Littwin: Trump’s attempt to be very nearly semi-serious about coronavirus isn’t nearly enough

President Donald Trump addresses the Nation from the Oval Office about the widening coronavirus crisis, Wednesday, March, 11, 2020. (POOL PHOTO by Doug Mills/The New York Times) NYTVIRUS
President Donald Trump addresses the Nation from the Oval Office about the widening coronavirus crisis, Wednesday, March, 11, 2020. (POOL PHOTO by Doug Mills/The New York Times) NYTVIRUS

According to my Twitter feed, many people who watched Donald Trump’s Oval Office speech on the coronavirus outbreak thought he looked, well, sick. I can’t say that it ever crossed my mind.

Yes, he struggled reading from the prompter. Yes, his command on the topic looked shaky. Yes, several of his major proposals were walked back by the White House within a half hour of the speech. And, yes, the speech was heavy on blaming a “foreign” virus, as if a virus has a nationality or is spread by gangs of “illegal” people. And, yes, he was entirely dishonest about the failure of his administration to produce and distribute tests for the virus.

In other words, he was very much like every-day Donald Trump, the president who has stood next to people who have been infected, but who says he won’t get tested.  If he looked sick, it was probably because he was sick about having to make the speech, which was, obviously, a rebuke of pretty much everything he has been saying for the last month or so. Or as he said earlier this week:  “It will go away.  Just stay calm.  It will go away.”

The speech maybe could have gone this way: OK, I was wrong, wrong, wrong, but there’s still stuff we can do now that I’ve finally figured out the doctors and scientists may know a hell of lot more about this (and about nearly everything else) than I do, despite the fact that my uncle was a genius MIT professor. So let’s ban everyone from Europe except for those countries where I have golf courses. (By the way, I don’t think his golf courses had anything to do with it. Why he excluded Britain and Ireland remains, for many people, a mystery.) And I’m sure there’s other stuff we can do, but I’m out of ideas.

Trump’s speech — which either skipped or downplayed most of what the country actually needs to hear — was overwhelmed by the concurrent news that the NBA has called off the rest of the regular season, the NCAA March Madness has turned into a games-with-no-fans March Sadness, and Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, of all people, have tested positive. Fortunately for Hanks and Wilson, they were in Australia where tests are readily available.

Now, the NCAA has taken it several steps further — canceling the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and all of its spring tournaments. Now, Major League Baseball has canceled the rest of spring training and moved back the season openers for at least two weeks. Now, the NHL has suspended its season. Now, Broadway has closed. Now, Disney has shut down its amusement parks. More and more companies are telling their employees to work from home. More and more universities — including CU, DU and CSU — are sending their students home. We’ll see an increasing number of public schools closing, meaning, in many cases, that at-risk elderly grandparents will be called in to take care of the kids. And what of those kids who rely on free or reduced-cost lunches?

This is how critical the situation is. The U.S. Senate has just canceled its week-long recess to stay in town, maybe even long enough to get some emergency coronavirus legislation passed. I mean, according to Axios, Congress’ in-house doctor told Capitol Hill staffers that he expects 70-150 million people in the U.S. to contract the virus. Try to wrap your head around that.

On the other hand, it may not be long before the Colorado legislature gets some critical legislation out of the way and closes up shop, and reopens maybe this summer. That would be an entirely reasonable thing to do.

Trump made the case that America has the best scientists — undoubtedly true; many of them foreign born — and is best equipped to take on a major medical crisis. And yet, he lied, again and again, about the numbers of tests that are available to the American public and, by continuing the lie, gave us no hint as to how to rectify the situation.

The truth is, people like me — with no real knowledge of the virus or how it works or what the best steps are in making ourselves safer — shouldn’t need to be writing columns like this. We should be listening to the scientists. Here’s what Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has served six presidents on these issues, told Congress — that the lack of available testing is a major failure by the United States. And that the situation will get worse, probably far worse, before it gets better.

But it’s not only a failure. It’s an unforgivable failure — and a failure, which is why I’m writing, at the hands of our so-called leaders. According to the latest information from the CDC, 11,000 tests have been conducted in a country of 320 million people. South Korea, in contrast, has been testing more than 10,000 a day. No one has any real idea how many people in the United States have the virus.

If you’re not worried about this, you either watch too much FoxNews (or not enough of it, at least when Tucker Carlson is on) or you believe, like Trump, than you know more than the scientists.

