Guy Farmer: Coronavirus briefings: A Trump reality TV show
Here’s a well-known quote from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”: “A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Innocent question: Does that timeless quote remind you of anyone?
President Trump struts and frets at length on a White House “stage” during his seemingly endless daily coronavirus briefings. He congratulates himself for his great victories in the battle against the deadly virus and picks fights with his enemies, real and imagined. He always claims credit for any good news and/or positive developments, no matter how trivial, and always blames others for any mistakes, setbacks or shortcomings. He even went so far as to run a campaign video during a briefing.
One of his “enemies” is the respected Wall Street Journal, which had the temerity to criticize Trump’s coronavirus briefings. In a strongly worded editorial the Journal, which usually agrees with his economic policies, opined that the president should limit his briefings – which can last two hours, or more – to 45 minutes, or less, and give more time to his strong supporting cast, which includes Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the president’s Coronavirus Task Force, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases.
“His first-rate health experts have become supporting actors … ushered on stage to answer a technical question or two,” the Journal observed, asserting that the daily question-and-answer session frequently “deteriorates into a dispiriting brawl between the president and his antagonists in the White House press corps.”
Expecting a “pat on the back from his newsroom pals,” the president goes on the attack when someone asks a “nasty ” question, such as “Why did you wait so long to order lockdowns and quarantines after your top advisers told you that COVID-19 was a killer pandemic?”
“This sort of exchange usually devolves into a useless squabble that helps Mr. Trump’s critics and contributes little to public understanding,” the Journal continued. “If Mr. Trump thinks these daily sessions will help him defeat Joe Biden, he’s wrong.”
I wonder if Trump realizes that his presidency is in the balance because if voters think he lost the War Against Coronavirus in November, he’ll be a one-term president.
The former reality TV (“The Apprentice”) star fired back against the Journal, calling the editorial “fake news” and reminding everyone that his ratings are “through the roof.” The Journal politely told Trump that his ratings would be even higher and more helpful if his briefings were “shorter and more focused.” Amen!
Last Monday our “wartime president” claimed that he has total authority to lift quarantines and/or reopen businesses in all 50 states even though the 10th Amendment to the Constitution clearly states that “powers not delegated to the United States (the president, that is) by the Constitution … are reserved to the States.” Trump backed down, but added that he’s thinking of reopening parts of the economy by May 1.
“You’re not a king,” some of the more outspoken governors told the president. “We’ll make those reopening decisions, thank you very much.” Our thin-skinned president must be furious and looking for ways to punish those rebellious governors. Trump’s petty dustup with the governors reminds me of a memorable line from a very funny Mel Brooks movie: “It’s good to be the King.” Fortunately, that’s not how our representative democracy works.
Thank God we have constitutional checks and balances as our volatile president navigates his usually unfocused and unpredictable way through the coronavirus crisis. For our sake, I wish him well.
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.