Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Washington Post asks why Trump seems completely uninterested in getting rid of the virus. The answer is he thinks it'll kill Black and Latino Americans and Democratic voters for him and make him president.
People close to Trump, many speaking anonymously to share candid discussions and impressions, say the president’s inability to wholly address the crisis is due to his almost pathological unwillingness to admit error; a positive feedback loop of overly rosy assessments and data from advisers and Fox News; and a penchant for magical thinking that prevented him from fully engaging with the pandemic.
In recent weeks, with more than 146,000 Americans now dead from the virus, the White House has attempted to overhaul — or at least rejigger — its approach. The administration has revived news briefings led by Trump himself and presented the president with projections showing how the virus is now decimating Republican states full of Trump voters. Officials have also set up a separate, smaller coronavirus working group led by Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, along with Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
For many, however, the question is why Trump did not adjust sooner, realizing that the path to nearly all of his goals — from an economic recovery to an electoral victory in November — runs directly through a healthy nation in control of the virus.
“The irony is that if he’d just performed with minimal competence and just mouthed words about national unity, he actually could be in a pretty strong position right now, where the economy is reopening, where jobs are coming back,” said Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to former president Barack Obama. “And he just could not do it.”
Many public health experts agree.
“The best thing that we can do to set our economy up for success and rebounding from the last few months is making sure our outbreak is in a good place,” said Caitlin Rivers, epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “People are not going to feel comfortable returning to activities in the community — even if it’s allowed from a policy perspective — if they don’t feel the outbreak is under control.”
Some aides and outside advisers have, in fact, tried to stress to Trump and others in his orbit that before he could move on to reopening the economy and getting the country back to work — and life — he needed to grapple with the reality of the virus.
But until recently, the president was largely unreceptive to that message, they said, not fully grasping the magnitude of the pandemic — and overly preoccupied with his own sense of grievance, beginning many conversations casting himself as the blameless victim of the crisis.
In the past couple of weeks, senior advisers began presenting Trump with maps and data showing spikes in coronavirus cases among “our people” in Republican states, a senior administration official said. They also shared projections predicting that virus surges could soon hit politically important states in the Midwest — including Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the official said.
This new approach seemed to resonate, as he hewed closely to pre-scripted remarks in a trio of coronavirus briefings last week.
“This could have been stopped. It could have been stopped quickly and easily. But for some reason, it wasn’t, and we’ll figure out what that reason was,” Trump said Thursday, seemingly to simultaneously acknowledge his predicament while also trying to assign blame elsewhere.
He can't do it.
He's emotionally and intellectually incapable of doing it. He thought that 1) COVID-19 was an "urban" problem that would punish big cities and spare his voters, and 2) he thought blue state governors like Cuomo and Newsom would get all the blame.
On top of that, he news stories in April that COVID-19 was causing a higher mortality rate among Black and Latino communities was when the virus stopped being a national concern to Republicans in general. They all thought Trump was right and that COVID-19 was going to become a "poor Ni-CLANG!" disease that was going to be the Democrats' problem in 2020.
They weren't going to lift a finger until it started killing Florida seniors in The Villages.
Now it's too late.