Donald Trump has donned the mantle of “wartime president” which is on a par with your four-year-old putting on his older brother’s football shoulder pads, running for the mop handle goalposts in the basement, and claiming MVP status — except it’s not as cute. You may recall Newt Gingrich outlining Trump’s mission impossible the other day, stating that if Trump “manages the pandemic well and gets the economy restarted, he gets reelected.” Trump has totally and irrevocably botched the pandemic response, which leaves him with one alternative, and that is to eradicate it altogether and claim victory — or it’s BYEDON in seven short months.
Impeding Trump is his chief coronavirus adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who keeps telling the truth about inconvenient facts like the spread of the disease, how many testing kits are actually available, information that this administration would far rather let you languish in the dark about while you listen to their fabrications about the state of things.
But worse still, Fauci has told Trump that to halt the spread of the virus he needs to close down the economy. Since Trump’s entire existence in his post is to serve his Republican corporate overlords and stack the judiciary, to even suggest shutting down the economy is like showing a cross to Dracula. It is simply an unthinkable alternative. Trump reacted to that on Sunday night, with one of his all-caps tweets.
WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2020
He’s referring to the 15-day “stay at home” policy, which will expire this Sunday and force a decision as to what to do next.
Now, here is where Trump finds himself skewered on the horns of a bitch kitty of a dilemma. The UK contemplated sending people back to work a few weeks ago, under the concept of “herd immunity” theorizing that 60% of the country, mostly young people, would get a mild form of the virus and recover. Boris Johnson was informed by epidemiology experts that was a stupid idea, and would result in the deaths of 250,000 people. So Johnson walked it all back a few days later.
Nevertheless, even with the example of the UK staring him in the face, Trump is desperate and will not hesitate to put lives on the line, if he thinks it will be financially beneficial to do so. Gabriel Sherman, Vanity Fair:
Sources say that Trump is leaning toward telling at least some Americans to return to work after the 15-day social-distancing period ends on March 31. This puts Trump on a potential collision course with Fauci that many fear will end with Fauci being fired or quitting. “Fauci is the best medical expert we have. We can’t lose him,” a former White House official said. Signs of tension between Trump and Fauci have been emerging. Over the weekend, Fauci gave a series of candid interviews. “I’ve been telling the president things he doesn’t want to hear,” Fauci told Maureen Dowd. “I have publicly had to say something different with what he states. It’s a risky business.” Fauci told Science magazine: “When you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things one, two, three, four times, and then it happens. So, I’m going to keep pushing.”
Trump’s view that he can ignore Fauci’s opinion may be influenced by advice he’s getting from Jared Kushner, whose outside-the-box efforts have often rankled those in charge of managing the crisis. According to two sources, Kushner has told Trump about experimental treatments he’s heard about from executives in Silicon Valley. “Jared is bringing conspiracy theories to Trump about potential treatments,” a Republican briefed on the conversations told me. Another former West Wing official told me: “Trump is like an 11-year-old boy waiting for the fairy godmother to bring him a magic pill.” (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)
Throughout the crisis, Kushner has counseled Trump that the crisis isn’t as bad as the media is portraying. Two sources said Vice President Mike Pence has complained to Trump about Kushner’s meddling in the work of the coronavirus task force. (Another former West Wing official disputed this, saying Pence wouldn’t openly challenge the Trump family. “Pence is politically smart,” the former official said.)
Kushner is always going to say that it’s the media exaggerating things because A) it’s what Trump wants to hear and B) Kushner doesn’t care who dies anymore than Trump does. He’s got his, if you don’t have yours — what was Trump’s expression? — oh yeah, “It’s the story of life.” Too bad pauper, get a clue and be born to wealth next time.
So right now Trump has the Senate bailout to put a bandaid on things — and of course he will take full credit for it. Then he has to hope that somehow the coronavirus wanes and some return to normalcy is possible and then he has to hope for the market to rebound. This is quite a wish list, maybe he better find a Genie who likes him.
And the market doesn’t like ambiguity. Investors get nervous and they bail and with each passing day, more people with money are going the safe, CYA route and not investing in more speculative stocks which were making them bank a short while ago.
It’s well documented that the market goes south even as Trump is at the podium pitching his ridiculous softballs and reading stats with all the enthusiasm of a middle-schooler reading a book report. The stock market and the covid-19 pandemic are joined at the hip. Progress, or lack of same, with one directly affects the other. Trump is trying to reverse engineer the economy, which is all that’s important to him, and in order to do so, he needs to remove the obstacle — which is how he views it — of the coronavirus. Which puts America in the position of having to rely on experts like Fauci, and governors like Cuomo, because they’re our best and only hope to get through this. Trump’s utter incompetence has acted as a de facto abdication of his presidency.
What you will see as this pandemic spreads and treatment becomes more complex is an ad hoc movement on the part of health officials and governors to take charge, because in America’s darkest hour, we don’t have a president, only this buffoon who thinks it’s all a TV show. Whatever happens, November can’t come soon enough so we can take him off the air.