As US testing system falters, Trump seeks congratulations

As Trump peddles nonsense on virus testing, we're reminded that he's acting as if he has no idea that a problem even exists.
Image: Washington DC Area Sees Highest Rate Of COVID-19 Infections In U.S.
A medical professional administers a coronavirus test at a drive-thru testing site run by George Washington University Hospital, in Washington, DC on May 26, 2020.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file
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By Steve Benen

In late March, with his country struggling with the coronavirus crisis, Donald Trump held a conference call and was pressed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) on testing availability and the need for a far more robust federal response. The president was incredulous.

"I haven't heard about testing in weeks," the Republican told governors, adding, "I haven't heard about testing being a problem."

Four months later, one can only hope the president has heard about testing being a problem -- because it clearly is. The New York Times reported over the weekend:

As demand for coronavirus testing surges around the nation, laboratories that process samples are again experiencing backlogs that have left anxious patients and their doctors waiting days — sometimes a week or more -- for results. At the city and state levels, testing delays could mask persistent rises in case numbers and could cloud ways to combat the coronavirus, as health officials continue to find themselves one step behind the virus’s rapid and often silent spread, experts said.

An Associated Press report added the other day that public-health experts "say the testing system is in shambles and federal leadership is lacking." The article added that the president's salesmanship "about the prowess of testing in the United States is colliding with a far different reality for those affected by the explosion in coronavirus cases."

In response to all of this, Donald Trump's strategy is tragically misguided. When he and his administration aren't pushing Congress to curtail investments in virus testing, the president is peddling nonsense to the public that suggests he has no idea that problem even exists.

Trump told Fox News' Chris Wallace, for example, “We go out into parking lots and everything, everybody gets a test.” It'd be great if that were true, but it's not.

The president added, “No country has ever done what we’ve done in terms of testing. We are the envy of the world. They call and they say the most incredible job anybody’s done is our job on testing.” If Trump, who has a habit of describing conversations with world leaders that occurred only in his mind, can name any country that called to praise our testing system, I'm all ears.

In the meantime, this sounds an awful lot like his latest "anonymous validator."

In a tele-rally with supporters last night, the president added, in reference to the U.S. testing system, "I've been congratulated by a lot of the experts, but the media never congratulates us. It's literally a one-way street."

First, there are no experts congratulating the United States for its woeful testing system.

Second, it's not the job of journalists to congratulate administrations for struggling to do their jobs.

And third, Trump may not fully understand what the "one-way street" expression means.