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Masha Gessen explores a less-noted hallmark of Trump’s presidency: indifference

A key example was that the Trump administration didn’t take Pfizer up on an offer to reserve hundreds of millions of doses of its COVID vaccine for use by Americans.

photo of donald trump
President Donald Trump
REUTERS/Leah Millis

Masha Gessen, the reliably perceptive New Yorker writer, points out one of the less-noted hallmarks of the Trump presidency, namely the stuff Trump just didn’t care enough to do anything about.

Indifference.

The key example, very much in the headlines at the moment, was that the Trump administration didn’t take Pfizer up on an offer from the drug company to reserve hundreds of millions of doses of its COVID vaccine for use by Americans while the vaccine was under development.

Trump passed on it, or just ignored the offer.

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There really is no good explanation. The result is that hundreds of millions of doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which could have been earmarked for use by Americans, has now been sold to other countries. Some untold number of Americans will die who might have survived if they had had earlier access to the first vaccine found to be effective, which is produced by an American company and which offered those doses to the Trump administration.

It’s an outrage, of course, if you assume that the job of a U.S. president, especially one whose slogan is “America First,” would be to do anything he could to lock up as much of that then-promising and now-proven vaccine for, y’know, Americans first.

Gessen includes the excuses the Trump administration has given for this act of indifference or incompetence, but they make no sense. Under the terms of Pfizer’s offer, the U.S. government would have been under no obligation if the vaccine, then under development, had not turned out to be effective.

But as we approach the end of the Trump hellscape, and as we struggle to understand it, Gessen offers a perhaps obvious and familiar but nonetheless shocking shortcut to how it worked. Trump was always very focused on things that would make him richer, more famous, more powerful. But if they weren’t in those categories, he couldn’t be bothered.

The full, smart, historically rooted and not-very-long Gessen piece is here.