For some years now, many of us have been saying the Emperor has no clothes. Wednesday night, when he appeared live from the Oval Office, which, prior to this situation was something that signaled a very important presidential message to the country, President Trump appeared rhetorically naked.
To some of us, that was no surprise. But what is a bit surprising is:
- Immediately after he signed off, even Trump knew he messed up by ad libbing (incorrectly) a couple of facts about his own program to protect the country sending the worldwide markets into a historic decline and confusing leaders of other countries who were not warned about what Trump was (intending) to say
- His incoming chief of staff, Mark Meadows, left a self-imposed 14-day quarantine for the coronavirus to attend an Oval Office meeting, exposing the President, Vice President, Prime Minister of Ireland and other senior U.S. and Irish officials to his possible virus
- The President claims he has not been tested for the disease despite being in close proximity to at least three people who have been exposed to it and at least one who has the virus. (Actually, I view it as irresponsible for the President of the United States not to be tested in this situation. Indeed he is, the Leader of the Free World.)
- When the “adults” were called in to the room prior to the speech to write and choreograph it, in marched Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and a senior advisor, putting aside his other duties (like negotiating Middle East peace and effectively running the President’s re-election campaign and other things), to join with Steven Miller, whose only solution to any problem is to stop folks from other country’s coming here. Neither of them is a virus or health expert. And in that speech, it showed.
- Many law enforcement agencies, when they hold a press conference to announce a major bust, crowd others involved behind the chief of police. Why, I don’t really know but assume its to at least optically share the credit. Vice President Pence does the same thing when he holds his near-daily coronavirus briefings. At the same time, the experts behind him are telling us to keep six-feet between ourselves to protect against getting the virus. Which is it?
Yes, we should have known from the get-go that this speech would fail. Before he uttered a word, we could see the Leader of the Free World literally twiddling his thumbs, as he did throughout the speech, obviously nervous because he knows he is incapable of delivering empathy or important, factual information to the country, too afraid he’ll be blamed.
In short, those 10 minutes exposed Trump and his trusted aides as totally incompetent. And people are dying. (For those who right now are saying “yea, but what about Obama,” I don’t particularly care today what Obama did wrong or right. He’s not the President. Trump is.)
Even Vice President Pence, assigned to coordinate the virus response effort, has to begin every briefing with five minutes telling us how Trump directed this and ordered that while, frankly, we don’t care … just tell us what you’re doing to protect us, not Trump. Trump’s the President. He’ll get the credit or the blame for any situation that he’s responsible for. That goes with the job.
During that 10-minute address to the nation, Trump defaulted to his primary lines of defense and attack — lie and blame others for the virus. In fact, in the middle of the biggest non-self-inflicted crisis of his presidency, Trump, promising to take immediate action to stimulate the economy and maybe even fight the virus, has not spoken to the Speaker of the House, the main player in coming up with such a package. Nor has he, reportedly, since the impeachment. That he has totally delegated to his Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin — who knew we’d be happy with Mnuchin being in charge?
And what’s the President’s response to the biggest drop in the stock market since the 1980s? Blame the Fed. Blame the Democrats. Blame the media.
To my Trump supporter friends, I truly hope that you get, now, that this crisis was not created by the media or is a “hoax” by the Democrats and that this truly is a life-or-death situation. Yes, we’re reading worst-case scenario op-eds and hearing similar interviews from folks who truly are experts in this field. Thanks to them — because while we shouldn’t be panicking, we also deserve to know what we may be facing in the future, and be grateful if we don’t.
In crisis communications, the first to-do is to choose a credible spokesman so your constituencies can trust what they hear. The second is to be transparent in what you’re saying — so people can make informed decisions about their well-being.
To that end, thank you to a Denizen of the Deep State, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who wasn’t assigned that role but comes to it naturally because he indeed is an expert in viruses and respected the world over.
We need those Deep Staters to lead us out of this crisis, so we can be grateful while the President sits there and twiddles his thumbs.