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Amid a slow-motion global disaster of massive proportion, any U.S. president would be expected to focus on overseeing federal response.
His agencies must make a massive stimulus program work. They must help states get unemployment benefits to millions in sudden need. They must guide safety policies and help distribute coronavirus tests and equipment. Governance becomes complicated — a matter of knotted details unaided by slogans.
President Donald Trump's daily slurry of campaign speeches and national pep talks seem to bear little relevance for anyone but his die-hard fans. His efforts to spin current and future body counts in America suggest a sad, futile attempt to manage expectations of himself.
But here we are. On Sunday, Trump clumsily and repeatedly cited the 2.2 million deaths projected by a COVID-19 statistical model had the U.S. had taken no mitigation measures.
No affected nation, no matter how free or repressed, has done nothing at all in this crisis, however. Still, Trump used the abstract figure as a rationale to say: "If we could stay substantially under the 100,000, which was the original projection, I think we all did a very good job — even though it’s a lot of people."
A lot of people, indeed. The death counts could come out higher than the initial best-case projections of 100,000 to 240,000. We just don't know yet.
As we've seen before, the president is giving himself high marks because he feels like it.
To help this spin, pro-Trump television talkers are peddling the line that COVID-19 numbers are inflated because they allegedly include people who might have died of other things. This exercise is impeded by the fact that Trump's own loyal top experts call it nonsense.
Loose chatter from the administration about "reopening" the economy in May won't work as much of a pep talk, except maybe as a brief sugar high for the markets. Even Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell sounded more attuned to public health measures than Trump's full-time cheerleaders.
“We need to have a plan nationally for reopening the economy. We all want it to happen as quickly as possible,” Powell said in a video interview with the Brookings Institution think tank. But he called it crucial to “avoid a false start where we will partially reopen and that results in a spike in coronavirus cases, and then we have to go back again to square one.”
The real news was that nearly 17 million new jobless claims have been filed in three weeks, according to the Labor Department, thus motivating high-level illusions of an instant comeback. It dovetails nicely with all of Trump's magical incantations in recent weeks that vaccines and cures for coronavirus are here or at hand.
Facts are facts and disasters are disasters. People get it — regardless of the president's daily deflections.