Wednesday, March 11, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He made a speech.

Eleven days after calling concern about the coronavirus a "hoax," six days after two senior White House advisors declared the virus "contained" within the United States, and five days after he falsely claimed that desperately needed testing kits were available, Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office on the subject of what is now officially a pandemic.

The single most common theme of Trump's brief speech was to insist that he was doing a good job handling the crisis. The Washington Post color-coded the address to demonstrate just how much of it was devoted to Trump patting himself on the back. Bragging and self-congratulation is highlighted in orange; actually useful advice is in blue.

Most of the speech was about planned economic relief. It fell flat: stock market futures were up slightly at the start of Trump's speech, then fell sharply during and after it, forecasting yet another terrible day tomorrow. U.S. markets are down over 20% in the last month, wiping out all gains going back to November of 2017.

Dow Jones futures on the evening of March 12. Trump began speaking at 9 p.m. EDT (21:00).

The only real policy change in Trump's announcement was to ban incoming travel from Europe (or at least the 26 countries that make up the Schengen Area). As a practical matter, this won't really affect the spread of the disease, which is well-rooted in the United States and growing exponentially. 

In spite of desperate pleas from state and federal officials, Trump still hasn't declared a national emergency over the pandemic, in part because to do so would call attention to the fact that he openly talked about COVID-19 as no worse than the common flu for weeks. He is reportedly waiting for the report of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, before deciding on an emergency declaration. (Kushner, who like Trump inherited and squandered a family fortune in real estate, has no medical or public health experience.)

States of emergency allow for faster and more coordinated responses from the federal government. The country is currently operating under 33 separate emergency states, six of them declared by Trump.

So what?

  • Americans' health and safety is more important than Donald Trump's political messaging.
  • It's bad to put unqualified relatives in charge of life-and-death decisions affecting millions of Americans.