The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump doesn’t do much other than create chaos

President Trump delivers remarks outside the White House on Thursday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump earlier this week insisted that governors report to him and he has “total” control. Neither is true. And while it is true that there is a complex, difficult task for the federal government to perform in reactivating the economy — ramping up testing and contact tracing — Trump and his administration of sycophants are entirely incapable of performing it. Hence, he talks big, as he has done throughout his career, and delivers pathetically little, also a feature of his career.

The Post reports: “President Trump unveiled Thursday broad guidelines for states to follow as they begin reopening amid the persistent coronavirus pandemic while leaving the specific plans to the governors.” It set out generic criteria that multiple states have already issued for assessing how to reopen for business. There is no deadline — not even a phony one — and no sign the federal government is to perform the important role of funding and administering a testing and tracing program. This is the ultimate nothing-burger.

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Trump told the governors during a conference call earlier Thursday to “call your own shots,” a superfluous admonition. While governors in the pact of northeastern states and in the West Coast alliance all acknowledge that testing is a critical part of any return to work (as did Trump’s own advisers, former advisers, foreign leaders and epidemiologists), Trump tried to muddy the waters (“There are some states where I think you can do with a lot less testing than other people are suggesting. . . . Some are big believers in the testing. Some believe a little less”). No doubt, this is an effort to avoid more questions as to why he is not doing anything to alleviate this critical function.

President Trump calls criticism of his coronavirus response "fake," yet cherry-picks news clips to make his case. He can't have it both ways, says Erik Wemple. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford / WP; Alex Brandon / AP/The Washington Post)

No wonder Trump’s approval numbers are dropping while those of Congress and governors are soaring. In the latest Gallup poll, Trump’s overall approval rating dropped six points, the “sharpest drop Gallup has recorded for the Trump presidency so far.” In another danger sign for his reelection prospects, “Thirty percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S., marking a 12-point drop since the prior reading in early March. A monthly drop this large has only been recorded twice in the past two decades.” By contrast, Congress’s approval is higher than it has been in more than a decade (albeit at a modest 30 percent).

This is not hard to figure out. Trump insults, blames others (e.g., World Health Organization, Democrats, China) and issues decrees as if he is invested with absolute power — even though he does not do much of anything. Insisting his name is on government checks is no substitute for actually constructing stimulus packages (he is a bystander in negotiations) or making full use of the Defense Production Act (either to acquire and distribute ventilators or testing kits).

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Voters increasingly understand that Trump was delinquent in his response. A Pew Research Center poll finds, “Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say Trump was too slow to take major steps to address the threat to the United States when cases of the disease were first reported in other countries.” Unlike Trump, they are far more concerned with lifting stay-at-home rules too quickly rather than too slowly.

The Opinions section is looking for stories of how the coronavirus has affected people of all walks of life. Write to us.

Despite, or maybe because of, his manic performances at news conferences, voters finally seem to be grasping the reality of the covid-19 threat, understand our current predicament is, in part, a result of Trump’s slothful response and denial and look to those capable of action — Congress and governors — to bring us through the crisis.

Read more:

Michael Gerson: Trump has made a mess of national security. Biden must show he can do better.

The Post’s View: The anti-Trump coalition is forming. The left and right must join.

Karen Tumulty: We don’t have to find ourselves here again. But first we need the truth.

George T. Conway III, Reed Galen, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and Rick Wilson: We’ve never backed a Democrat for president. But Trump must be defeated.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant. Here’s some guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

Variants: Instead of a single new Greek letter variant, a group of immune-evading omicron spinoffs are popping up all over the world. Any dominant variant will likely knock out monoclonal antibodies, targeted drugs that can be used as a treatment or to protect immunocompromised people.

Tripledemic: Hospitals are overwhelmed by a combination of respiratory illnesses, staffing shortages and nursing home closures. And experts believe the problem will deteriorate further in coming months. Here’s how to tell the difference between RSV, the flu and covid-19.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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