Forget (for a moment) his old claim that the virus “will disappear;” that promised magic was replaced (briefly) by a stark truth. Trump declared, “It will probably get worse before it gets better.” (He later repeated it will disappear.)
Importantly, he urged Americans to “wear a mask,” if they cannot physically distance, and stay out of crowded bars.
The shift in tone is important because millions of Americans listen to the President. Trump’s switch on masks could end up saving tens of thousands of lives. (Which brings up the sad question of how many would have been saved if only he had done this sooner.) But there’s no telling how long the new tone will last.
Before we get carried away with the celebration that the President of the United States has spoken like a relatively normal leader in the midst of a national crisis, let’s note that the pandemic continues and Trump has not yet announced any significant policy change. The rhetoric is important, but it is not enough. The US still has an uncoordinated national response, a patchwork of policies that change state to state, against a virus that knows no borders.
This was a politically driven pivot. That’s why there was only Trump on the stage. If it had been a legitimate change of heart by the President, a decision to do whatever it takes to sharply flatten the curve, he would have had the experts, perhaps Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, by his side. He would have allowed those who know what they’re talking about to do some of the talking.
The number of cases started going down months ago, and Trump encouraged governors to rush their reopenings, pushed a “return to greatness,” refused to promote mask wearing. Loyal Republican governors followed suit. Georgia’s Brian Kemp, probably trying to impress Trump, is even suing Atlanta to stop it from requiring masks. Trump’s policies and pronouncement turned the US response to the virus into a tragic circus.
Trump absurdly declared from the podium that he has had “a relentless focus” on the virus, “from the beginning.” Any look at his Twitter feed, his golf outings, or his speeches, shows that is patently false. In fact, White House officials recently told reporters he’s been too busy to attend meetings of the coronavirus task force. He didn’t speak to Fauci for several weeks.
For now, Trump’s latest statements look like a campaign turn, not a policy turnaround. But it’s still Trump. If for a time he sounded closer to normal it’s because he has to be scared. This still seemed to be a man not concerned for the country, but for himself and his political future. It’s hardly surprising he again forgot to show sympathy for the more than 140,000 who have died of coronavirus in this country.
We’ll see how long it takes for the other Trump, the real one, to emerge again. Meanwhile, go ahead, wear the masks, Americans. Please.
Credit: Source link