EDITORIAL: White House obstruction must cease

Patrick DeLany
York Dispatch
FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a ceremony to sign a "Presidential Memorandum Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West," Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, in Scottsdale, Ariz.. Standing behind the president is Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.   Trump is set to present one of the nation's highest civilian honors to Nunes(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

There’s a well-know expression: Lead, follow or get out of the way. The Trump administration continues to go oh-for-three — with potentially dire consequences.

The ongoing COVID pandemic is but one ready example. Too disinterested to lead, too attention-starved to follow the advice of experts and always in the way, President Donald Trump has presided over the single worst national response to a catastrophe.

The first week of the new year saw the U.S. fly past 20 million COVID cases — nearly a quarter of the world total — and 350,000 fatalities. And optimism over newly approved vaccines has been tempered by disorganized distribution — the latest complication exacerbated by the administration’s refusal or inability to mount a federal plan.

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As egregious as this example is, it is not the worst. While sheer lack of ability may be at least partly to blame for the administration’s criminal response to the worst public-health crisis in a century, there is no such excuse for its refusal to facilitate an orderly transfer for the incoming administration.

The Trump administration’s intransigence in cooperating with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden has been nothing short of scandalous. Worse, it’s metastasized from a petty display of political pique to a national security threat.

And it’s not just a lack of cooperation — as dangerous and childish as that is. Trump and his lackeys are outright obstructing the Biden team in vital areas including the Office of Management and Budget, which serves executive branch policy and financial initiatives, and the Department of Defense.

This stubborn refusal to acknowledge reality puts the nation and its security needlessly at risk. A recently disclosed, far-reaching national cybersecurity breach by Russia — the extent of which is still unknown — is but one example of the types of ongoing international threats the U.S. needs to be fully positioned to respond to and deter.

“We need to make sure that nothing is lost in the handoff between administrations,” Biden said in taking the unprecedented step last week of publicly criticizing the obstruction. “My team needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world and our operations to deter our enemies. We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the Defense Department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit.”

A much shorter delay in coordinating a presidential transition — that necessitated in 2000 due the prolonged recount in the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush — was cited as contributing, in part, to enabling terrorists to pull off the September 11 attacks.

“President Trump is recklessly and pointlessly blocking the transition to protect his own ego,” Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island stated way back in November. “The reality is Joe Biden won with a record-breaking number of votes and President Trump’s blockade on information and resources only makes the country less safe and puts more people’s health at risk.”

His concerns were echoed by a bipartisan group of some 160 former national security officials -- including some who worked for Trump — that formally petitioned the administration to take the ordinarily routine step of naming Biden as the apparent president-elect. “Delaying the transition further,” they wrote, “poses a serious risk to our national security.”

But nuisances such as national security pale on the lame-duck president’s list of self-serving priorities, which continue to be led by overturning a free and fair election in which he lost of more than 7 million votes.

Despite what Trump would have conspiracy-minded followers believe, despite what craven and cowardly Republican office-holders pretend, a new administration will begin leading the nation on Jan. 20. Trump and his minions must cease the dangerous, un-American stonewalling and, quite frankly, get out of the way.