As I watched President Trump’s Coronavirus speech last night, the instant I heard him say “the European Union failed…” I remarked “he’s going to cut off Europe.” A few moments later, Trump proved me correct.
This surprised me: Trump remarked ” these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.”
“Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing,” the president said. “These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.”
However, the proclamation Trump referred to has no provision for cargo, only people.
The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.
As the markets tanked in response to Trump’s speech, the president tweeted a walk-back.
For the record, there’s no evidence that COVID-19 survives days in a ship’s hold if cargo was exposed to it. There’s no evidence that the virus spreads by goods shipped from China, Korea or anywhere else. If that were true, half the world would be infected right now.
I’m glad that Trump cleared up the misunderstanding, but I’m curious how that made it into his prepared speech.
Another thing that struck me is how uncomfortable the president was in giving this speech. He clearly didn’t like what he was saying. He doesn’t like not being in control, and he doesn’t like deferring to experts on any subject. But in this situation, Trump has no choice.
Every time the president riffs about how the virus will clear up “by April” or how it’s not so bad, he digs the hole deeper and the anti-Trump media runs with it. Now that Trump has clearly taken good advice and not pumped sunshine about a giant threat to our vulnerable older generations, and a massive wrench in our economic gears, the media is left with little to criticize except his using the word “foreign.”
The word “foreign” appears in the prepared speech only once, in the fourth paragraph: “This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history.”
” I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens, and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus,” the speech continued.
Trump read the speech verbatim. He had a few stumbles. He fidgeted. But he certainly laid the blame for the initial spread of COVID-19 on China, and focused on his administration’s early action to limit its spread to our shores. Unfortunately, in our global economy, that was not enough. It’s unclear whether any measure short of completely closing our borders would have done anything more than delay the inevitable once the virus spread beyond China.
Perhaps the CDC fumbled a bit in its priorities over testing. But I trust its judgment in such matters. Perhaps, in hindsight, we’ll see that there were opportunities to improve our testing methods and protocols that were not taken.
Noted among these is the Cleveland Clinic, which developed a new test that takes just seven hours, instead of days, to confirm infection. Apparently, the CDC didn’t give the green light on developing this test until fairly recently. Even mass testing isn’t stopping the economic monster from killing our stock market.
Trump’s actions to create a safety net for workers idled by COVID-19 are laudable. Congress should consider these “strongly,” as Trump said in the speech. I’m not sure how a payroll tax cut will help if workers aren’t getting a paycheck in the first place. It seems Trump thinks he can persuade companies to pay workers during “virus time off” instead of lay them off. I’m sure he’s on the phone to CEOs making this exact case.
If Trump can keep large companies from laying off workers, and help small businesses weather the worst of our countermeasures, and we don’t end up with a worst-case scenario with a hundred million infections, the president’s hopeful words may ring true.
“Our future remains brighter than anyone can imagine,” Trump said. “Acting with compassion and love, we will heal the sick, care for those in need, help our fellow citizens, and emerge from this challenge stronger and more unified than ever before.”
I have no doubt Trump believes these words. But they don’t change the facts. This is a serious challenge, and how the president handles it in an election campaign year will be the true test of his presidency. It may even determine if America lets him keep his job.
When evaluating this, the anti-Trump media will always focus on Trump’s words. But we should be careful to look at his actions, too. In this case, as in most cases, his actions are more useful than his words.