What National Review nails about Trump’s poor performance on coronavirus
Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) says President Donald Trump is “misleading the public” about information on coronavirus and that people should listen to the health experts instead.
“In a serious public-health crisis, the public has the right to expect the government’s chief executive to lead in a number of crucial ways: by prioritizing the problem properly, by deferring to subject-matter experts when appropriate while making key decisions in informed and sensible ways, by providing honest and careful information to the country, by calming fears and setting expectations, and by addressing mistakes and setbacks.
“Trump so far hasn’t passed muster on any of these metrics.”
That’s it. That’s the problem.
What we’ve seen from Trump since the start of this coronavirus crisis has been a relentless focus on himself and how he is being perceived by the public rather than a prioritizing of the broader common good.
To borrow a phrase from my friend and colleague Chris Cuomo, a public health emergency like this one requires putting the “we” before the “me” — and with each passing day the President makes clear he is either unwilling or unable to do that.
On Wednesday morning, for example, Trump tweeted this:
“Vanity Fair Magazine, which will soon be out of business, and their third rate Fake reporters, who make up sources which don’t exist, wrote yet another phony & boring hit piece. The facts are just the opposite. Our team is doing a great job with CoronaVirus!”
The article in Vanity Fair that Trump is referring to is, ironically enough, focused on the fact that Trump has, from the start, viewed the coronavirus primarily as a media story — the real danger of which is what it could do to peoples’ perception of him in an election year.
“The problem is that the crisis fits into his preexisting and deeply held worldview—that the media is always searching for a story to bring him down,” wrote Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman.
Trump himself said as a much at a rally in South Carolina at the end of last month. “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” Trump said. “They have no clue, they can’t even count their votes in Iowa. This is their new hoax.” He later clarified that he was not calling the coronavirus a “hoax” but rather the “action that [Democrats] take to try and pin this on somebody.”
Even in that clarifying quote, you see the problem. Trump wants to make sure he doesn’t get blamed for this. That’s his central focus. That the public knows he didn’t cause the coronavirus.
Which, if you are sick with the virus or in self-quarantine and worried, or just in the general public and anxious about the pandemic (who isn’t?), that doesn’t provide much comfort. What we all want from our leaders in moments like these is, well, leadership. Tell us what we need to know to effectively combat this virus and keep as many people in our society as safe as possible. Spend more time coordinating with members of the other party on an effective response and less time insisting they are perpetrating a hoax.
Trump, unfortunately, has never shown a capacity to see beyond himself to the broader public good. Instead, he has stayed relentlessly focused throughout his life on doing what is best for him and those close to him.
While we’ve know this about him for a while — it was certainly evident during his campaign for President — the coronavirus outbreak has brought Trump’s me-before-we worldview into sharp relief. And it’s not a good look.