Angela Merkel, who came to politics as a scientist and not as a reality-TV-show host, has warned that 60 to 70 percent of the German population could contract coronavirus. As in Italy, we have to worry about hospitals being overwhelmed — not just by a lack of ventilators, but by a lack of beds. We can handle that in America. It’s not too late, we’re told, to reduce the risk factors facing the country. We just have to do it.

I make it a policy to limit praise for politicians doing the job in the way they’re supposed to do it. I mean, come on. But I watched Jared Polis’ news conference Wednesday afternoon, just hours before Trump’s speech, and that’s what he did — his job. Polis was clearly fluent in the science of coronavirus. He was clearly fluent in the latest recommendations from the medical and scientific community in how to limit the spread of the virus. He said things would get worse before they get better — and possibly much worse. He told us where the hot spots were in Colorado. He praised the universities who were shutting down. He told us his plan — subject to change — for public schools where the virus shows up. The state had set up a drive-through testing site, which, it turned out, was overwhelmed by the second day. Polis said what we desperately need in Colorado is more testing kits, as we do across America.

It was reassuring that, at minimum, he was on the case. And Trump’s speech? Here was the market’s answer: the worst single day for the U.S. stock market since Black Monday in 1987.

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Mike, You sure do not give President Donald Trump any slack. He may be tired, or did that thought never occur to you? He works constantly, with only few hours sleep, and he has surrounded himself with much more knowledgeable people, with Virus, Medicine, at the National and local levels. Much more authorities than any of the Democratic candidates, you tout so strongly. Know you are proud to be a Liberal, and always have been. But cut the man some slack. He had done more in his life globally and with in USA, than any President we have ever elected before. And you have provoked many people over the years, but Donald has done it in Business, and Political. And he used Tweeting much more effectively than you, in reaching over 63 million of us, who elected him in 2016.

  2. Trump is doing a fantastic job! He is doing everything he can and taking the boldest measures no other president has. He saved lives by putting in travel bands. He loves the american people and is the most patriotic person I have ever seen. He will win by a land slide and all you Dems will be pulling your hair out wondering why you cant take him down. You are going to criticize trump on miner things when all you have is Joe who doesn’t even know where he is half the time or who hes with? And now fundraising off the virus, off the health of the american people. Give me a break, you dems just need to get over the fact you lost and will lose again. Look at what Trump has done, he has bettered my life and the live of many more.

  3. Sure….. I have so much faith in a world leader who consistently lies to Joe public, is a know it all (Ha ha ha….), could give a crap about anyone who is not a billionaire, is a self proclaimed child molester and basically an utter fool! Yeah America, we really couldn’t be in worse hands. Very very sad….

  4. Reading Frank2525 is a lot like suffering through a Donald Trump speech. You know it’s factually inaccurate, that he doesn’t really understand what he’s talking about, that he’s making much of it up as he goes along, and that he puts it all in prose that my 5th grade grandddaughter would be embarrassed to present to the public.

    • Well, Old Guy. I would wager I am older than you, born in 1929, served in military for 26 years ( 13 Oct 1950 )_ to 1 November 1976. And my language, prose, words was good enough to take me from farm boy in Ohio with HS Education . In the Military, my superiors saw something they liked, and respected, since they immediately put me to work Nov 1950 to July 1951, as administrative aide to reclassification board, convert WW II Veterans from Army Air Corp, or Army Air Force , into UNITED STATES AIR FORCE. I typed the orders, hand cranked machine to print them for over 2,000 individuals, on Nevada Base. All, gained new specialty codes, and designations,. I distributed those, taught clerks in each unit, how to report them to Scott AFB, Illinois . In those 8 months, I was promoted 4 times, from Private to Sergeant, sent to Lowry for course unknown, and taught the course to over 25 individual of US Air Force Reclassification. And I was designated “Essential to Base” for those 4 years. Met woman, who I married the next year (Aug 52), in Denver. Still married to her. From there, In 1952, I gained Top Secret clearance, and maintained that for 24 of my 26 years. 1955 to 1959, in Intelligence Center, as Staff Sergeant, I received orders for Center Commander, and sent Military all over planet earth, to other countries, and cities, in Civilian Clothes, posing Government Employees. We worked directly through Pentagon contacts, as Headquarters Command, I went on to retrain into Avionics, taught Greeks and Turks , in Texas, and USA sold F102 Interceptors to them. I went to North Dakota, where I taught Canadians and National Guard on F102a Interceptors, and we sold those planes. Out of aircraft to work on, I volunteered for Satellite Communications, and retrained into Radio from Electronics 1970 to 1976. If I had not been successful with that, you would have had to write your comment with pencil and paper, and send it by SNAIL MAIL. I and my peers were Pioneers to prove SATCOM would work, to establish Wide World Command and Control, for military. Civilian World followed us very closely. 1974-1975, as Master Sergeant, I was given full authority, to work with foreign countries, and major commands, to Install TACSATCOM in Hawaii for Presidential Support. Briefed two full Admirals (one CINCPAC) of terminal capabilities, and received a Top Secret request, for what NAVY WOULD LIKE, if given access through my terminal, which came to be.
      NONE OF THOSE PEOPLE EVER COMPLAINED OF MY PROSE, OR MANAGEMENT OF FACTS, and I retired 1 November 1976. Then worked with Federal Politicians, as volunteer (Rep. Tom Tancredo, and Rep Bob Beauprez) and served with several Retired Military Veteran Associations, from 1991 to present. So I believe I know leadership to levels you have not experienced. (By the way, I left the Military with 124 College credit hours, in diverse areas). At age 90, I doubt I will change much. What will you do with your life? . .

