Saturday, March 14, 2020


Anti-Trump conservative Peter Wehner wrote this in a much-quoted Atlantic opinion piece:
The coronavirus is quite likely to be the Trump presidency’s inflection point, when everything changed, when the bluster and ignorance and shallowness of America’s 45th president became undeniable, an empirical reality, as indisputable as the laws of science or a mathematical equation.

It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain. The president, enraged for having been unmasked, will become more desperate, more embittered, more unhinged. He knows nothing will be the same. His administration may stagger on, but it will be only a hollow shell. The Trump presidency is over.
Here's the reality:

Go here for Morning Consult write-up of the poll Holland is citing. The detailed numbers are here. In Table COR4 we read that, among those who said they watched Wednesday's address, 36% "strongly approve" of Trump's handling of the crisis, while 23% "somewhat approve" (total: 59%); 23% "strongly disapprove" and 12% "somewhat disapprove" (35%).

And that was after Wednesday's speech -- the one that tanked the markets, not the news conference yesterday, after which markets rallied.

Even after Wednesday's speech, according to Morning Consult, most Americans believed that the United States is handling the coronavirus crisis as well as or better than other countries:

All this is why I believe that Jonathan Allen of NBC News may be correct:
No one needs to "flatten the curve" more than President Donald Trump, and he may have begun to bend the politics of coronavirus on Friday.

Before Trump declared a national emergency, critics insisted, and some allies worried, that his response to the pandemic posed a greater threat to the health of the American public and the stability of the national economy than the disease itself....

But if Americans are able to slow the outbreak of coronavirus — to "flatten the curve" of infection, as epidemiologists say — if equity markets bounce back and the overall hit to the economy is contained, his Rose Garden news conference on Friday could amount to a turning point in which he finally signaled to the public that he would take the threat seriously enough to lead the fight against it.

His relatively somber and focused remarks accompanied a bear hug of congressional Democrats that could help him stabilize his standing if all goes well from here on out. Graded on a curve, Friday was a good day for the president, according to longtime observers of Washington politics.
This despite the staggering number of misstatements and lies Trump uttered yesterday.

“I don’t take responsibility at all because we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time.”

False. The Food and Drug Administration issued a “draft guidance” in 2014 in which it sought to extend its authority to regulate laboratory-developed tests. But it’s wrong to blame that effort for the scattered and insufficient delivery of coronavirus tests as the guidance was not particularly relevant to emergency situations and was never finalized or generally enforced....


“If you go back to the swine flu, it was nothing like this. They didn’t do testing like this, and actually they lost approximately 14,000 people, and they didn’t do the testing. They started thinking about testing when it was far too late.”

False. This is blatantly wrong. Diagnostic tests for the swine flu were approved and shipped out less than two weeks after the H1N1 virus was identified and a day before the first death in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified the first case of the virus on April 14, 2009. The Obama administration declared swine flu a public health emergency on April 26. The Food and Drug Administration approved a rapid test for the virus two days later. At the time, the C.D.C. had reported 64 cases and zero deaths. The C.D.C. began shipping test kits to public health laboratories on May 1 (at 141 cases and one death) and a second test was approved in July. From May to September 2009, the agency shipped more than 1,000 kits, each one able to test 1,000 specimens.
And so on, and so on -- and I haven't even mentioned the blatantly false announcement about Google.
President Donald Trump announced Friday that the US government’s coronavirus testing apparatus ... would soon get an assist from Google. The search and advertising giant will create a website, Trump said, that would help Americans figure out if they need a test for the virus, and if so where they can find one.

The only problem: There is no nationwide site like the one Trump described. And Google had no idea the president was going to mention one.

A source at Google tells WIRED that company leadership was surprised that Trump announced anything about the initiative at the press conference. What he did say was also almost entirely wrong. There will be a coronavirus testing site, not from Google but from Alphabet sister company Verily. “We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for Covid-19 testing,” Google tweeted in a statement. “Verily is in the early stages of development, and planning to roll testing out in the Bay Area, with the hope of expanding more broadly over time.”

Even that, though, was not the original plan. The Verge reported Friday afternoon that Verily had intended the site for health care workers only. After Trump unexpectedly publicized the effort, Verily decided it will let anyone visit it, but can still only provide people with testing site information in the San Francisco area.
But action of some sort is finally being taken, the president seems engaged, and most Americans want to believe that even a president they don't like will step up in a crisis. So I'm afraid he's bumbling his way to genuine popularity.

Between his half-serious attempts at an effective response and the legitimate efforts of state and local authorities, as well as some parts of the private sector and many hand-washing, social-distancing individuals, we might actually get through this. And I'm afraid that, because Trump now at least appears to be leading the response, he'll get an undeserved amount of the credit. It might even get him reelected.

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