Tuesday, March 17, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried really, really hard to convince Americans he'd been taking the coronavirus seriously this whole time.

The past twenty-four hours have seen a sudden shift in Trump's tone where the coronavirus is concerned. With major American cities paralyzed by shelter-in-place orders and his own Treasury Secretary predicting 20% unemployment, Trump seems to have realized that Americans are taking the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously, and is now attempting to adjust his approach to match.

A reporter asked him about the dramatic change in tone today. Trump replied:

I didn’t feel different, I’ve always known this is a real … this is a pandemic. I thought this was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic; all you had to do was look at other countries. I think now it’s almost 120 countries all over the world. No, I’ve always viewed it as very serious. There was no difference yesterday from days before. I feel the tone is similar, but some people said it wasn’t.

The World Health Organization officially declared the outbreak to be a pandemic last Wednesday. Prior to that, Trump said, among other things, that:

  • it would not become a pandemic (Jan. 22)
  • Americans' concern about it was a "hoax" meant to hurt him politically (Feb. 28)
  • the flu was worse (Mar. 4)
  • "It's going to disappear. One day — it's like a miracle — it will disappear." (Feb. 28)
  • the disease was "very much under control in the USA" (Feb. 24)
  • the outbreak was "getting much better in Italy" (Mar. 7)
  • a vaccine would be available within months (Mar. 2)

Trump initially refused to even ask for funding to prepare the country for the inevitable spread, apparently believing that a few travel restrictions from China—not applicable American citizens—would keep the virus out. When political pressure mounted on him to do something, he reluctantly asked Congress for $2.5 billion. 

Today, his administration proposed spending more than $1 trillion as a first attempt at limiting some of the damage.

So what?

  • You can't really tell lies this big and obvious without showing your contempt for the people you're telling them to.
  • Americans' health and safety is more important than Donald Trump's political fortunes.