Let’s try to look on the bright side of coronavirus politics. OK, that sounds ridiculous. Let’s look on a less neurosis-inducing side.
I know, still not easy.
Sure, Donald Trump has been a terrible leader. But drop the bar a little. Unlike the king of Thailand, he hasn’t moved to a luxury Alpine hotel with a huge entourage of retainers. And he hasn’t demanded the permanent right to rule by decree, like Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary.
Truly scary to think of Trump ruling by decree. “Today, I want everybody to go out shopping and boost the economy,” he’d begin the day. Then after all the health experts reminded him about sheltering in place, he’d announce that anyone caught shopping would be guillotined. Followed by a retraction that was coupled with a press conference in which he introduced America to some of the nation’s most prominent guillotine manufacturers.
See? Things could be worse.
Trump-watchers have actually noted a welcome presidential transformation this week. Gone are all the claims that the coronavirus is just like a flu. Now he’s somber and serious, predicting “a hell of a bad two weeks … and maybe even three weeks.”
Actually, maybe even three months. But you’ve got to take improvement where you can get it.
And those flu comparisons? Trump was not denying reality! He explained it was … a psychological strategy. “I’m not about bad news. I want to give people hope,” he said. “I’m a positive person.”
Yeah, a positive person who positively rejected the idea of giving uninsured Americans a chance to sign up for Obamacare. And who, in his spare time, managed to further water down future fuel efficiency standards. Because global warming is actually just … mediocre air-conditioning.
OK, Trump may not be our best bright light. Maybe our quest for good news needs to focus on the governors. This is not a country that has been trained, in times of crisis, to look to the state capitols for leadership. But now they’re sounding, in the main, pretty smart and sensible.
A lot of people now know that the governor of Washington is Jay Inslee, and that the governor of Ohio is Mike DeWine. And that the governor of Michigan is Gretchen Whitmer, who became nationally famous when Trump said he’d told Mike Pence not to call “the woman in Michigan” after she complained about the administration’s failure to get hospital equipment to the states.
Now Whitmer is being widely discussed as a possible running mate for Joe Biden. In fact, she is possibly being discussed more widely than Joe Biden himself, who’s stuck in a basement studio like so many other prominent public people. And to be honest, he’s not handling it as skillfully as Trevor Noah or Stephen Colbert.
Sadly, all governors are not created equal. Ron DeSantis of Florida was still dithering about a shelter-in-place order when the state was hovering around 7,000 coronavirus cases. DeSantis said he’d make the call if the White House told him to, and Trump, even on Tuesday, was saying that it was up to DeSantis. On Wednesday DeSantis finally gave the order, but history is going to remember him as the guy who didn’t see any point in banning partygoers from the beach during spring break.
A lot of corporate leaders have risen to the moment, throwing their companies into the race to produce masks, hospital gowns and other critically needed equipment. That’s been a plus — although we’re still waiting for all those testing sites Walmart and CVS were going to be welcoming to their parking lots.
But the president has filled up his press conferences with so many titans of business and industry — most of them lining up for an introduction — that we’re on titan overload.
One high point in the we-love-business Trumpathon came when the president brought up Mike Lindell, the head of MyPillow. (“Boy do you sell those pillows.”) Lindell then launched into a short infomercial for his company, followed by a eulogy to Trump as the man who had rescued a nation that had “turned its back on God.” It wasn’t inspiring, but it was definitely a break in the routine.
Lindell is a Fox celebrity, a big Trump donor, and the president would like to see him run for governor of Minnesota. No way right now of knowing whether his political future will be affected by a 2017 Better Business Bureau decision to revoke MyPillow’s accreditation.
We should be grateful that the president at least realizes that he has to spend some airtime with medical experts. (How long will it take before he’s driven crazy by the great press Dr. Anthony Fauci is getting? Feel free to place your bets.) But you know he always was, and always will be, a guy who likes pretending everybody in the Fortune 500 is just a comrade in commerce.
“They’re big people. I know their names very well, from watching business and studying business all my life,” said Trump.
People, do you think it’s surly to stop here and to recall that at one point in his highly publicized business life Donald Trump was managing to lose more than twice as much money as any other taxpayer in the entire nation?
No, I would definitely put that under the heading of needed diversion. Feel free to discuss over dinner. And stay well.
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