Wednesday, September 16, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He tried to pick and choose what he was president of.

Yesterday, Trump appeared on an ABC News "town hall" where he took questions from voters. It was, by most accounts, something of a disaster, particularly on the subject of COVID-19. He contradicted his own explanation from last week about why he had lied to the public about the severity of the virus, claiming now that he'd actually "up-played it." Trump also attacked Joe Biden, who does not currently hold any government office, for not imposing a mask mandate.

TRUMP: Well, I do wear them when I have to and when I’m in hospitals and other locations. But I will say this. They said at the Democrat convention they're going to do a national mandate. They never did it, because they’ve checked out and they didn’t do it.

And a good question is, you ask why Joe Biden — they said we’re going to do a national mandate on masks.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He’s called on all governors to have them. There’s a state responsibility…

TRUMP: Well no, but he didn’t do it. I mean, he never did it. 

Today, in what appears to have been an attempt to undo some of that damage, Trump took questions from reporters. He claimed that, with 200,000 Americans dead, the country was "substantially below" early estimates of 240,000 deaths. (That projection was released in early April. The revised version of the same model, to account for the number of people who have actually died and been infected, now predicts 410,000 deaths by the end of this year alone.)

He then said this:

So we’re down in this territory. And that’s despite the fact that the blue states had tremendous death rates. If you take the blue states out, we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level. But some of the states, they were blue states and blue-state-managed.

Mathematically, this is backwards. In the real world, if you take out "blue states"—where 57% of the population lives—the United States' overall infection and death rates go up much more. The "United Red States" would remain the only major wealthy nation with a totally uncontrolled outbreak, in spite of the fact that it is still summer and many of them are predominantly rural, both of which help slow the spread of the virus. 

More to the point, once "blue states" like New York where the initial outbreak took place had imposed lockdowns and restrictions on gatherings—which Trump immediately began to criticize—the rates went down. Republican governors faced uncomfortable political pressure from Trump to end public health measures, which led to the second and much larger spike this summer. That rise was centered on states like Florida and Texas. 

Trump has spent much of the campaign season attempting to shift blame for things that have happened on his watch—the pandemic response, racial tensions, and economic devastation—on "Democrat-run cities." He immediately followed up his attempt to blame "blue states" for the national COVID-19 response by demanding that they end the restrictions that have helped keep it in check.

Why does this matter?

  • The president is president of all of the states.
  • Presidents who can't handle taking responsibility for major national crises should not be in office.
  • It's wrong to try to blame others for your own mistakes.
  • The health and safety of all Americans, whether they live in South Dakota (highest new infections rate) and Arkansas (highest death rate) or Maine (lowest new infections rate) and New York (lowest death rate) is more important than Donald Trump's political situation.