Are we living in peak politicized times? One test that pundits and the media frequently point to as Exhibit A is how our elected leaders have responded to the current pandemic. Just about every move by our current president, his predecessor, or governors in different states, and mayors and even county health commissioners -- they all get instantly analyzed in a political frame. Is this new? Are there nakedly political motives in various actions on public health? Are our leaders communicating too much information, or holding back what we need to know? Are they unleashing all the force of government to mitigate the pandemic? Or not enough? For some historical comparisons, our guest today is Dr. Tevi Troy. Tevi is a rare breed in public life: he is an author of numerous books on the history of decision-making in the White House, and also a practitioner -- having worked in senior positions in government in the US Senate, the White House and in cabinet agencies. Teiv is a Ph.D., best-selling presidential historian, former White House aide, and former deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. As deputy secretary of HHS, Tevi was the chief operating officer of the largest civilian department in the federal government, with a budget of $716 billion and more than 67,000 employees. Prior to that, Tevi served in several White House positions, including assistant for domestic policy to President George W. Bush. Tevi is currently at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where he is senior fellow focusing on the Study of the Presidency. He is the author of the best-selling book, What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House; Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosophers, Jesters, or Technicians?; and Shall We Wake the President? Two Centuries of Disaster Management in the Oval Office, which warned in 2016 that we were unprepared for coronavirus. His most recent book is called Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump. He has written over 300 published articles, for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Politico, The Atlantic, and many other publications.
Books and essays discussed in this episode:
Shall We Wake the President: Two Centuries of Disaster Management from the Oval Office by Tevi Troy
“Presidents and Public-Health Crises” in National Affairs by Tevi Troy
“Operation Warp Speed: A Story Yet to be Told”
by Alex Tabarrok in Marginal Revolution