President Donald Trump hosted a town-hall type appearance at the White House this week with the right-wing Sinclair TV network. The moderator, Eric Bolling, asked him an appropriate and straightforward question: What in hindsight might he have done differently about the coronavirus?
"Not much," Trump said in an interview that aired Wednesday. "Look, it’s all over the world. You have a lot of great leaders, a lot of smart people — it’s all over the world. It came out of China. China should’ve stopped it … "
"No, not much," he repeated.
China happens to be the locale of a Trump business bank account, as The New York Times reports. This forms another crack in his tough-on-China facade. For months, he praised President Xi Jinping's efforts to handle the outbreak in Wuhan. Since then, Trump has been left to exaggerate the impact of his travel restriction on China.
To truly defend his own government's approach to the virus, Trump would have to specify what else he did or didn't do — or is doing now — that he would not change. His overall pandemic strategy seems to have been letting states and localities handle responses to a virus he tells everyone will go away soon.
Victims of COVID-19 are jamming hospitals in the Midwest, much as they did in New York months ago. Over 220,000 people have died of the disease in the U.S. The nation is averaging 59,000 new infections a day. A vaccine is months away. As the face of authority, Trump still waffles on masks and testing and claims the U.S. is "rounding the turn."
There may be nothing left for him to say that would make a difference.
On Tuesday, Trump told fans in Pennsylvania's Erie County he wouldn't have had to campaign there if not for the coronavirus. "Four or five months ago, when we started this whole thing before the plague came in, I had it made, I wasn’t coming to Erie," he told a packed audience.
Dozens of Pennsylvania doctors had asked him to cancel the rally for obvious reasons. They were ignored.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump looked less than pleased coming out of an abbreviated CBS interview.
He seems to be stocking up on preemptive excuses for losing the election.
Officials properly resist his unhinged demands that his rivals be jailed, for no real reason beyond the fact that they oppose him. Trump has been carping as usual about expanded mail-in votes, news-media bias and "the left."
Daily polls consistently show Trump trailing in critical swing states.
Would a conventional Democrat like Joe Biden be leading this late in the race if the GOP president had a convincing story to tell about leading in a crisis? Biden's assertions that the Trump administration blew the pandemic response seem to be resonating.
Will it help Trump in the end that he was so fixed on destroying his rival — to the point of getting impeached?
That’s still too hypothetical to guess. But soon it won't be.