President Trump was a few weeks late to the coronavirus war, but to his credit he is now a much larger part of the federal government’s efforts to stem the spread of the disease and provide daily updates.
However, his ability to reassure the public will be limited until he can discipline himself to remove the incessant sales pitches from his reports.
This has been the president’s problem from the earliest days of the virus. When medical experts warned that the country was going to be in trouble soon, Trump said otherwise:
“The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA” on Feb. 24. “We’re very close to a vaccine” on Feb. 25. And, “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear” on Feb. 27.
With each of those comments, and for more than a week afterward, Trump stuck to his belief that he was right and the doctors were wrong. That was a high-risk bet, and he simply got it wrong.
Still, his bad habit of overpromising lingers. For example, he cannot stop touting the idea that a shot used to treat malaria will be effective against the coronavirus. Maybe it will, but what good is served by making a prediction that might disappoint? You would think he had learned that lesson in late February.
To a degree, the president’s commentary is understandable. He has been a salesman and promoter his whole adult life, and he was good at it, so why change now?
The answer is easy: Because now we’re talking about lives and public health. In Trump’s prior life he was talking about hotels and casinos. He could control his building projects but has much less control over the coronavirus.
If the president insists on making a sales pitch, he should encourage more people to observe the new guidelines on social distancing and hygiene. He also should demand that distribution of coronavirus tests and necessary medical supplies increase rapidly. There will be short-term economic pain, but it’s still a long way to the November election.
Jack Ryan, Enterprise-Journal