Monday, April 20, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He gave a brief tour of all his main coronavirus excuses.

At today's press conference, Trump was asked by PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor about a man she'd interviewed who went to a family funeral in mid-March because, he said, Trump didn't seem to be taking it seriously enough for him to think he should stay home. The family later got sick. Alcindor concluded: "He said his family members were sick because they were listening to you. Do you feel, or are you concerned that downplaying the virus maybe got some people sick?"

Trump's full response took almost four minutes.

TRUMP: A lot of people love Trump, right? A lot of people love me, see them all the time. I guess I'm here for a reason. You know? To the best of my knowledge, I won. And I think we're going to win again, I think we're going to win in a landslide. But just so you understand, you're talking about March, right? And yet—excuse me, excuse me, I know, I understand. And yet in January, on a certain date, you know the date better than I do, we put on a ban of China where China can't come in.

In reality, Trump's travel ban from China was imposed in February, not January. But it didn't apply to American citizens, or to the densely populated Chinese territories of Hong Kong or Macau, or to Taiwan.

40,000 people traveled directly from China or Taiwan to the United States after Trump's "ban."

And before March, we put on a ban on Europe, where Europe can't come in. So how could you say I wasn't taking it seriously? 

The ban on certain countries in Europe—notably, not the UK or Ireland, where Trump owns businesses—took effect on March 12, not before March.

You know, I put on a ban on China before anybody in this country died. I put on a ban, and so you tell me. Nancy Pelosi was having, she wanted to have a street party in Chinatown on San Francisco at the end of February, that's a month later. 

This is provably false, although it's not clear if Trump actually believes it. By Trump's logic, though, San Francisco's Chinatown should have been a perfectly safe place for people to congregate in early February (when a parade unaffiliated with Pelosi took place). But Trump has tried very hard to brand COVID-19 as a "Chinese" virus.

And then they tell me it's only a political talking point. But you feed into it, cause you're too good a reporter to, to let that happen. Really, you are a good reporter, you're too good a reporter to let that happen. 

Trump may or may not remember that a few weeks ago he believed Alcindor was "nasty" and "untruthful."

Remember this. So, at the end of January I put on a ban, people that were in that room will tell you that I think there were 21 people, I was the only one of the whole room that wanted to do it. Fortunately I was the one who counted for that purpose. We put on a ban because I was reading bad things about China. World Health Organization should've told us. 

They did.

But I was reading it with or without them. They should have known, all they had to do was read it. 

They did.

They didn't have to be there, but they tried to cover for China. World Health covered up for China.

Trump is thinking of himself here.

But — no, no, wait, you can't say this, I put on a ban. In other words, I stopped China from coming to the United States. I stopped Europe from coming into the United States long before the March date that you're talking about. So people should say I acted very early. That was a very hard thing to do. Doing that was a very hard thing. I didn't want to do that. But I, I did it because I thought, and Dr. Fauci said that by doing it, President Trump saved tens of thousands of lives. So I did take it very seriously. 
ALCINDOR: You held rallies in February and in March, and there are some — 
TRUMP: Oh, I don't know, I don't know about rallies, I really don't know about rallies. I know one thing, I haven't left the White House in months, except for a brief moment to give a wonderful ship, the Comfort — 
ALCINDOR: You held a rally in March. 
TRUMP: I don't know. Did I hold a rally? 
He held five in January and five in February. He also held one in March, where he repeated a line from the previous rally that anyone worried about "the virus" was perpetuating a Democratic "hoax." He also traveled to India in February, and played golf at Mar-a-Lago as late as March 8.

In other words, Trump has been "sheltering in place" about as long as other Americans, except that his house is 60,000 square feet and he can actually get a COVID-19 test.

TRUMP: I'm sorry, I held a rally, did I hold a rally? Lemme tell you, in January, when I did this, yet virtually no cases and no deaths and yet I put it on. So how I could I not, why was Nancy Pelosi, right? Nancy Pelosi is holding a street fair, she wants a street fair in San Francisco in Chinatown to prove, you know what the purpose of her was, to prove that there's no problem. Many other politicians did the same thing who wanted to prove while I was, no of course not, no, no, no, I have been — people are amazed at how early I acted. And I did act early. With that being said, it's very hard to say, "Let's close down the greatest economy in the history of the world." 

Trump adamantly refused to issue any orders of his own, preferring to force governors to take the political heat for the economic damage to their states.

I had to close down, I and everybody else that works with me and, and, three hundred and close to three hundred and fifty million people built the greatest economy in the history of the world, best employment numbers, best stock market numbers, best numbers in virtually every category, even good manufacturing numbers. The previous administration said manufacturing was dead for our country.

Of course, nobody in any administration has ever declared American factories dead. But in reality, manufacturing numbers have been terrible under Trump. The sector actually went into recession in 2019.

Even great manufacturing numbers, and you know what? I did that and somebody walked into my office and says, "Sir, you're gonna have to close down the economy. You're gonna have to close the country." 

But he didn't.

But you know what I say to you? We're gonna rebuild it. And we're gonna rebuild it better and it's gonna go faster than people think. I built it once, I'll build it a second time. Please.

In fairness to Trump, he does seem to genuinely believe that he alone is responsible for having "built" the American economy.

Who cares?

  • Dealing with a national emergency should be more important to presidents than assigning blame.
  • It actually really, really matters that presidents tell the truth in times of crisis.
  • "A lot of people love Trump" doesn't actually answer the question.