In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics on October 7, 2020 at 8:27 am

Donald Trump was in a hurry to leave Walter Reed National Military Medical Center—where he’d been taken on October 3 owing to COVID-19.

So on October 6—just three days after being hospitalized, and still highly infectious—he demanded that he be returned to the White House. 

Once ensconced in the Executive Mansion, Trump proceeded to make two deadly mistakes.

Mistake #1: He tweeted a one-minute long video from the White House balcony, saying he “learned so much about coronavirus,” and believed that he was possibly immune to the disease.

“One thing that’s for certain: Don’t let it dominate you,” he said of COVID-19. “Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it. We have the best medical equipment, we have the best medicines, all developed recently. And you’re going to beat it.

“We’re going back, we’re going back to work,” Trump said. “We’re going to be out front. As your leader, I had to do that. I knew there’s danger to it, but I had to do it..”

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Trump’s upbeat message about COVID-19—“Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it”—alarmed and angered many infectious disease experts. 

“It’s an unconscionable message,” said Dr. Sadiya Khan of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “I would go so far as to say that it may precipitate or worsen spread.”

“We have to be realistic in this: COVID is a complete threat to the American population,” said Dr. David Nace, an expert on infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“Most of the people aren’t so lucky as the president,” with an in-house medical unit and access to experimental treatments, he added.

Especially outraged by Trump’s comment was Amanda Kloots, who lost her husband, Broadway actor Nick Cordero, to the virus.


Nick Cordero

“Unfortunately not everyone is lucky enough to spend two days in the hospital,” she tweeted, referring to Trump’s short stay for COVID-19 treatment. “I cried next to my husband for 95 days watching what COVID did to the person I love. It IS something to be afraid of.”

Mistake #2: Always wanting to appear in command, Trump ordered his negotiators to halt talks over a new economic stimulus package, after House and Senate Republicans had struggled for months to reach a deal.

“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” Trump wrote in a series of tweets.

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Donald Trump

Trump’s message stunned lawmakers. The decision is a major blow to Americans still struggling with the fallout from the pandemic and endangers an economic recovery that for months was driven by a $2.2 trillion stimulus passed by Congress in the spring. That money has been largely spent. 

Among those stunned by Trump’s move: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

At the annual meeting of the National Association for Business Economics, Powell warned: “Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses.”

Powell said that government support—expanded unemployment insurance payments, direct payments to most households and support for small businesses—has prevented a recessionary “downward spiral” where job losses would reduce spending, forcing businesses to cut even more jobs.

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Jerome Powell

A far smarter move by Trump would have been claiming that Republicans were vigorously pursuing a stimulus package—but were facing roadblocks thrown up by spendthrift Democrats. 

That would have allowed Trump to play the part of the self-pitying underdog. And it would have put the blame squarely—if inaccurately—on the Democrats.

But Trump’s ego demands that he be the one seen to take decisive action. On December 11, 2018, it neatly tripped him up.

Nancy Pelosi—then House Minority Leader—and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, met with Trump in the Oval Office. And, true to his love of publicity, Trump made sure the meeting was televised live on TV.

Trump quickly demanded $5.6 billion to create a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.

When Pelosi and Schumer refused to budge, Trump said: And one way or the other, it’s going to get built. I’d like not to see a government closing, a shutdown. We will see what happens over the next short period of time.”

SCHUMER: “Twenty times you have called for, ‘I will shut down the government if I don’t get my wall.’ None of us have said—you’ve said it.”

TRUMP: “Okay, you want to put that on my—I’ll take it.  You know what I’ll say: ‘Yes, if we don’t get what we want, one way or the other…I will shut down the government. Absolutely.’”

Trump did shut down the government. And because he had threatened to do so—on nationwide TV—he, not the Democrats, was blamed for it. Thirty-five days later, he caved to public pressure and reopened the government.

With the 2020 Presidential election less than a month away and himself behind former Vice President Joe Biden in the polls, it appears that Trump’s ego has once again neatly tripped himself up.

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