Trump: Can he recover from bungling the pandemic?
“It took a stock market crash” and a personal intervention from Fox News host Tucker Carlson, but it seems President Trump has finally “snapped out of coronavirus delusion mode,” said Jonathan Swan in Axios.com. Trump’s public remarks on the pandemic had a new seriousness this week, and he laid out dramatic new measures to blunt the human and economic impact of coronavirus in the U.S. The question is whether the shift came too late to save his presidency. Clearly, said Peter Wehner in TheAtlantic.com, it came far too late. Thousands of Americans are about to die because for three long months, as the virus raged through Asia and then Europe, Trump “brazenly denied reality” since he saw it as a threat to the booming stock market and his re-election. Insisting the virus was no worse than the flu and “totally under control,” he missed a critical window to ramp up our medical infrastructure and actively resisted widespread public testing because, in his words, “I like the numbers where they are.” The numbers are now rising dramatically, and the crisis has exposed our overwhelmed narcissist-in-chief as “fundamentally unfit—intellectually, morally, temperamentally, and psychologically—for office.” His administration will “stagger on” until January 2021, but in every meaningful sense “the Trump presidency is over.”
“Trump can’t win” with the media, said Rachel Alexander in TownHall.com. When he banned travel from China early on in the outbreak, a move that saved countless American lives, “he was accused of being racist.” Trump-hating critics nitpick everything he says and does, so as to buttress the narrative that “Trump is unfit!” Trump is unfit, said Alex Shephard in NewRepublic.com. But his unfitness was also exposed by impeachment, Russiagate, and countless other scandals that should have ended his presidency but didn’t. Trump is a survivor—a “political cockroach,” and recent history “should give the prophets of Trump’s downfall pause.”
This pandemic is of a “completely different political magnitude” than anything Trump has faced before, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. It was easy for Americans to tune out “Trump’s continuous din of scandals and gaffes” when they were confined to newspapers, Twitter, and TV screens. But a public health emergency, coupled with the collapse of our economy, is going to have a “tangible impact on the lives of Americans.” When paychecks disappear and the hospitals and morgues overflow, Trump’s failures will be “so blatant that even his own supporters will notice.” For critical weeks, Trump was a passive and willfully ignorant bystander to an unfolding disaster, insisting the virus would just “go away,” said David Frum in TheAtlantic.com. As president, he owns responsibility for the slow U.S. response to the pandemic. “He cannot escape it, and he will not escape it.”
Politically, Trump still has “time on his side,” said David Siders in Politico.com. If through a combination of luck, science, and national resolve we avoid the worst-case death tolls, and if a massive federal stimulus heads off economic catastrophe, then the pandemic could actually “help him in November.” For three long months that we can’t get back, the president “failed to rise to the challenge of leadership,” said NationalReview.com in an editorial, “and it does no one any favors to pretend otherwise.” But a president’s fate is tied to his nation’s. Even the “partisan adversaries” convinced that Trump is incapable of leading us through the difficult months ahead should be praying that he “proves them wrong.” ■