President Trump, like the showman that he is, wants to reopen America's coronavirus-closed economy with a "big bang" on May 1, even though the scientists who actually know what they're talking about counsel, "not so fast."
We've seen a medical catastrophe, with a U.S. death toll exceeding 22,000 as of today, also become a historic economic calamity that has caused massive business closures and unemployment affecting virtually the entire nation.
Impatient as always, and desperately concerned about his worsening reelection outlook, Trump is now forced to decide which it will be: Continued actions to keep the virus from spreading and potentially saving lives, or allowing businesses to open and letting people to go back to work, to travel, and resume their daily lives -- even if it means more people will die.
On Sunday's "Meet the Press", presidential historian Jon Meacham said Trump is using his daily coronavirus task force briefings as "infomercials" to sell Americans on approving his administration's response to the pandemic.
Remarkably, the right-wing Breitbart news outlet reported this with the headline: MEACHAM; TRUMP IS 'SELLING THEM,' NOT 'PROTECTING THEM' WITH CORONAVIRUS BRIEFINGS.
On the program, host Chuck Todd said, "This decision, if he makes it too soon, would be probably the most consequential of his presidency, and perhaps could go consequential in a really bad way if he's wrong."
Meacham replied, “Absolutely, and it’s in keeping with his monarchical tendencies here. I think these briefings are really infomercials more than briefings. He is constantly selling his own reaction to the crisis in the face of facts. And I think that ultimately what you’re seeing with the numbers is Americans at some intuitive level understanding that the president is selling them, he’s not protecting them.”
Meacham then added, “And I think that one of the things he’s got to figure out politically here is this is a virus, the virus can’t be bullied. It can’t be dismissed. You know, 75 years ago today, Franklin Roosevelt died, and one of his watchwords in the Second World War was, the American people can handle bad news, but you have to give it to them straight from the shoulder. And the news is going to get worse and worse before it gets better and better. But if you level with people, they will respond.”
Trump does not know how to level with people. We all know that. He is incapable of telling the truth, especially when the bad news might somehow reflect negatively on him.
Trump vs. the Governors
Then, there is the question of whether Trump actually has the authority to turn on the proverbial switch to the economy.
It's really been the state governors and mayors who have issued the stay-at-home orders that have locked down the economy, and it will be those officials who lift it. Of course, if Trump gives the all-clear for May 1 or shortly thereafter, the pressure will be on for some of them, at least, to follow suit.
Nevertheless, it is those officials -- not Trump -- who the public most trusts for their management of the crisis. And, reports CNN, many of them, like Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer and Connecticut's Ned Lamont are extending, not shortening, their stay-at-home guidance.
"Now is not the time to pull back at all," said Whitmer, who is taking heat for her decision.
Still, Trump plans to announce an "Opening our Country Council" tomorrow, which presumably will be charged with planning Trump's grand opening. And, he issued this tweet today claiming his authority:
Targeting Dr. Fauci
Meanwhile, Trump's right-wing supporters are now targeting Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's strongest -- and most trusted -- voice of sense and reason when it comes to the coronavirus. He's had death threats, forcing the government to beef up his security.
#FireFauci is now trending on Twitter, fueled by Trump's retweet of a tweet by failed Republican Congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine of California, who said the infectious disease scientist should be fired because he acknowledged on CNN Sunday morning that lives could have been saved if Trump had heeded coronavirus warnings and acted faster.
Here's what Dr. Fauci said:
"I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives," Fauci, said when asked if social distancing and stay-at-home measures could have prevented deaths had they been put in place in February, instead of mid-March.
"Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those decisions is complicated," added Fauci, who is a key member of the Trump administration's coronavirus task force. "But you're right, I mean, obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then."
So who will prevail? Dr. Fauci and the medical experts who urge caution, or Mr. Big Bang himself, who wants things to be hunky dory, even if it means people will die.