Monday, March 2, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

This afternoon, just before Trump left for a campaign trip, he said this to reporters about a coronavirus task force meeting he'd sat in on:

And, much more importantly, we had a great meeting just now with the pharmaceutical companies. A lot of you probably saw the results of the meeting. But I think the results will be spectacular.

That was the end result of a meeting between Trump, government officials, and pharmaceutical company executives, in which Trump repeatedly insisted that a COVID-19 vaccine would be available in "months," and people who actually make vaccines were forced to contradict him.

The meeting was being recorded for television, prompting Trump to say, "I've heard very quick numbers, a matter of months, and I've heard, pretty much a year would be an outside number, talking about 3-4 months." Dr. Antony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a renowned figure in epidemiology, immediately corrected Trump:

Let me make sure you get the President the information that a vaccine tha tyou make and start testing in a year is not a vaccine that's deployable. So he's asking the quesiton when is it going to be deployable, and that is going to be at the earliest a year to a year and a half.

Trump has been making the false claim that a COVID-19 vaccine would be available in mere months for about a week now, even though his own HHS secretary—a political loyalist—admitted that that kind of schedule for a vaccine has "never happened in human history." It wasn't even the first time in the past week that Fauci has been forced to fact-check Trump in real time.

But Trump, sounding as though he was hearing this for the first time, began talking over Fauci. "Do you think that's right?" He later insisted that someone had told him "two months."

Trump also appeared to be confused at times about the difference between a vaccine and medicine.

Later, an administration source expressed optimism that "scientists and experts gathered for the meeting were able to convince Trump" that a vaccine would not be available in two months. It's not clear if that source was speaking before or after Trump announced his "spectacular results."

Four more Americans died today of the virus in Washington state, one of several places where the virus now appears to be growing more widespread in the population.

Why does this matter?

  • A president who cannot understand or remember the most basic facts about a crisis is unfit for office.