On Wednesday evening, Donald Trump delivered an Oval Office address intended to inform and calm the public on the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. His demeanor was strikingly dour as he clumsily read his remarks from a Teleprompter. It is hardly comforting when a president sounds and looks sick while talking about a spreading sickness. To make matters worse, he repeatedly made comments that were untrue, which had to be corrected afterward.
If Trump thought this speech would assuage the anxiety of nervous Americans, he was pitifully mistaken. He failed to offer a comprehensive plan to respond to the growing threat of widespread infections. His proposals mainly centered on travel restrictions and financial relief. And in that regard, his approach was not well received. During and after the speech the Dow Jones futures nosedived 800 points. And on Thursday the markets suffered an historic 10% decline, falling more than 2,300 points.
There were efforts in the speech to unite the country and seek common ground to face this challenge together. “We must put politics aside,” Trump said, “stop the partisanship, and unify together as one nation and one family.” That’s straight out of the Politician’s Book of Platitudes. And coming from Trump, who has distinguished himself as the most hostile and politically divisive president in memory, it seemed especially disingenuous. Not surprisingly, it took him less than twelve hours to abandon his calls for inter-party harmony.
In a pair of tweets Trump bitterly attacked Democrats that he regards as his natural enemies. In the first he complained that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wasn’t sufficiently deferential to his crisis strategy:
“Nancy Pelosi all of a sudden doesn’t like the payroll tax cut, but when Obama proposed it she thought it was a brilliant thing that all of the working families would benefit from because if you get a paycheck, you’re going to take home more money.” @kilmeade @foxandfriends
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2020
Note that Trump isn’t expressing his own opinion here, but that of his mouthpieces on Fox News. And in their notorious ignorance and dishonesty, they misrepresented Pelosi’s positions. When Pres. Obama proposed a payroll tax cut to remedy the economic collapse of 2008, it made sense because it would encourage people to go out and spend money. In today’s crisis that would be useless. We don’t have a problem with people not being incentivized to consume. The problem is that they are being advised to avoid markets, restaurants, entertainment, etc., where they would otherwise spend freely. So a few extra bucks in their paycheck would just sit in the bank. In the meantime, the Social Security Trust that payroll taxes fund would go into debt.
The other tweet that Trump posted reached back to his obsession with having been investigated and impeached:
Many Republican Senators want me to Veto the FISA Bill until we find out what led to, and happened with, the illegal attempted “coup” of the duly elected President of the United States, and others!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2020
This seems like a inopportune time to reanimate this monstrous conspiracy theory. Of course, Trump was never the victim of a “coup.” He was lawfully impeached according to the rules set forth in the Constitution, a document that Trump is woefully unfamiliar with. However, his anger over having been held accountable for his criminal behavior is still seething. And at a time that he was ostensibly seeking unity to combat the coronavirus, he chose instead to unload on his Democratic foes once again. There are even reports that Trump is still so bitter and hurt that he can’t bring himself to negotiate in good faith with Pelosi:
“Two senior Trump administration officials described a president who, out of an intense bitterness toward the House Speaker, has shuddered at the prospect of being in the same room with her during the ongoing public-health crisis and economic reverberations.”
What’s more, Trump answered a few questions from the press during a White House meeting with the Prime Minister of Ireland. When asked about the failure of his efforts to implement virus testing, he defensively shot back at his old nemesis, Barack Obama (video below):
“If you go back and look at the swine flu and what happened with the swine flu, you will see how many people died and how actually nothing was done for such a long period of time as people were dying all over the place. We’re doing it the opposite. We’re very much ahead of everything.”
Trump has a deep seated and deranged need to make everything a competition with Obama. In this case, as in pretty much all others, he is factually wrong. Obama declared a health emergency in April of 2009, shortly after the H1N1 virus became a known problem. He later declared a national emergency to free up additional federal funding and other resources. Trump’s lies were drawn directly from his pal Sean Hannity of Fox News.
This is how Trump behaves just hours after pleading for national unity and an end to partisanship. It is typical of his belligerent character and his malignant narcissism. Combined with his paranoia and his thirst for vengeance, it poses an imminent threat to the welfare of the nation at a perilous time. America has weathered bigger storms than this, but it has never had such an ignorant, sociopath at the helm. Our strengths are sufficient to overcome the weaknesses of one incompetent leader. But the sooner he is removed from office, the better off all of us will be.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.