  5. Frank2525 has essentially admitted Trump’s failure, by stating that the speech was inadequate, and excusing that inadequacy because he was “tired.” If that is the case then Trump needs to resign immediately because he is not up to the job anymore. A true leader admits when he does not know the answer (and actually, despite Trump’s claims to be the exception, no person knows the answer to everything). A true leader gets advice from experts and takes action in accordance with that advice in the best interests of those she leads. If he gets too “tired” to do the job anymore, then he needs to step aside and let someone do it who is capable. Would you let a surgeon who is too “tired” operate on you? Would you let a school bus driver who was too “tired” drive your kids to school? Would you let a lawyer who is too “tired” represent you in court? Of course not. Stop excusing this man’s bad behavior.

    • You sure have a problem with what you read, then understand. I started studying Donald Trump and his family in 1980, and had to wait over 40 years to vote for him. I know more about him, than I do for any of the others Presidents, and I have studied all of them, from history of George Washington, to present. I was born when FDR was president, and at 10 years of age, in Ohio, I carried extra shotgun shells, for 12 gauge shotgun, that my father carried, in open position over his left arm. We walked to top of ridge, to order a dumb butt inspector off our farm. FDR had nationalized the FARM Banks, and He also decreed, that Eastern farmer were held to proportion of farm, to raise grain just for our own stock. FDR wanted the WESTERN growers to get top price, for exported grain in 1930s and 1940s. (FDR and Harry Hopkins – top advisor to present, followed Russian polices, during DEPRESSION YEARS. –
      ———-I studied every candidate before voting, after 1958, until present, and I am saying (and evidently it did not come through) Donald Trump and his Family, are the most qualified, knowledgeable, and experienced , President that we have ever elected. bar none. Others knew about other countries, but Donald had experience, in business dealings, of government, economy, policies, and the faults and good features, of all the other countries, more so than any else. Donald had 70 years of learning what works and what does not. AND HE TALKS TO OTHER LEADERS AND THEIR PEOPLE, WHICH IS CHEAPER, AND LESS DAMAGING THAN GOING TO WAR AGAINST THEM. So Ann, Rethink this and realize, DONALD IS WORKEING FOR US. Not working US. There is a difference.

  6. I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one that thought Trump totally botched it. He was confusing, didn’t get any of the facts straight, and was obviously trying to make himself look good . Why do so many people think it’s okay to have a leader that doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about? At least Pence sounded knowledgeable and confident (despite giving way too much credit to Trump) when he spoke about the virus earlier in the week (the day before the market went up over 1,000 points). Trump needs to get out of the way and let the experts do their job.

