Have you heard about the Governor of Nevada, Steve Sisolak, and how he – as a Democrat – banned average people from getting hydroxychloroquine but then secretly hoarded it himself? Well, you shouldn’t have, because it’s not true. But if you’ve been listening to the Republican noise machine – their Bubble of Bullshit to use Steve’s term – you’ve probably heard all about it. The story’s been on Townhall, been featured on radio shows, and is continuing to spread, because it hits on a few points the Republicans desperately wish to impress upon their base.
- That hydroxychloroquine is a miracle drug against covid-19. It isn’t. It may yet be shown to have a positive effect, but so far the anecdotal success hasn’t been matched in scientific tests. Yes, people have recovered while on the antimalarial, but only at statistically the same rates as people who were not on the drug.
- That Democrats secretly agree with President Trump but refuse to admit it publicly. This ties in with the narrative of President Trump being remotely competent or even coherent. If he were truly a gabbling fool, they wouldn’t be following his lead. Unfortunately for the narrative, he is; and they aren’t.
- That the Democrats are acting in dishonest ways to harm the public. While this may be true for recent spending bills where both parties deserve blame, where the novel coronavirus is concerned the Republicans have demonstrated a concerted effort to artificially downplay the risks, while Democrat efforts in that regard have been rare, outlier actions. The Republicans are aware of this, and they are aware that the damage that commercials showing Trump and other Republicans dismissing any dangers are potentially devastating. They are now trying to shift the blame.
Now, to the facts: the Governor restricted prescriptions of the drug because it was suddenly being depleted at pharmacies throughout the state. It was directed to be used only for inpatient hospital visits, not outpatient. In other words, it was still available for people who were seeing the most dramatic effects of covid-19, but not for people who were only showing some symptoms or those who would take it as a precautionary measure. This proved challenging and frightening for those who were already on the drug for conditions like lupus, as they were suddenly unable to get prescription refills (a situation mirrored in other states, although in those it is typically because the supply has run out.)
Meanwhile, one branch of the administration, the Department of Corrections, bought a small stockpile for use on prisoners who require it… because prisoners develop conditions like lupus just like free citizens do, and states are required to give them basic treatment where possible. The purchase was made by an official underneath the Governor who was securing medicine for prisoners… not a purchase by the Governor for the Governor and his allies, as the headlines and the talking points are meant to convey.
This is not a scandal, it’s called normal purchasing patterns. Moreover, it was a responsible way (whether the mechanism was agreeable or not) to ensure there was medicine for the people who would, in theory, be helped by it… although tests in France have indicated that the side effects of hydroxychloroquine, most notably uncontrollable heart palpitations, when interacting with other drugs used to treat covid-19 may be more dangerous than whatever limited good the trials have seen.
Meanwhile, the Democrats have been pushing their own dubious line, spurred by a story in the New York Times which provided proof that Trump, through a fund he owned, had a stake in one of the companies producing hydroxychloroquine. While the story is absolutely correct, the information provided is less than damning; Trump’s public stock records indicate that his interest in the company in question would result in far less profit than he extorts from the Secret Service on a single golf trip.
With the public revelations last year that Michael Cohen was paid to lobby Trump by a large drug manufacturer who just happens to be a primary supplier of the drug in question, and the ability for various Trump offspring and business subsidiaries to invest heavily in some of these drug companies, I have little doubt that Trump is seeing significant illegal profits from his otherwise incomprehensible efforts to promote a drug which seems to be far less effective than the antiviral medications which have shown consistent success against covid-19. My suspicions are far from the same thing as evidence. Rather than hand the Republicans an easy talking point about overstating corruption, it would be better to focus on any one of the dozens of other, egregious, examples of corruption we have seen from this White House.
All of these – the lie about the Democrat Governor, the overstatement about Trump’s verifiable profits – allow the two sides to continue the narratives they’ve presented to their respective bases. At their hearts, the stories are distractions.
They’re distractions from the fact that hydroxychloroquine may yet work against covid-19, but if so the effects seem to be mild, far from a lifesaving drug. Initial testing indicates that it may have more of a placebo effect than anything.
They’re distracting from the fact that the novel coronavirus is still spreading, and from the fact that inadequate testing prevents us from knowing the true extent of the deaths it is causing.
They’re distracting from the fact that those deaths – just the verified ones – are continuing to rise, and that the majority of hope is currently pinned on “peaks” which are in turn simply mathematical models. One would think that a party which has warned about the inherent inaccuracy of mathematical models for decades, when it comes to global warming, would hesitate to pin all of their hopes on one when Americans are dying, but the Trumpublicans are neither consistent nor clever.
We don’t need more distractions, we need action. We need testing to determine who carries the disease, and we need support of the antivirals which are being tested alongside the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine. Those two actions – widespread testing for covid-19 and identification of medicinal doses required to allay the worst of the symptoms – will stem this plague.
Ultimately, the end result of the bickering is likely to help the Democrats, politically. Trump’s “leadership” and the GOP’s fecklessness are causing deaths, and that will be reflected at the ballot box. But the goal right now should not be for a political win, the goal is to save American lives. Political gains will come afterward, as the survivors look to see who worked on the behalf of their constituents and who worked for personal gain.