Saturday, July 11, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He spent a quiet evening in the White House.

Trump has spent this Saturday evening in the White House. In any week, this would be unusual: he almost always spends Friday through Sunday at one of his luxury golf resorts in Florida or New Jersey, courtesy of taxpayer-funded travel on Air Force One. 

Tonight, though, Trump was supposed to be in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for a campaign rally. That was abruptly canceled yesterday, with Trump tweeting that he'd been "forced" to reschedule because of dangers posed by the remnants of a storm system moving up the east coast.

The weather in Portsmouth today was beautiful: sunny and warm all day. That's not a surprise, as the forecast had shifted dramatically towards good weather well before Trump bailed out. As of 1:35 yesterday, shortly after the cancellation was announced, there was a 15% chance of showers during the scheduled rally time. 

The rally was to be held indoors.

Trump's real reason for canceling is not his notorious difficulty interpreting weather maps—although his tweet announcing the cancellation suffers from some of the same geographic illiteracy where storm projections are concerned. 

Instead, it appears to be his fears that he'd once again be speaking to an embarrassingly empty hall. New Hampshire is—at least in theory—a swing state, and given the circumstances, Trump cannot afford to ignore its relatively small haul of four electoral votes. 

But with fears about the uncontrolled COVID-19 pandemic rising again, even in ruby-red Oklahoma, Trump couldn't even manage to fill a third of a 19,000-seat arena last month. (Even the small crowd of 6,200 appears to have contributed to a spike in local coronavirus cases.) The virus is not nearly so widespread in New Hampshire, where the state's Republican governor gave permission for the rally but refused to attend himself.

Neither Trump nor his campaign have addressed the question of why the virtual certainty of spreading a potentially fatal disease was an acceptable risk, but rain showers were not.

Why should I care about this?

  • The safety and health of the American people is more important than Donald Trump's political needs.
  • It's not a good sign for a president if his strongest supporters don't trust his judgment.
  • A little face-saving now and then is part of politics, but it helps if it's less obvious than this.