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Many Americans who have little or no faith in President Donald Trump's leadership are reacting anxiously to his most recent coronavirus remarks. This became clear after Trump said: “If it were up to the doctors, they’d say let’s shut down the entire world. This could create a much bigger problem than the problem that you started out with.”
“I’m not looking at months, I can tell you right now," the president added vaguely on Monday. "We'll be back in business as a country pretty soon." On Tuesday, he added, “I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter." Who in their right mind, you had to wonder, wouldn't want that?
Trump clearly is trying to calm markets, address people's frustration and, of course, campaign for reelection. But it also suits his celebrity-game-show style to build suspense about what he, the decider, will do in the "next episode." This swings attention back to him at a moment when Congress, state and local officials, foreign nations and global organizations drive the day-to-day political response to the coronavirus spread.
Trump's take brought the expected warnings. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a physician and Trump's former head of the Food and Drug Administration, tweeted: “There’s a strong and understandable desire to return to better times and a functioning economy. But it should not be lost on anyone that there’s no such thing as a functioning economy and society as long as COVID-19 continues to spread uncontrolled."
In previous crises, either real or contrived, Trump has grabbed attention by hinting he could do something stunningly bold and contrary to solid advice. In this case, that would mean prematurely blowing off health precautions.
Don't bet on him carrying out such a rash gamble.
Remember the none-too-subtle threat to nuke North Korea? Seal off the whole Mexico border? Cut off arms aid to Ukraine? Remove Robert Mueller as special counsel?
Remember Trump's vow to keep government shut down until Congress funded a border wall? Abolish birthright citizenship? Prove that fantasized voter fraud lost him the popular vote? Get the Bidens, the Clintons and former FBI Director James Comey prosecuted?
Critics can take solace in the fact that none of these sketchy threats panned out, and few are relevant any longer. All of them simply reinforced his role as boss.
As for coronavirus, it is possible we all will get a little lucky — that efforts to flatten the contagion will show faster results than expected.
Michael Levitt, a Nobel laureate and biophysicist, correctly calculated that China would get through the worst of its coronavirus outbreak long before many experts predicted, according to the Los Angeles Times. Now Levitt sees the same happening in the U.S. He suggests that the most dire warnings of years of massive disruption and millions of deaths aren't supported by data, especially where social distancing measures are in place.
Hopefully, Levitt is right, and it will allow Trump to claim a personal "victory," if not evidence of his stable genius.
As for elected officials, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo manages to make a similar rhetorical point about restarting the economy, but with more information and less bombast. “I take total responsibility for shutting off the economy in terms of nonessential workers, but we also have to start to plan the pivot back to economic functionality," Cuomo said.
"You can't stop the economy forever."