Back in the 2012 presidential campaign, Republicans hit Barack Obama for months for his promise, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” (For the record, the promise won the “Lie of the Year” award handed out by PolitiFact in 2013.)
In the 2020 campaign, Democrats will be using their own version of the promise, this one uttered by President Trump: “Anybody who wants a test can get a test.”
We’ll have to wait to see if PolitiFact calls that promise the “Lie of the Year,” but it’s turning out, at the very least, not to be very true at the moment.
At his daily briefings, Trump routinely touts testing with a string of superlatives. “We’ve done more testing than any country anywhere in the world,” he said on Friday. “We have now completed more than 3.5 million tests — by far the most anywhere in the world.”
But there are 328 million people in the U.S., which means just that just 1% of Americans have been tested.
Dr. Deborah Birx, who serves as the response coordinator for the Trump Administration’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, said testing capacity of 1 million tests per week is available. At that rate, it would take more than six years to test every American.
Trump regularly complains about press coverage on testing, which many experts say is key to confidently reopening the economy. “The stories on testing are all over the place — that we’re actually in good shape,” he said Monday.
But that’s not at all what the governors say.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said Sunday on CNN that Trump — who at a White House briefing last week said testing is the states’ responsibility — is “just delusional” to be suggesting that the states have enough tests to conduct enough of them to reopen their economies any time soon.
“We have been fighting every day for [personal protective equipment]. And we have got some supplies now coming in. We have been fighting for testing. It’s not a — it’s not a straightforward test. We don’t even have enough swabs, believe it or not. And we’re ramping that up. But for the national level to say that we have what we need, and really to have no guidance to the state levels, is just irresponsible, because we’re not there yet.”
The same charge came from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, who said on CNN that “lack of testing” is “probably the number one problem in America, and has been from the beginning of this crisis.”
“I have repeatedly made this argument to the leaders in Washington on behalf of the rest of the governors in America,” Hogan said. “And I can tell you, I talk to governors on both sides of the aisle nearly every single day. The administration, I think, is trying to ramp up testing, and trying — they are doing some things with respect to private labs. But to try to push this off to say that the governors have plenty of testing, and they should just get to work on testing, somehow we aren’t doing our job, is just absolutely false.”
Hogan said he, like other governors, have been “fighting and clawing to get more tests” from the federal government, which he acknowledged had upped its game in recent days.
“So, look, I think they have made some strides at the federal level,” Hogan said. “I think states are all working hard on their own to find their own testing. Lab capacity has been increasing. But it’s not accurate to say there’s plenty of testing out there, and the governors should just get it done. That’s just not being straightforward.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who serves on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said Monday the U.S. needs to triple its testing for COVID-19 to find out how widespread the virus truly is.
“We’re only doing 1.5 to 2 million a week,” said Fauci, who has, at times, been at odds with Trump. “We really need to get up to at least maybe two times that, three times that.”
Which brings us all back to the 2020 presidential campaign.
By then, the investigations into how the Trump administration handled the coronoavirus will be in full blossom. Democrats are salivating over the points they can score in the run up to the presidential election.
And a phrase you’ll be hearing a lot is this: “Anybody who wants a test can get a test.”
*Joseph Curl ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2014 and covered the White House for a dozen years. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @JosephCurl. A version of this article ran previously in The Washington Times.