This book is primarily Dr Deborah Birx defending herself and her actions hile she was the Covid response coordinator for the Trump administration. Vanity Fair called it her Rehabilitation book.
Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, Covid-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It’s Too Late.
By Dr. Deborah Birx
2022 – (521 pages Kindle)
Read by Kathe Mazur 22h 3m
Rating: 7 / politics – memoirs
Birx is a dedicated doctor and military woman, her mission was to coordinate the efforts of the US government in spite of Trump and his administration being almost unwilling to admit there was any problem at all.
But about half way through I got rather annoyed. The book is, as The NY Times says, “earnest and exhaustive.” But that gets tiring. I’m a fan of Birx but I felt she was mainly defending herself (“Rehabilitating” herself?) by going over and over how she was right. The first part is fine. She details the troubles she had with the Trump administration and all that is definitely a kind of horror show of its own. But then she harps and harps on testing as thought that alone was the answer to Covid. And she talks about Covid without symptoms so that means everyone gets tested – regularly. But there’s a downside to routine and regular testing she never quite acknowledges.
For months and months it took the tests a week or 10 days to come back with results. And during that time the tested person was to be isolated, symptoms or no (see the title – “Silent Invasion”). That is they had to stay home from work, often without pay. And that’s also without a positive result which would mean another week or 10 days of isolation/quarantine. And then if your child tests positive you’ll have to stay home from work with him. No wonder folks didn’t really want to do it.
Birx has been criticized for not simply “telling truth to power.” But she makes it clear that “power” (Trump) wasn’t going to listen and neither were most of his minions although she did have the support of a few people in the administration.
But she was talking to others, the governors and business and those with whom she was coordinating. She felt like she was doing good work out there in the field getting the correct information to the governors and others to pass along to the people.
Most of this book is simply Dr Birx’s view of the events which occurred in her Covid domain from 1/2020 until 1/20/21. The country did have a health plan, but it was hopelessly out of date no matter which president was in office and part of her job was to bring it up to date in regards to Covid-19. No one was prepared in almost any way including “personal protection equipment” (PPE).
The Covid-related data was inadequate for a long time and those people she worked with didn’t understand it for even longer. Birx was used to working on an international level with programs for AIDS and their data was far more complete than US data for Covid. (What was she expecting when she arrived in the DC only a month prior to the virus getting to the US?) The CDC was operating in a self-created bubble – Johns Hopkins was doing better. And Birx almost had to start from scratch. And she went all the way to vaccination problems. (See the Epilogue where she also covers more improvements which see sees could be made.)
She seems rather authoritarian and has been criticized for being autocratic. That’s kind of the way she comes off in the book. Mostly she has nothing but criticism for the US efforts but she does commend a few people, Jared Kushner, Pence, the National Guard, and some others. And she’s actually glowing about Operation Warp Speed which was the development and distribution of the vaccines. They were getting a stockpile ready for whomever won the 2020 election. There was good partnership at that point.
Where does she stand on A Fauci? Is he one she commends – or condemns?
Not much is said about Fauci. They didn’t really work “together” as they were in different parts of the government. Fauci wasn’t directly under Trump’s leadership like Birx was. Birx worked out of the West Wing at the White House and kind of more under Pence but then she took over the Covid coordination from Pence. Fauci was head of NAID and was included in Birx’s group but Trump couldn’t fire him. – Anyway he was a friend definitely but she didn’t say much about him.
Some of our more thoughtful commentators have been exploring the handling of Covid around the world, comparing our systems with those in other countries. And of course they always look at the US.
From reading these analyses, it seems to me that there’s a big picture and a little picture to evaluate. By the sound of it, Brix is really only looking at the little picture, for all that her role was significant. The big picture involves the question, how do you get people to trust their government in a crisis. All the elements of Australia’s response which worked so well for the first two variants involved governments implementing restrictions which people obeyed, even without the threat of enforcement. We trust our governments, state and federal and that trust served us well.
From afar, it looks like Trump was part of the problem but not all of the problem. Because if he, and all the other governors across all the states had said and done all the things that needed to be said and done, would the people have cooperated? No they wouldn’t, and only partly for the very good reason that you mention in your review. They would have rolled their eyes and rejected Trump as just another politician who can’t be trusted. The fierce independence which serves America so well in many contexts, is fatal when you need the cooperation of the people.
Oh yes, Trump was a problem. He didn’t even want to acknowledge Covid as being. problem. People didn’t trust Trump but the Trump supporters didn’t trust anyone and thought it was all a conspiracy of the liberals – and Qanon. Since Trump we’ve gone back to serious distrust of the liberals – in general and specific. It’s very, very ugly, Lisa.
We hear about it here, because — no doubt — it influences what goes on here too. Australia has willingly embraced American culture ever since WW2, and now, well, most of us are not so sure.
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