An open memo to retired generals James N. Mattis and John F. Kelly and every person who ever worked for Donald John Trump.
On the evening of January 25, 1990, Avianca Airlines Flight 52, bound from Bogota, Colombia, to Kennedy Airport crashed in the woods in Cove Neck, Long Island, killing 73 of the 159 people on board.
For most of an hour, the pilot and co-pilot knew they would not have enough fuel to land the airplane. (A memorable story for me. I worked at Newsday on Long Island at the time, and was frequently flying south to report from Colombia.)
“”Did you tell them we have an emergency?” the pilot asked his co-pilot, who was handling communications with the controllers.
”I told them we’re low on fuel,” he answered.
Moments later, both the pilot and the co-pilot were dead. First responders and local residents scrambled and saved 85 souls aboard. The plane was stone dry when it smashed into the ground and broke to pieces. No fire. Fully preventable.
It was a failure to communicate.
Thirty years later, in Washington, we have all the information we need.
A pandemic was already in progress at the start of 2020. Trump was warned on January 28 by his national security advisor: “This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency.”
Publicly, two days later, Trump said the opposite. “We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five” are dead from the virus.
A few days after that, on February 7, Bob Woodward was already interviewing Trump, who said: “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed…This is deadly stuff.”
All the president’s men knew. General Mattis, then the secretary of defense, to Dan Coats, then the director of national intelligence: “There may come a time when we have to take collective action, [Trump is] dangerous. He’s unfit.”
Coats appears to be a source for Woodward. In Rage, Woodward’s upcoming book, his wife, Marsha, confronted Michael Richard Pence, the vice president of the United States at a White House dinner with an obvious question. “How are you stomaching this?” Marsha Coats said. “I just looked at him like, this is horrible. I mean, we made eye contact. I think he understood. And he just whispered in my ear, ‘Stay the course.’ ”
As of September 9, 2020, more than 191,000 Americans had died from COVID-19.
Air to ground: Emergency, emergency, current course is disaster. The pilot is unfit, the co-pilot is an idiot. We may not be able to land this thing. But we should try.