“Gee, that’s too bad,” a smirking Trump replied, when told by a reporter that Mitt Romney was self-isolating after coming into contact with Senator Paul, who tested positive for the coronavirus.
The reporter, sensing Trump’s delight, asked if Trump was showing sarcasm.
“No, none whatsoever,” Trump happily said.
The daily coronavirus briefing, meant to update the American public on the fast-growing epidemic, has quickly degenerated into a campaign style event for President Trump in an election year.
President Trump, given direct access to the televisions of around eight million Americans, has decided to use this platform as a vehicle to air grievances against his enemies, both real and imagined.
When Trump isn’t poking fun at Republican Mitt Romney, he’s lashing out at Democratic governors.
“I want them to be appreciative,” Trump explained.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who Trump had previously called a snake, is “constantly chirping and I guess complaining,” according to the president.
Trump, apparently forgetting the Michigan governor’s name, referred to Gretchen Whitmer as “the young, a woman governor.”
“She has no idea what’s going on,” said Trump.
Launching ad hominem attacks on other politicians is a national past time of Trump campaign rallies. When he senses a lull in the stadium, Trump will often evoke Hillary Clinton or Hunter Biden to awaken the crowd.
A chanting crowd is a happy crowd.
“He’s agitating to get back on the campaign trail, that without the MAGA rallies, he’s sort of lost, and that explains what tends to sound like open mic night at the briefings than any sort of health information being dispenses from the White House briefing room,” MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace noted.
The “fake news” media, a usual punching bag at campaign rallies, has also received scathing criticism from the president at the coronavirus briefings.
During a tense exchange with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl over ventilators, President Trump cut off the veteran reporter and said, “look, don’t be a cutie pie, okay?”
Later, Trump unleashed a self-victimizing, missing-the-mark tangent that only he could give.
A Washington Post reporter asked President Trump if he would commit that none of the taxpayer stimulus money would go towards his personal properties.
“Nobody cared” that he donated his presidential salary, Trump complained. “Nobody said thank you, nobody said thank you very much.”
Notably missing was any public commitment that the president would recuse his private businesses from any taxpayer fund.
Sidestepping the question, President Trump retreated to his self-victimization island, of which he is a frequent goer.
CNN’s fact checker, Daniel Dale, also noticed similarities between Trump’s rhetoric at the coronavirus briefings and at campaign rallies.
“We heard (Trump) use the phrase ‘big, beautiful wall,’ we heard him complain of ‘abuse’ by members of NATO, single out the trade practices of the European Union,” Dale said.
“And so I think while there is some important health and medical information being presented at these briefings, especially by people like Dr. Fauci, there is also Trump using this as a political platform to promote the messages that he’s not able to promote at rallies because he can’t hold rallies right now,” Dale also said.
Occasionally, while taking breaks from his self-aggrandizing soliloquy, President Trump will stumble onto actual medical information.
The problem, of course, is that much of it is incorrect.
On March 6, for example, Trump claimed that, “anybody that needs a test, gets a test. We — they’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.”
Ignoring the “tests are beautiful” comment, the US has been dragging behind other nations in testing capabilities, and Vice President Pence later had to clarify that “we don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand goin forward.”
A few days prior, Trump also announced that a vaccine would quickly be available, despite his own government acknowledging it would take over a year to develop such a cure.
When Trump stays on topic, the medical information is misleading at best, or wrong at worst. When he veers off topic to whine about his normal gripes, we are all invited to a campaign rally that none of us signed up for.
“He misses his rallies, he misses the road,” Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire recently said. “And that’s why, despite a number of senior aides telling him he should not be appearing at the briefing every day he insists that he will.”
Trump will be back on the campaign road eventually. Until then, enjoy the coronavirus briefings.