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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

With rallies canceled, Trump uses coronavirus briefings for doses of hype

President Donald Trump on March 2 in Charlotte,

President Donald Trump on March 2 in Charlotte, N.C., conducts his last campaign rally before new rules took effect. Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

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There will be a "great victory" over the pandemic, "much sooner than originally expected."

“Look at the approval numbers on the job we’re doing."

"[Sen. Mitt] Romney's in isolation? Gee, that's too bad."

COVID-19 "comes from China," and so it should be called "China virus."

"We got the highest marks in the history — highest poll numbers in the history of the Veterans Administration."

President Donald Trump said these things in a 90-minute briefing Sunday while surrounded by members of his White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Deprived of his rallies by the health emergency, Trump must make do with more muted forums for the usual preening, boasting and snark. He does it now from an official podium — under the grand aegis of declaring himself a "wartime leader."

Even with a few ringers lobbing him softballs, however, Trump faces hard and critical questions in the daily coronavirus briefings. The queries can make him pout, glower and grumble more than his predecessors might have done in the same situation.

These performances are still appreciably about him and his image.

Trump's credibility problem arises when the very people he purportedly relies on to be responsible and accurate contest his misstatements.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top federal epidemiologist, in an article published Sunday in the journal Science, said those in the task force "sit down for an hour and a half, go over all the issues on the agenda.

"And then we proceed from there to an anteroom right in front of the Oval Office to talk about what are going to be the messages, what are the kind of things we're going to want to emphasize.

"Then we go in to see the president, we present [our consensus] to him and somebody writes a speech.

"Then he gets up and ad-libs on his speech. And then we're up there to try and answer questions."

Fauci said he "can't jump in front of the microphone" when Trump says something incorrect."

There's still Twitter, of course.

Apparently responding to complaints on Fox News, the president tweeted Monday as markets dived again:

"WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!"

What this means for the people, in practical terms, remains unclear. But at least nobody can dispute it. And politically, it gives a glimmer of optimism that a national lockdown soon will end, even if that isn't supported by the experts and science.

One can only imagine the president misses his rallies, where he can say anything at all and expect those present to cheer him.

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