A Second Desk

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

At the beginning of his presidency Donald Trump occasionally mentioned the fact that George Washington had two desks in his office, one to conduct his private business and one to execute the responsibilities of the US President.  This week Trump decided to emulate Washington, albeit with only one desk, after he received the news that 6 of the 7 most revenue generating hotels of the Trump Organization had been closed because of the corona crisis.  He started tweeting that by locking down towns and states and closing non-essential businesses America risked implementing a cure that would be worse than the problem.  At one of the daily press conferences of the Corona Task Force, when asked if his organization should be included in a government bailout of affected industries, the president wouldn’t give an answer but started whining about all the income he had lost by winning the 2016 election.  And with the number of COVID-19 infections rapidly rising, mostly in New York and New Jersey but also in California, Washington and many other states, Trump started talking about the need to ‘open up’ the country and ‘get people back to work.’

The president tested his back-to-work message at a Fox News virtual town hall last Saturday and felt sufficiently encouraged to announce that a ‘great victory’ over the corona virus was around the corner, and that the country would take off ‘like a rocket ship’ once it was open for business again.  It was the introduction to a macabre dance between Trump and experts like Dr. Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at the daily pressers in the White House, a fight between fiction and fact, with the president making unfounded predictions about the spread of the virus, the timeline for the development of a vaccine and the availability of a cure, and Fauci arguing that you cannot rush a pandemic and even if lockdowns are maintained the number of infections would not peak before May.  The controversy reached a climax when Trump set April 12th, Easter Sunday, as the target date for the country to be re-opened, arguing that America has the choice between people dying from COVID-19 infections or from mass suicide because they cannot go to work, and predicting full churches all over the country.

Fortunately the president, who said that Easter Sunday was a ‘very special day’ for him but who didn’t discover that he is a Christian until the 2016 campaign, when he once blurted out ‘I’m a Presbyterian, do you believe it?,’ doesn’t have the authority to open anything, not even his own golf courses.  That authority lies with Governors and Mayors, who are facing deepening crises in their states, cities and hospitals, and so far have not shown any inclination to do what Trump would like them to do, which is why the president is now slowly backtracking on his demands.

Meanwhile in Washington, DC, Congress is passing a $2 trillion package to support the unemployed and low- and middle income taxpayers, hospitals, small businesses and corporations that can get loans to keep their workers employed.  Although the bill contains a provision that bars funds from going to companies controlled by ‘the spouse, child, son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the president’ it contains some loopholes that the Trumps and the Kushners can take advantage of.

Yesterday the Super PAC ‘Priorities USA’ started a $6 million blitz of a video that shows the rise of corona virus infections in the US synchronized with statements Trump made at different points in time that range from dangerously misleading to absurd.   The Trump campaign filed a ‘Cease and Desist’ motion in court, but doesn’t have a chance to stop the broadcasting of the video.

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