President Trump was asked about the coronavirus on Saturday. He responded, ‘No, I’m not concerned at all. No, I’m not.’ His lack of concern is becoming concerning.
The stock market is tanking. The energy sector is cratering. The global economy looks like it could be headed for a recession, And China claims that it’s on the road to licking the virus.
For Trump the political implications could end up being dire. The surge that Joe Biden is enjoying would be almost unthinkable absent the coronavirus. Biden will likely stomp all over Bernie Sanders in Michigan and elsewhere. There will be no contested Democratic convention. Instead, the party is unifying as rapidly as it can behind him.
And Trump? As is his wont, he’s acting like this is another hoax, a crisis that’s no biggie. He’s got it all under control. But his insouciant quotes will surely be aired ad nauseam in Democratic attack ads, pronto. Estimates that I’ve heard suggest that the coronavirus could hit 60 percent of the American public with 150,000 deaths. Maybe it won’t happen. Maybe Trump’s luck will hold out and the coronavirus will disappear with the onset of warmer weather. Maybe Ivanka and Jared will discover a potent vaccine overnight. Maybe…
Alas, the Rumsfeld rule holds in this instance: America is confronting unknown unknowns. Since the administration has been lackadaisical about testing — perhaps in an effort to suppress the actual tally of infections à la China at the outset — there is no accurate way of knowing how much of the public is infected. Trump is winging it. As he put it this morning in — what else? — a tweet, ‘So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!’
The thoughts that this inspires are disbelief, dismay and disquiet. The coronavirus is not the flu. There is no vaccine for it. It’s far more potent. And no one really knows how rapidly it could spread. Hence the uncertainty infecting global markets.
Dr Trump, as Dana Milbank referred to him, seems to think that his happy talk will supply the correct antidote to the panic gripping financial markets. It isn’t. He’s exacerbating it by braying about how great his administration’s performance has been during the crisis. Meanwhile, his Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams is on television talking about how he doesn’t know how many people have already been tested in America and how Trump’s good health surpasses his own.
Trump can engage in prestidigitation about the wall, about tariffs, and about immigration. But when it comes to cold, hard scientific facts the nonsense comes to a halt. Soon he will be immured in his White House, ranting about the fake media and his adversaries, pining for his rallies, while his approval rating plunges precipitously. Had he acted more expeditiously to try and detect and stop the coronavirus, Trump might have been able to avert the crisis. Now he is the victim of his own follies.