Trump Is Back to Waging War on Science, at the Worst Possible Moment - 2020-03-23
Earlier this month, the White House became aware of studies showing the coronavirus, if unchecked, could kill 2 million Americans, and Trump suddenly reversed his public stance. After having minimized the dangers of the virus, he began promoting social distancing and presenting himself as a "wartime president" who would defeat the "invisible enemy." This political strategy required rewriting the history of the very recent past, casting Trump as the sage guardian of the nation's health who had seen the pandemic coming and kept the country safe. The idea was to borrow the political identity George W. Bush adopted after 9/11, with the virus as the Chinese-created foreign enemy. Kellyanne Conway offered up a version of this message — "To criticize Trump now is to criticize public health officials, FEMA, first responders, private sector businesses that are all coming forward to help" — that, for all its authoritarian overtones, places the president firmly on the side of public-health authorities.
Yet the fragile truce between Trump and public-health authorities is suddenly on the precipice of coming undone. Over the past 24 hours, a cascade of White House leaks has sounded the alarm. Trump "remains fixated on the plummeting stock market, is chafing at the idea of the country remaining closed until the summer and growing tired of talking only about coronavirus," a source tells the Washington Post. Trump "has repeatedly raised concerns in meetings about the optics of grounded planes and empty airports" and "argued that those images would look bad for him and could further drag down the economy," reports NBC.
Trump's heel turn reflects, in part, his characteristic impatience. Even during his period of taking public health seriously, Trump kept promising miracle cures and a recovery that would happen "fast," fantasizing about the celebrations that would ensue after the victory, as if he were trying to psych himself up to pass his personal marshmallow test. But even the fastest possible turnaround was going to come too slow for a man who once wrote, "I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present." Trump has been demanding plans to get the economy growing again within the absurdly optimistic time frame of one month, the Daily Beast reports.