Monday, July 27, 2020


Axios reports that the president's new plan to make people like him is to take credit for all upcoming good medical news on the pandemic.
Top Trump advisers and GOP leadership have told the president in recent weeks that he needs to switch gears on the coronavirus and go all in on messaging about progress on vaccines and therapeutics....

They see this new strategy of leaning hard into the progress on therapeutics and vaccine R&D as the fastest way to restore confidence in Trump and avoid having the election be a referendum on his handling of the pandemic.

The plan: When scientists and health care researchers make big strides on vaccine and therapeutic development, the White House wants Trump at the podium, delivering the good news himself.

... The White House wants Trump to speak directly to the American people and have them make no mistake that this is coming from him — not Dr. Deborah Birx or Dr. Anthony Fauci.

... "If you get ill from COVID, you have a significantly lower chance of getting seriously ill or dying since we have remdesivir, convalescent plasma, and steroids to treat the virus — which we didn’t have in the early stages of the outbreak," a White House official said.

... "We are making significant progress on a vaccine and working simultaneously on a distribution plan so that when we reach it we can get it to hundreds of millions of people immediately," the official told Axios.
Yes, but:
It's nearly impossible that a vast majority of the public will have access to a vaccine by 2021, let alone before the election. And that assumes a vaccine proves to work....

Therapeutics are still in development, and many have shown promising leads. But the timeframe for getting these to market before Nov. 3 is a very ambitious goal, and none — including remdesivir — have come close to presenting a cure to the virus.
So this is the genius plan: Trump should go out there every night and do his Power of Positive Thinking selling act for the American people, despite the fact that huge breakthroughs probably aren't imminent.

In the work world, even if we're not in sales jobs, ordinary schlubs like us are told, "Don't overpromise and underdeliver." Don't say you can finish the project in two days when you know you'll need closer to a week, because then you'll have to tell people it's late.

But Trump thinks it's good to overpromise and underdeliver. In his pre-presidential, pre-pandemic past, that wasn't a problem for him -- he provided so much copy for his favorite New York journalists that most people would forget a story about him that had turned embarrassing because he was already on to the next publicity stunt.

But it doesn't work that way when you're the president of the United States and you're talking about an issue that's literally life or death for every American.

We know Trump can't do "cautiously optimistic" -- he'll describe anything that's in the works as the miracle cure, coming to your pharmacy any minute now.

The breakthroughs won't be breakthroughs. They'll be incremental improvements in treatment that save a few more lives. But meanwhile, outbreaks will continue to happen, death tolls will remain high, and we'll have a new wave of horror stories as some schools open in the fall.

Maybe this will work for Trump as we get closer to a vaccine. Maybe he'll be able to claim credit even if the vaccine won't be ready for public consumption until 2021.

But in the interim, he'll be telling America that the crisis is basically wrapping up, and it will be clear that that's not the case. Eventually he'll get bored with this approach -- how many alleged breakthroughs will there be to announce? -- and move on to some other form of information management. Whatever happens, it'll always be about information management for the Trumpers, because, as "a source close to the Trump campaign" makes clear in the Axios story, he and his team see the pandemic as primarily a public relations problem.
"The polling has been clear on this stuff. People want Trump to take it seriously. And I do think this past week was probably the first week in a couple of months since the [George] Floyd protests started where I thought Trump won every single day of the week."
Yes, in the bubble, they believe "Trump won every single day" last week. Who wants to tell them that the American people want real efforts to save lives, not hype and happy talk? Who wants to tell them that Trump's inability to take the work (as opposed to the PR) seriously is why he didn't actually "win" any days last week?

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