A Different Tone?

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Sometime last Tuesday Donald Trump bumped into reality and, convinced by Dr. Birx’s trend-lines and Dr. Fauci’s passion, realized that 2 million corona deaths would be worse for his re-election chances than an economic depression, so he announced that the government’s stay-at-home advisory would be extended through April.  Some pundits believed to have detected a different tone coming from the president, and it is true that on Thursday he called Jim Acosta by his first name, but other than his finally taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously very little changed in Trump’s behavior.  He kept on lying that the testing problem had been solved, while Montana Governor Steve Bullock said that his state is one day away from not being able to test, and criticized New York for having ‘hoarded’ ventilators in a storage facility.  Adding insult to injury the president accused NYC health workers, who often have to work with inadequate protection, of making masks disappear ‘through the back door.’  Governor Cuomo explained in a response that if all the available ventilators would be used today no ventilators would be available tomorrow.

On top of his other criticism Trump blamed New York for having been’ too slow’ to respond to the corona pandemic, and although it’s true that certain measures could have been taken earlier, like closing the schools, blame coming from a president who until Tuesday played down the danger of the outbreak is the pinnacle of hypocrisy.  Cuomo did not respond in kind, because he realizes that if Trump is attacked he’ll retaliate and deny New York State federal assistance, so instead he focused on the dysfunctionality of the procurement process of medical supplies, where the states and the federal government are bidding against each other, driving up the prices.  The Governor demands that the White House play a coordinating role, but instead it appears that occasionally the feds take orders away from one state to give supplies to another state, frequently one with a Trump-friendly Governor and/or electorate.   Trump claims that the government’s strategy is to have supplies directly delivered to states and hospitals, which makes most of it untraceable, but in spite of his happy talk there is a persistent shortage of testing kits, masks, PPE and ventilators.

In other areas Trump is also back at his old tricks.  He called Yamiche Alcindor, who is black and one of the best White House correspondents, ‘snarky’ and urged her to ‘be nice’ after she had asked a totally fair question.  On Fox News the president said that he opposed voting by mail because making voting easier is bad for the Republican Party.   In a signing statement with the $2 trillion ‘Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act’ Trump indicated that he did not agree with the appointment of an Inspector General and would play an oversight role of his own.

Distinctly cruel is the president’s decision not to reopen the Obamacare marketplace, so that those among the 6.6 million Americans who filed for unemployment this week who lost not only their job but also their health insurance cannot buy a different plan and are left without insurance while a deadly pandemic rages in the country.  Of course Trump knows that his lawyers are still fighting in court to have Obamacare terminated altogether, which would cost millions more their coverage.

Early in the week the president bragged about the viewership of his pressers and yesterday he initially didn’t want to talk about the corona crisis but presented speakers about anti-drug actions in the Pacific and saber-rattling with Iran.  En passant Trump mentioned that he is ‘number one’ on Facebook, which is not true, and promised that the economy ‘is going to go up very quickly, but maybe slowly.’

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