Thursday 12 March 2020

Trump will stand or fall on his coronavirus test

"There’s no doubt that the president’s response so far has been uneven. One of the nation’s leading infectious disease specialists tells me the president deserves more credit than he gets for his decision early on to suspend flights to and from China, and to limit travel to other seriously affected countries. It was a decision that was attacked at the time as a spasm of nativism by the same people now attacking him for his recent inaction. But it’s possible it bought the country precious time in the battle to “flatten the curve” of the incidence of coronavirus cases to spread out the pressure on healthcare facilities. He notes also that the administration was slower than it might have been in ramping up production of test kits, which it is finally starting to do."  

That was Gerald Baker in an article headed

Trump will stand or fall on his coronavirus test

in the Times today, published just  before Trump announced stopping travel from Europe. 

He is having a good crisis, clever politician as he is, but he is trying to prevent the virus spreading while the UK sees it as inevitable and wants to delay it to the summer. Angela Merkel said yesterday that 75% of European population might catch it. She is right - anything 'might' happen. Time to read Camus' The Plague, which I was supposed to read at school.

Boris Johnson said yesterday that banning mass gatherings (as Romania has done) would be counterproductive. He said,

“Politicians and governments around the world are under a lot of pressure to be seen to act, so they may do things that are not necessarily dictated by the science.” 
However, Richard Horton, chief editor of The Lancet, the world's leading medical journal, commented: 
“The UK government — Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson — claim they are following the science. But that is not true. The evidence is clear. We need urgent implementation of social-distancing and closure policies. The government is playing roulette with the public. This is a major error
I think the British government is right that the spread of the virus can only be delayed, not stopped (in Europe anyway), if only because of the long incubation period, but delay is good so that the big hit is in summer when hospitals are less crowded. 

News of declining number of cases in Wuhan is good but do we believe the Communist regime in China? 

(Why is the Syrian government a regime and the Chinese Bolsheviks a government?)

Anyway Trump looks good taking drastic measures- and stopping travel would be effective if it were not a cure worse than the malady. 

Trump's travel ban may be an overreaction and has sent the stock markets reeling, but in November, when I hope this thing is over, it may play very well. The Democrats may feel forced to oppose it, which will play badly for them. Nobody loses votes for doing too much in order to save voters' lives.

I think we are seeing an understandable overreaction to a virus that for most sufferers will feel like flu or a cold, but a quick spreading, lethal virus that has huge consequences for supply chains and the world economy was an inevitable consequence of cheap, easy transport and globalisation. This will not be the only such virus to wreak havoc.

The symbolism is so obvious that, were it fiction, readers would complain. The virus is very globalist and the reaction is protectionist, nativist and, in a word, Trumpian.


  1. Mr Trump was conspicuously unreassuring and uncomfortable in his address, and gave out information that had to be immediately contradicted. I don't think this will play out particularly well for him.

    Broadway, the heart of liberal New York, went ahead and closed down today. Liberals and Democrats are fine with taking precautions. The much-reviled Nancy Pelosi is very busy putting together a bill that will help Americans with their immediate needs in this fast-moving development -- something that seems to have left Mr Trump well behind the curve.

    1. Good for her. She is far more professional than he is and possibly an equally clever politician, which is why she tried to prevent the impeachment.

      How the political legacy of the virus plays out will have to do with emotion. She and all her party want this to be his Hurricane Katrina.

      We shall see but my money is on Trump on this one. The virus reinforces the need for tight borders and putting America first.

  2. It also calls for competent public administration. Solutions within borders. And a capacity for empathy (or at least the appearance of empathy) that seems completely beyond the president's reach. He also needs to stop lying that he has implemented an array of solutions that are nowhere near close to being available.

    But Trump has gotten away with masses of lying, ill will, and dodging responsibilities, so I am not counting on this debacle to bring him down. I don't suspect Nancy Pelosi is either. She is a realist and she knows that a lot has changed since the days of George Bush.

    1. Donald Trump was called a fool for banning flights from Europe but now everyone is banning flights!

    2. Donald Trump for all his faults is an incomparably less bad President than G.W.B. and has thankfully kept out of wars. Unlike the alternative to him, the bloodthirsty Hillary.

  3. Hillary was more hawkish than she should have been but very good on the details of domestic policy.

    Again....banning flights is fine and at this point nobody minds, but Trump lags behind in containing the virus within US borders. To his credit he made a decent speech where he seemed better informed than usual, appeared to take the virus seriously, and dealt with it as more than just a threat to fattened-up investment portfolios.

  4. And agreed on W. He did a lot of damage.