    • VM Gantz, You do realize that VP Pence had experience as Governor in Indiana, and had two virus that effected his state. He contacted Federal Medical, and brought the State Medical together, to cut off both those Viruses, within the state. Donald Trump has done the same on Federal Level. This Virus has split, into more than just one phase, and there was no experience before. Starting in China, where I suspect (and will continue to believe) in laboratory, where they were weaponizing a virus that had exsisted in Canada, but it escaped the science professors who weaponized it. And it was kept undisclosed in China, until first of this year (early January) and we have all seen how lethal it is for older people (so far). Healthy people seem to be able to throw it off. Children and younger adults, not effected unless their immune system has been weakened. WE ARE NOW FACED WITH A VIRUS, (UNINTENTIONAL ?????) that could eliminate or disable Military Troops, in quick time. And don’t believe for a moment, that other countries are also working to develop such BIO weapons, along with Cyber Warfare, and Attacks on our Satellite Systems. THIS IS WAR, AND DONALD TRUMP, VP PENCE, AND THE TEAM THEY HAVE ASSEMBLED, KNOW IT, AND HERR GOBBELS, OR ADOLPH HITLER WOULD HAVE GIVEN ANYTHING TO HAVE IT DURING WW II. I learned about Communism, Socialism, Fascism, and other “ISMs” from Experts who had been born in foreign countries, and joined our Military in Europe and Pacific, during the WAR. Not as in books, but as reality, and I also came off Farm, where in 1930s, 1940s, my father worked for $1.00 a day, with his brother in Ohio at $1.00 a day. No one had money, but Father also worked building barracks as Carpenter for CCC, and WPA projects. Also worked to cut timber, do construction work, in 1935 , to build TAPPAN Ohio Dam, with others Dams, to control the Ohio River, and keep Mississippi River from overflowing, as much as possible. As children on farm, oldest of our family children, I was expected to complete farm chores, go to school, and complete tasks that Father had set. I have worked civilian Construction when I was 13 and 14 years of age, in widening, raising Highway 250 through Harrison County Ohio. I paid 3% of my income, and promise then was Income tax would NEVR EXCEED 4 PERCENT. Politicians have always set impossible futures, for others, knowing what they promise is impossible. Learn that, and be smarter about those you vote to elect.

  7. The extent to which some Americans are still cheering for this inept grifter simply staggers the imagination.

    Willful ignorance is our biggest enemy…not war, not pandemics, not climate change.

    Dumb folks happy to continue being dumb are this country’s largest problem.

  8. So the new grift, according to Comrade Chump’s photo op occurring right now, is using the “private sector” to put the profit in pandemic.

    Wow.

    • Jay, Think about what you wrote. Just who is going to make the test equipment, and use it. Do you realize how dependent we are on the “private sector”. And I doubt you work for someone with out knowing what you are supposed to do, and what you will be paid for doing it. And you also would gripe, if they made a profit? ???? WOW????

  9. Two post’s from someone.calling 60+ million of his fellow countrymen ? Dumb and willfully ignorant. No ego there ,,,?

    All those insult’s from someone who would eat the peanut’s from Littwin’s dookie for a pat on the head. Must be a Hoot at a party…

    • You’re proving my point with your willful ignorance of willful ignorance.

      By the way…now that Comrade Chump’s economy no longer looks like Obama’s economy…what again are Republicans’ accomplishments since 2016?

  10. Typhoid Trump should resign along with Cory Gardner. Both don’t give a rat’s a** about anything or anyone but themselves. Treasonous Trump will tell any lie, any time, all the time! Don’t be fooled by the Grifter-in-Chief! Protect yourself from lies and the COVID-19.

  11. Before I read the comments i was gong to write the following:
    In behavioral economics there is a a concept called confirmation bias. That’s where you torture the data until it tells you what you want to hear.. I think there should be a antipodal concept. let’s call it the Landgrebe bias, after former cong. Earl “Don’t confuse me with the facts” Landgrebe ,(R-IN).
    For people who have so much invested in their beliefs that the cannot accept that the water around their house is at flood stage and they need to get out.
    But it seems that there are a few folks here who have already illustrated my point

  12. Thank you for this piece on the intersection of politics and pandemic. Not totally OT and with respect to Charlie Bird fine response, “Don’t confuse me with facts…” first appeared in 1954, predating 1974 Landgrebe iteration. It’s popularity and regular recurrence joins comments in illustrating the point. https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/02/13/confuse-me/

    Memes abound. Cups and t-shirts are available. The opinionated could save time and streamline their commentary by just posting the image.

  13. Agree with you about our Governor- haven’t always agreed with his policies, but, damn it, he is doing his job. We will never hear him say that, in this crisis, that he is not responsible for the performance of his governmental agencies. CDPHE and my physician colleagues also deserve a shout out- we are as ready for this as any state in the union. I might add- for those of you needing to celebrate St. Pat’s Day, please do your drinking responsibly and at home. Social distancing is our best defense in these troubled times.

  14. It would be interesting to know what advice presumptive 2020 Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden would give Americans if faced with a health crisis similar to the coronavirus pandemic facing America and the world today.

    Even more interesting would be Mr. Littwin’s reaction to Biden’s advice. Would it match the intense outrage and vitriol he directed at President Trump’s advice on COVID-19?

