell the truth about it.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: We want to thank George Packer with The Atlantic. We’ll be reading your latest piece, George.

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