Struggling to read from the teleprompter and sounding breathless at times, he did not look well. The Post reported:
For the 11 minutes he addressed the nation Wednesday, Trump turned in a laboring performance — one intended to project calm competence that instead seemed to reveal uncertainty. Seated behind the Resolute Desk, the president struggled at moments to read the words on the teleprompter. He clasped his hands and twiddled his thumbs. He spoke with a curious affect, his voice sounding raspy and his delivery lacking the passion typically evident in his speeches.
The content of his speech surely did nothing to make us feel any better. Perhaps it has dawned on him that the bull market has ended on his watch and that he is about to face potentially thousands of new coronavirus cases. (He nevertheless continues to brag about the economy as the markets crater.)
Trump, of course, used the time to congratulate himself on handling everything so well. Even Republican governors acknowledge that the lack of swift federal action, including widespread testing, has been a debacle. Trump declares things would have been much worse if not for his preparation. As cases and deaths continue to increase in the coming days and weeks, that ludicrous lie will likely become apparent.
Trump has no idea what to do with a pandemic now spreading within our borders. Naturally, he announces a ban on travel from Europe — but not the United Kingdom — for 30 days. He said there would be a ban on cargo as well. (It “will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things,” he said.) But the White House later contradicted him and further clarified that it would not apply to American nationals. (Was he ad-libbing? Did the speechwriters get it wrong?) The confusion about something so basic as this reveals the degree to which the president is acting on impulse and whim.
I have no idea what this travel moratorium might accomplish, but make no mistake: Trump wants everyone to know this is all China’s and the European Union’s fault. Calling it a “foreign virus,” he aims to feed his base’s xenophobia. In fact, transmission of the virus is already taking place all over the country. He cannot deport a virus. There was no word on the availability of testing or other measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Trump’s own proposals are puny and irrelevant. Small-business loans? That’s going to accomplish nothing. When he utters nonsensical phrases such as “This is just a temporary moment of time,” or “The virus will not have a chance against us,” you wonder whether he understands, even now, the gravity of the health crisis. “A temporary moment of time” will long be remembered, given the thousands of Americans who will likely contract the deadly virus.
On Thursday, former vice president Joe Biden — the all-but-certain Democratic presidential nominee — will deliver remarks about the coronavirus. Whatever he says will certainly sound more logical and informed than the president’s Oval Office appearance. We are about to witness the yawning gap between a dysfunctional and unfit president and an opponent who today could pick up the reins of power and calm the country. Trump’s remarks sent stock futures and oil prices plummeting, an immediate vote of no confidence from the markets.
Republicans in Congress and other elected offices have stuck by Trump through screw-ups, scandals and impeachment. Whether they choose to excuse his ineptitude and applaud his negligent response to a pandemic that will cost American lives remains to be seen. Continuing to cover for him puts their own constituents at risk, a steep price to pay for their sycophancy.
Unfortunately, the president’s delinquency in dealing with a worldwide pandemic and his utterly insufficient response, coupled with the blizzard of misinformation he and his lackeys are spreading, have real-world consequences. The blame for the health and economic crisis will lie largely with him. (Indeed, other democracies, contrary to Trump’s attacks, have acted with greater urgency and farsightedness than Trump to protect their people’s health.)
Trump’s self-absorption and incompetence never fail to amaze. At a time when state and local governments are pleading for social distancing and banning large events, Trump refuses even to mention these important mitigation efforts. (He quietly canceled events, however, in Colorado, Wisconsin and Nevada.) To soothe his own ego, he quite literally is willing to make Americans sick.