    Oh wait, we’re in luck!

    In 2009 the Obama administration faced the swine flu (H1N1) pandemic that originated in Mexican pigs and according to FactCheck.org “The H1N1 2009 flu pandemic ultimately did kill 12,000 Americans”

    Then-Vice President Biden offered this pithy piece of advice on whether to vacation in Mexico, “It’s not that it’s going to Mexico, it’s you’re in a confined aircraft,” Biden said. “When one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft.”

    “He said he would not suggest taking the subway, either. “If you’re out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes, that’s one thing; if you’re in a closed aircraft or closed container or closed car or closed classroom, it’s a different thing.”

    In April, 2009 Mr. Littwin critiqued Biden’s response and cavalierly led off that column with a quote from a comic-strip character. That’s right, a comic-strip character:

    “I’ve developed a new philosophy . . . I only dread one day at a time. — comic-strip philosopher Charlie Brown”

    “I’m trying very hard to panic, but somehow I can’t quite pull it off. The world, if you’ve noticed, was already going to hell in a nonhybrid- Chrysler-built-bankruptcy-bound handbasket — and then the pigs attacked. And not just any pigs, but Mexican pigs, many of them probably in league with the drug cartels.”

    “The obvious reaction, if you’re me, is to advise any and all readers to RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!!! And, as I write this, I can only hope against hope that six exclamation points are sufficient.”
    Well, so much for solemnity! Facing a swine flu pandemic that would eventually claim the lives of 12,000 Americans, Mr. Littwin’s primary concern appears to be whether he used enough exclamation points.

    And here’s what Mr. Littwin thought of the advice Joe Biden offered Americans facing a deadly swine flu pandemic, “Or I could just do a Joe “ When You Do Run, Don’t Use Public Transportation” Biden and tell a national TV audience that I wouldn’t get on an airplane, I wouldn’t get on a subway, and I’m concerned about opening my big mouth because if someone sneezes in the next county and I inhale, then I’m a goner.”

    Mr. Littwin also offered a tone-deaf and tasteless alternative to a Mexico vacation, “If you’re going to vacation, did you hear that Afghanistan is nice this time of year.” For the 304 American service members who died there in 2009, Afghanistan was not “nice” .

    Mr. Littwin’s sarcastic, dismissive and—-some may say—-lighthearted response to a pandemic that claimed the lives of 12,000 Americans doesn’t match in tone or intensity his sneering, mocking, contemptuous characterization of President Trump’s Oval Office speech.

    And in 2009 Mr. Littwin said despite the swine flu he was “trying very hard to panic, but somehow (couldn’t) quite pull it off.” but in 2020 he not only located the panic button but has become an expert in its use.

    Why the difference? Politics?

    You bet!

    Mr. Littwin has rightly said, “We should be listening to the scientists. Here’s what Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has served six presidents on these issues, told Congress — that the lack of available testing is a major failure by the United States. And that the situation will get worse, probably far worse, before it gets better.”

    So I’m sure Mr. Littwin and the American people will be relieved and reassured to know that MSN is reporting, “(Dr. Anthony) Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force (who has served six presidents on these issues), said he was “absolutely” confident the federal government is doing what it needs to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.”

    Finally, Mr. Littwin very generously offered an alternative speech to the one President Trump delivered in the Oval Office. In that speech Mr. Littwin asked:

    “Why (President Trump) excluded Britain and Ireland (from the European travel ban) remains, for many people, a mystery.”

    The answer to that question is no longer a mystery. CNBC reports, “The US is to extend its European coronavirus travel ban to include the UK and Republic of Ireland. The ban will begin at midnight EST on Monday (04:00 GMT Tuesday), Vice-President Mike Pence announced.”

    ***********************

    “The Independent is a nonprofit. You as readers and donors (both, I hope) are our investors. We work not to fatten the bottom line, but for our mission. It’s on our home page. You can read the whole thing there. But here’s a key passage: “We seek to amplify the voices of Coloradans whose stories are unheard, shine light on the relationships between people, power and policy, and hold public officials to account. We strive to report the news with context, social conscience, and soul, and to give Coloradans the insight they need to promote conversation, understanding and progress in this square, swing state we call home.”
    Tina Griego, managing editor Colorado Independent

    “We’re funded by donations from our readers, charitable gifts, community partnerships and foundations.”
    Holly Armstrong, board chair Colorado Independent

    “Thank you for your readership and encouragement. Please take good care of yourselves and each other.” 
    Susan Greene, Editor and executive director

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.