March 30, 2020
Our Leader at the podium
Those who advocate “federalism,” i.e., devolving power to the states, lessening the reach of the national government, should be pleased with the current situation: in the coronavirus crisis, state governments have taken the lead while the national administration has done little and done that late. However, devolution is occurring only at the level of action and responsibility. When it comes to showmanship, the focus still is on the White House.
Our apprentice President, whose concept of his office is defined by his drive for self-aggrandizement, is annoyed that he can’t hold re-election rallies, so has discovered the press conference. However, it is not his natural form. He fumbles the reading of something he doesn’t understand, gives bad advice and attacks Governors and reporters for not being nice to him. One attack on a Governor, this time by tweet, demonstrates in a few words his pettiness, boasting and projection: "I love Michigan, one of the reasons we are doing such a GREAT job for them during this horrible Pandemic. Yet your Governor, Gretchen "Half" Whitmer is way in over her ahead, she doesn't have a clue. Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude! #MAGA.”
At the Sunday, March 29 conference, he announced that the White House will keep its guidelines for social distancing in place through the end of April, an abrupt reversal of position from his proposal a few days earlier that the country could be “opened up” by Easter, April 12. He explained away the reversal by saying that the reopening goal was merely “aspirational;” the phoniness of the explanation was underscored by the use of a term hardly part of his vocabulary.
Trump’s egocentrism reached for a new record March 29 when he bragged, again by tweet, about the viewer ratings for his news conferences. His insecurity and neediness would be comic if our well-being didn’t depend on him. People are dying, he hasn’t a clue, but ratings are up: all is well.
Showtime, however inept, has helped his standing among voters as well as his viewership. According to a summary of polls, approval of his handling of the crisis is 50.5% positive, 45.4% negative, a major change since mid-March.24 No doubt some of the positive response is a result of rallying around the supposed leader, but reflexive patriotism can be dangerous if it causes people to follow one who doesn’t know the way. Clearly, Trump doesn’t.
24. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/public_approval_of_president_trumps_handling_of_the_ coronavirus-7088.html