Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Trump's coronavirus briefings are chaotic, but the president's response deserves more credit

Trump's bloviations are easy to mock and criticize. But it’s often more useful to consider what Trump does than what he says.

Dr. Anthony Fauci smiles alongside Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump at the White House on March 25, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file

April 21, 2020, 3:31 AM CDT

By Keith Koffler

President Donald Trump bungled many aspects of the early coronavirus response. He minimized the threat, postulating “like a miracle, it will disappear.” He blamed “previous administrations” for the lack of testing and medical supplies needed for the pandemic, though he has been in charge for more than three years.
To be sure, actions were being taken behind the scenes to begin getting the country ready — despite the president’s inattention. Some of the early failures were also due to bureaucratic problems and technical snafus. And the futile impeachment trial arguably distracted the president, and his entire White House, from getting serious earlier about the threat.
But a president has to chew gum and walk at the same time — even if it’s a lot of gum. Whatever the bureaucracy’s failings, a president can help kickstart its machinery into gear and override shortcomings by signaling his seriousness about an issue. In addition, it was his job, whatever Barack Obama handed him, to ensure that the country was ready for a pandemic. Even if now may not be the time, the problems associated with the Trump administration’s early response to COVID-19 deserve to be investigated.
Still, Trump deserves credit that few seem ready to give him for his current approach to COVID-19. Some of the fault for this lies with Trump and his own bloviations, which are easy to mock and criticize. But it’s often more useful to consider what Trump does than what he says. And here are seven things he is doing right.

He's listening to experts. The president says he listens to his gut — but his gut seems heavily informed by his brain. The president is consulting a vast array of advisers, outside experts, business leaders and fellow politicians as he goes about making his decisions. Two of America's most expert doctors, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci and State Department Ambassador-at-Large Deborah Birx, are helping lead Trump’s response and usually by his side at the daily White House briefings.
He's communicating with the nation. Yes, the briefings go off the rails every day as they follow Trump’s guided tour through his mind — where grievances, false information and self-adoration are on display. But the briefings, held six or seven days a week, also tell the public in the most visible way possible that their government — and their president — is fighting for them. Trump shows he is knowledgeable about the state of play and the response, even amid misstatements and lies. Health experts, as well as Vice President Mike Pence and other officials, are always at some point able to deliver more sober accounts of the newest information. Meanwhile, the president takes questions and makes himself available.

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