Tuesday, March 24, 2020


AP and Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman tell us that President Trump is frustrated by his inability to make all the bad coronavirus stuff magically go away.

From the AP story:
... as the coronavirus crisis threatens his presidency, and upends his campaign for reelection, Trump is rapidly losing patience with the medical professionals who have made the case day after day that the only way to prevent a catastrophic loss of life is to essentially shut down the country — to minimize transmission and “flatten the curve” so hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with critical patients.

The president also has been furious that his efforts to halt the harrowing drop in the stock market have so far proven ineffective. He has been calling friends and economists at all hours and berated aides and reporters who try to persuade him to recognize the severity of the outbreak.

Beyond the crisis, he has been agitated that he can’t run the campaign he wants against Democrat Joe Biden, and he has used daily, hour-long briefings as near proxies for his campaign rallies, guaranteed to attract attention and to maintain the backing of his fervent political case.
In Sherman's telling, Trump sees the crisis as even more dire for the one person he cares about -- himself.
As the death toll from the coronavirus accelerates across the country—by Monday there have been more than 400 domestic fatalities—Donald Trump is grasping for a strategy before the crisis destroys his presidency....

[A] 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.”
I wish the crisis were destroying Trump's presidency. I wish we were finally at the moment when the public has abandoned Trump and Republican lawmakers feel free to cut him loose.

But just the opposite is happening.

It's not showing up in every survey, but the most recent Emerson poll has Trump in positive territory, at 46% job approval, 45% disapproval. YouGov and Monmouth have him at 46%/48%. A Hill/HarrisX poll says that 61% of Americans think Trump is taking sufficiently strong measures to respond to the crisis.


In the same way that Trump doesn't understand how virus transmission progresses, he doesn't understand how public opinion operates in a crisis. What he's doing instinctually -- hogging the spotlight, declaring himself a "war president" -- is inspiring partisans and naive swing voters to rally around him. But he thinks he needs to solve everything right away, so he's looking for a quick fix -- the magic cure for the virus, the magic restorative for the economy.

Americans will assume Daddy is doing the right thing even as they're suffering if he seems take-charge, thoughtful, and sincere. On all of these counts -- alas -- Trump is doing a convincing job of faking it, or at least he's convincing a large sector of the population.

Trump could ride this crisis to victory in November, even if the virus continues to kill and the economy continues to suffer. But instead, he'll demand that citizens stop social distancing -- which will probably happen in many locales, thus increasing the death toll -- and he'll promote unproven treatments in defiance of scientists. (An Arizona man just died after ingesting chloroquine, a drug Trump has seized on as a miracle cure. The man obtained it in a form used to fight parasites in fish.)

Trump thinks he has to be winning to be winning. Regrettably, he doesn't. He could just ride these news conferences to reelection, but he's determined to do more, and doing more will get people killed.

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