Discover more from Letters from an American
April 29, 2020
A short letter tonight as I have just finished teaching my hardest semester ever and am officially cooked. The mid-semester shift to online teaching was neither good nor bad for me; it was just different. But the amount of work was mind boggling, and the relief on its end is palpable. I need a good night’s sleep.
The biggest news today is Trump’s “pivot” away from talking about coronavirus and toward talking about the economy, touting what he says is its rebound after the pandemic.
The coronavirus has crippled the economy, which shrank 4.8% in the first quarter of 2020. This is the worst quarter since 2008, wiping out nearly all of the job gains the nation has made since then. The International Monetary Fund is predicting that the global economy will do worse during the pandemic than it did after the crash of 2008, contracting by 3%. This decline is in part because of the stay-at-home orders issued by governors to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump sees the economy as the key to his reelection, and is desperate to reverse the economic contraction. "Expect to see a pivot from the White House in the days ahead, focusing on the economy and a more hopeful, forward-looking message," an administration official told Axios reporter Jonathan Swan. The White House briefings will downplay the virus and focus on an economic rebound.
At White House briefings on the coronavirus, health experts Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx are getting less attention as the administration shifts focus instead to corporate leaders touting their contributions to combating the coronavirus and restarting the economy. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who generally stays out of range of television cameras, went on TV twice this week to declare that the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic was “a great success story.” When a reporter asked why it has taken so long to get testing underway, Kushner answered that the true question should be “how did we do this so quickly?” “What’s really happened, it’s really extraordinary,” he said.
Experts have said that in order to reopen safely, the nation needs widespread testing and contact tracing, and that a state must see at least 14 days of decreasing numbers of infections. Instead, states have been reopening while numbers of infections have climbed to more than a million and death has claimed more than 60,000 Americans. Today news broke that in Florida, one of the first states to reopen, state officials have stopped releasing medical examiners’ statistics on numbers of Covid-19 victims after those numbers have been higher than the state’s official count, and that in Brooklyn, New York, officials discovered that an overwhelmed funeral home had stored one hundred bodies in two unrefrigerated trucks.
On Monday, Trump downplayed the need for widespread testing and cheered on states that were reopening despite growing infection rates. His eagerness to put the pandemic behind him, even as it rages on, reflects internal polling that shows him losing to former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race.
We know about his anxiety over this poll thanks to leaks from people who work in the White House.
And that is the second story that jumped out at me today. People with good access to circles of power at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are leaking major stories to the media. On Monday, they offered up the story that Trump’s Presidential Daily Briefings had warned of the deadly danger of the coronavirus since January and that Trump had ignored the warnings. Today they leaked that Trump is so upset about his internal polling numbers that he ranted last week to Kushner and head of the Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel, as well as other officials, before attacking Brad Parscale, his campaign manager, and threatening to sue him.
Trump’s polling is bad, to be sure, but it’s too far out from the election to conclude much about those polls. More significant in these stories right now is that people in the White House are leaking sensitive stories to reporters. That says either that they want to undermine Trump or that they think he is already such a bad bet for future employment that they are auditioning for their next job.
That’s it. Stick a fork in me; I’m done.
Will see you, back in fine fettle, tomorrow.