The Trump Virus 

Okay, let me answer the only talking point the Trump campaign has left: The president’s team is demanding that critics tell them what Joe Biden could have done better than President Trump to prevent the deaths of 140,000 Americans, and counting, due to the coronavirus. Obviously, this is a weak argument. You might even say it is a desperate argument.

Why? Because the only real issue is Trump’s handling of the virus.
click to enlarge Juan WIlliams
  • Juan WIlliams

Already, 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the virus, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll. Another recent poll, from Fox News, had 56 percent of registered voters disapproving of Trump’s response to the virus. In fact, voters have already concluded by a large margin — 17 percentage points in the Fox poll — that they trust Biden to do a better job of leading the nation through the pandemic.

Even on a personal basis, Fox reports that only 36 percent believe Trump has “the compassion to serve effectively as president.” By comparison, 56 percent say Biden is a compassionate man.

So the American people have reached a conclusion about the performance of the incumbent: Trump failed. And that has big political consequences because the coronavirus is the No. 1 issue for voters.

By asking what Biden could have done differently, Trump’s campaign is trying to change a national conversation that has already reached a conclusion. They are kicking up a storm of distraction by arguing that even if Trump dropped the ball, where is the evidence that Biden might have done any better?

Biden answered the question last week. While Trump was promising that “like a miracle — it will disappear,” Biden said he would have to work — improving testing, tracing people who had spread the disease, and using the Defense Production Act to get U.S. companies to produce tests, masks, and equipment for hospitals.

Trump did not do those things, Biden said, but instead “raised the white flag.”

“He has no idea what to do,” Biden told MSNBC host Joy Reid last week. “Zero.” Trump’s only concern is winning the election, Biden said. “And it doesn’t matter how many people get COVID or die from COVID,” Biden added, “because [Trump] fears that if the economy is strapped as badly as it is today … he is going to be in trouble [in November].”

Let’s take Biden’s answer with a grain of salt, since he is running against Trump. But what do political reporters — people watching every day, the judges at ringside — think of how Trump is handling the virus?

After interviewing Trump for an hour, Chris Wallace of Fox said Trump’s White House still “doesn’t seem to have a handle” on the pandemic. That is damning given that Trump was warned about the potency of the virus to kill in January.

Jake Tapper of CNN offered a similarly negative judgment. Trump’s “refusal to lead has a body count,” as in the number of people who have died from the virus.

How does Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has seen Trump’s response from the beginning, judge Trump’s performance? “When you look at the numbers, obviously, we’ve got to do better,” Fauci told The Atlantic a week ago. “We’ve got to almost reset this and say ‘Okay, let’s stop this nonsense.’ … So rather than these games people are playing, let’s focus on that.”

These judgments that Trump has failed are hard to refute. It is a fact that in January Trump told CNBC he had no worry about the coronavirus because “we have it totally under control. … We have it under control. It is going to be just fine.”

In late February, Trump again steered the country wrong by tweeting that the virus is “very much under control in the USA. … Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

In March, as the situation grew worse, Trump blamed “Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party,” for trying to “inflame the CoronaVirus situation.”

Then in mid-March he declared, “I’ve felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” Later in March, he announced the virus would be gone in time for Americans to gather at church for Easter services in mid-April.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi  now goes so far as to call the disease the “Trump Virus.”

“If he had said months ago, ‘Let’s wear masks. … Let’s socially distance’ instead of rallies … then more people would have followed his lead. He’s the President of the United States,” Pelosi told CNN, in explaining her negative judgment of Trump.

That’s why the question of what anyone else might have done is a useless parlor game. Its only purpose, as conceived by a desperate Trump campaign, is to get people to ignore the president’s costly failure.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

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