Tears of a Clown

After four years of radio silence, never once speaking to her home-state press, Darcie Johnston emerged from the dank underbelly of the Trump Administration to give a three-minute interview with WCAX’s Darren Perron. During which a tear or three ran down her copious cheek.

(Trigger Warning: This post is going to be kind of mean. All I can say is, she deserves every bit of it.)

Johnston has just concluded an undistinguished four years as a Trump administration political appointee. She was fairly high up in the Department of Health and Human services. And she was deeply involved in the administration’s disastrous handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Perron caught her at a vulnerable time, a few hours after she witnessed Trump’s farewell at Andrews Air Force Base. Yep, she was one of the lucky few hundred at the thinly-attended soiree.

Since her chat with Perron was such a rare event, here’s an annotated transcript of her remarks about her tenure in Washington.

It’s been an emotional few weeks, after a year where I’ve done, as Director of Intergovernmental Affaris, Covid response with the governors…

Oh, you mean the Covid response that almost entirely left the states to fend for themselves? The Covid response that consistently underestimated the seriousness of the pandemic, and constantly urged governors to reopen their states and ignore that social-distancing crap? You’re taking credit for that?

… everything from repatriation of U.S. citizens from Wuhan, to repatriation from cruise ships…

Therein lies a tale. Last March, Johnston made an unfortunate appearance in the Washington Post, in a story about a royal fuckup by her and her people on the subject of repatriating cruise ship passengers.

In late February, Johnston and an HHS colleague flew to Alabama to let the locals know that the passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship (some of whom had contracted Covid-19) were going to be transported to a shuttered army air base in Anniston, AL, population 22,000.

Local officials were astonished. They knew that the air base was completely unsuitable for housing quarantined patients, some of them in need of medical care, and that the area hospital had minimal facilities for the sickest of Covid patients. “I was shocked,” said Anniston mayor Jack Draper. “I was shocked by the lack of planning. I was shocked by the manner in which it was presented to us.”

The plan was scrapped by Trump. Not because of its laughable inadequacy, but because of the complaints of Alabama politicians.

So that’s a sample of Johnston’s work on “repatriation from cruise ships.” Onward!

‘…getting states up and running with testing, therapeutics, and finally, gratefully, the vaccine.

Good Lord. She’s taking credit for some of the worst work by the worst administration in recent memory. Need we remind anyone that the states were cast adrift by the administration on all fronts, left to compete with each other for protective gear, left to their own devices for creating Covid-fighting policies? That the Biden team found absolutely no vaccine distribution plan when they took over from Johnston and her colleagues?

So four years has been a lot of reaction to making sure we could protect American lives and save American lives…

Christ on a bicycle. If they hadn’t been the Keystone Kops of public health, they might have saved a hell of a lot more lives. The toll is at 410,000 and rising quickly. Meanwhile, other developed nations have, with rare exception, suffered much lower caseloads and death counts. Across the board, America stands out in being awful on the coronavirus.

…starting out with Zika and hurricanes and opioid abuse and Covid.

Wow. She’s proudly acknowledging her role in many of the administration’s worst policy calamities. Hurricane response? Ask the people of Puerto Rico. Opioid abuse? The epidemic has gotten worse and worse. Covid? Already covered. As for Zika, well, that was a big issue starting in 2015, and was under control by the end of 2016. Johnston went to Washington in January 2017. She never got the chance to screw that pooch.

It was the culmination of a lot of work and a lot of success in preserving American lives…

… in getting the vaccine out in less than one year. It was [Trump’s] vision that allowed that to happen.

I’ll acknowledge the administration lavishly funded Operation Warp Speed. But production of the vaccine was all about science, not Trump’s “vision”.

Perron then asked Johnston about the mood in Washington after the unpleasantness of January 6.

People are on edge and saddened by what happened at the Capitol…

Ah, the passive construction, the last grammatical refuge of the scoundrel. It just kinda, y’know, happened. It was nobody’s fault. No one could have foreseen.

…but at the same time this city has endured throughout history and will continue.”

Can’t disagree with that.

One more thing. Johnston has already accepted responsibility for the Covid response, the botched hurricane relief efforts and the absence of progress on the opioid epidemic. Didja know she also played a role in the granddaddy of all Trump scandals, the separation of immigrant children from their families? Well, she didn’t make the profoundly evil policy, but she was involved in at least one major blunder on housing the children.

In the summer of 2019, four state lawmakers from central Florida were surprised to get an email with Johnston’s name attached, that said the administration was looking to site child detention centers in the Orlando area. City and county officials hadn’t gotten the message.

State Sen. Linda Stewart, who’d received the email, said that “the entire process seemed highly disorganized.” Well, that’s Johnston for you.

The idea was quickly deep-sixed after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis put up a fuss.

So, four years of partisan hackery in an important managerial position. Considering that Johnston’s previous work had been in lobbying and political campaigns, that’s exactly what you might have predicted. Garbage in, garbage out.

I hope Johnston isn’t planning to come back to Vermont and act as if nothing happened. If she does, and she cozies up to you or your lawmakers, remember her track record in D.C., and her unapologetic cheerleading for a disgraced president.


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