Trump still seems to not understand how bad the coronavirus crisis is
(CNN)Three months in -- after a million infections, nearly 60,000 US deaths and a potential economic depression -- it's still unclear whether President Donald Trump grasps the gravity of the coronavirus crisis.
The man who said he knew more about ISIS than the generals and claimed to have stunned dumfounded aides with his scientific acuity prides himself on a mystical instinct to make right calls.
Yet Trump's leadership in the worst domestic crisis since World War II has consistently featured wrong, ill-informed and dangerous decisions, omissions and politically fueled pivots.
"Many very good experts, very good people too, said this would never affect the United States," Trump told CNN's Jim Acosta on Tuesday. "The experts got it wrong. A lot of people got it wrong and a lot of people didn't know it would be this serious."
Such comments are typical of Trump's consistent habit of blaming others for his own poor judgments. For the record, senior Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official Nancy Messonnier warned on February 27 that it was inevitable the disease would reach the US and could be "bad."
The President's deflections on Tuesday are typical of his wider political method of evading responsibility by bending the truth and of creating distractions. They play into what is apparently his most pressing concern -- massaging his own reputation. Such tactics helped him ride out the Russia scandal and impeachment.
But in the depths of the current disorientating times, the deeper liabilities of the President's political approach are being exposed. A hostility to details, a resistance to accepting the advice of experts and for learning the messy intricacies of a crisis that interrupted his own narrative in election year. Bolstering such an impression, the Washington Post reported for instance that multiple references to the threat from the novel coronavirus were embedded into Trump's classified briefings. Either he didn't read them or he chose to ignore them.
Trump's initial failure was to downplay the seriousness of the crisis. But his management of the situation ever since then has raised questions about the extent to which the President has appreciated the multi-front challenge facing the United States and the world.
Humanity is facing three crises at the very least -- medical, economic and social -- that will cause financial and geopolitical reverberations for years. The grim state of the economy was underscored Wednesday morning when it was reported that first-quarter GDP fell 4.8%, the worst contraction since the Great Recession.
Yet Trump says he sees "light at the end of the tunnel" and acts as if America is nearly home free.
The President's minimizing of the current crisis is also shared by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who predicted that by July the country will be "really rocking again" in a Fox News interview Wednesday.
"The goal here is to get people back to work," he said. "The eternal lockdown crowd can make jokes on television but the reality is, is that the data's on our side and President Trump has created a pathway to safely reopen our country."
Doubts about the seriousness of the administration's response were also revealed in a more trivial, yet still telling, episode on Tuesday when Vice President Mike Pence flouted CDC guidance and chose not to wear a facemask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Pence explained that he is frequently tested for Covid-19 so was unlikely to be an asymptomatic carrier of the disease.
But he missed a chance to set an example to the rest of the country.