White House adviser Jared Kushner broke the irony meter as he — not someone qualified, such as Anthony S. Fauci — took over the daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday to inform us: “What a lot of the voters are seeing now is that when you elect somebody ... think about who will be a competent manager during the time of crisis.”

Yes, President Trump’s voters, along with those who elected the similarly ignorant and slothful Republican governors in Florida and Georgia who failed to act promptly to stem the coronavirus, should remember that next time. Better to elect someone like California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) or Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) rather than someone continually pandering to Trump, resisting readily available scientific advice and attacking the media.

One has the sinking feeling that things are going from bad to worse. Trump and the feds declined to act swiftly, in particular failing to get widespread testing up and running. Now they are failing to remedy the dire medical crisis that their negligence brought on. Kushner said the federal stockpile of medical equipment is for the feds to use, not the states. His father-in-law seems allergic to implementing fully the Defense Production Act, so the bidding war among the states for critical equipment continues.

Republican governors in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama declined to issue prompt stay-at-home orders. Now? Trump refuses to issue one nationally despite Fauci’s advice. “I don’t understand why that’s not happening,” he said in a CNN interview. “As you said, the tension between federally mandated vs. states’ rights to do what they want is something I don’t want to get into. But if you look at what is going on in this country, I do not understand why we are not doing that. We really should be.” The answer: We have a total lack of federal leadership and competence.

Congress set up a $350 billion fund for small-business loans. Beginning Friday, many banks promptly announced that they could not accept applications in the absence of clear federal guidance. The chaos, confusion and delays surrounding the Small Business Administration loans might make the unemployment insurance process seem like a fine-tuned machine. (Thousands, if not millions, of unemployment claims remain unprocessed due to overwhelming demand.)

The Defense Department is no better. Trump jettisoned a career professional serving as defense secretary (James Mattis) for a meek, subservient aerospace executive. The result is predictable. Politico reports: “Defense Secretary Mark Esper is under fire for the Pentagon’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as lawmakers, national security experts and people throughout the Defense Department’s ranks fault him for a slow and uneven approach to the outbreak.” His most notable action: Supporting the firing of the Navy commander whose letter pleading to allow his sailors to disembark from a floating petri dish, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, was leaked. The military under Trump can forgive war crimes, just not pleas to save men and women in uniform from incompetent superiors.

This is as exasperating as it is frightening. Governors, if you are lucky enough to live in a state with a competent one, can do only so much when, for example, there are no ventilators to be had. The Democratic-led House can only churn out its version of remedial legislation, but it cannot withstand Senate and White House efforts to scuttle anti-fraud, anti-cronyism measures. (“Most big companies that take advantage of the $500 billion corporate bailout in last week’s coronavirus relief bill are unlikely to face restrictions against firing workers or giving bonuses to executives, according to officials familiar with the program.”) And while the House can bird-dog the executive branch as it distributes money, the House cannot do the executive branch’s job for it.

The chaos, confusion and incompetence at the federal level magnify our daily anxiety and uncertainty. We have lost control of our lives, and those supposed to lead us through this ordeal are deepening our national trauma. Years of contempt for expertise, for competent government and for truth itself on the right now haunt us all. God help us.

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