Monday, March 16, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He told state governments that they were on their own.

For a few moments today, speaking at yet another press conference on the coronavirus pandemic, Trump seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. The stock markets—Trump's main barometer of his own success—were plunging yet again, this time a nearly unprecedented 13% on the Dow Jones. (In the last thirty years, only last Thursday's 10% drop comes close.) 

Apparently afraid that his laid-back response was looking bad compared to urgent and dramatic measures taken by state governors and mayors over the last few days, Trump finally admitted a few stark truths that most Americans had already figured out. He said that there will likely be a severe economic recession as a result of the outbreak in the United States. And he also acknowledged that the virus will remain a serious threat through late summer at least, rather than "miraculously going away" in April as he had previously predicted.

But earlier in the day, on a call with state governors, Trump essentially threw in the towel on desperately needed federal help for getting medical equipment to hospitals. As the New York Times reported, Trump seemed to think that state officials simply hadn't thought to try to buy safety equipment or the devices that help very sick patients breathe at retail:
“Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” Mr. Trump told the governors during the conference call, a recording of which was shared with The New York Times. “We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself.” 

The Trump administration was somehow caught off-guard by the need to distribute federal stockpiles of ventilators and has been cagey about how or when they will do so.

Asked today how he'd grade his handling of the outbreak on a scale of one to ten, Trump responded, "I'd rate it a ten. I think we've done a great job."

Why does this matter?

  • It is way, way too late for Trump to only just now be taking this seriously.
  • A president who can't or won't do difficult or politically risky things to protect Americans' health and well-being should resign.