At a press conference Wednesday that sounded more like a live reading of Mad Libs than a presidential address—and included the sentence "26,000? I never heard of such a number!"—Donald Trump tried to reassure the American public (and the stock market) that COVID-19, the new strain of coronavirus that emerged from China and is rapidly spreading in all directions, is no big deal.
It did not work.
On Thursday, stocks continued to freefall despite Trump's reassurance that there is nothing to see here. And can you blame people for freaking out? Instead of appointing, say, a public health expert to head of the federal response to the virus, Trump named Mike Pence, a man who believes that climate change is a myth, smoking doesn't cause cancer, condoms don't protect against STDs, and the world was created in six days by an invisible deity who lives on a cloud. Hilariously, Trump called Pence "very expert at the field" (he's not) and while Pence's plan has yet to be announced, I imagine prayer will be a significant chunk of it.
In addition to naming Pence as head of this effort, Trump repeated his previous claim that a vaccine for the virus is just around the corner. Except it's not. According to experts at the CDC and the National Institutes of Health, it will be at least six to eight months to begin vaccine trials and twice as long to actually bring a vaccine to market.
The President (why does it still hurt to say that?) then proceeded to brag about what a great job his administration is doing to contain the virus so far and blame the Democratic debates for the falling stock market.
"I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democrat candidates standing on that stage making fools out of themselves," Trump said. There is, of course, zero evidence that markets are responding to primary debates (which occurred after the stock market started falling) and not the pandemic currently disrupting the economy of our largest trading partner and the rest of global supply chain, but Trump has a very post-modern view of reality. It's not the truth; it's his truth.
What Trump did not do, as I half expected, was announce an immediate closure of all U.S. borders, which he advocated for during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. If you recall (and no one will blame you if you don't—he's said a LOT of dumb shit since then) Trump posted over 100 tweets about Ebola and the U.S. response to it, most of them, naturally, attacking President Obama, whom he called "psycho" for refusing to cancel flights from West Africa. He also argued that the feds should ban American healthcare workers who had contracted Ebola while working in the region from returning to the U.S. Very presidential behavior.
Of course, Ebola did not spread to the U.S. via infected healthcare workers or anyone else, but it is interesting to see how much his attiude has changed now that he's in office. When he was just another crazy getting his dopamine hits by yelling on Twitter, it was time to panic. Now that's he's in the White House, he wants us to believe everything is under control. Riiiiight.