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Judd Gregg: Trump sails into the perfect political storm

He does not seem to know it yet, but the ship of state under the command of the ever-confident and excessive President Trump is headed into a political storm of dramatic proportions.

The coronavirus is here, in America.

There really is not a great deal that can be done now.

Once Italy became a contagion center for Europe, it was inevitable that the virus would have numerous carriers who would end up scattered across Europe and the United States.

Italy’s government has essentially no capability to manage and limit the outbreak.

Italy’s economy and its travel are totally integrated with the rest of Europe. Since the country is such a popular destination for American tourists, students and businesspeople, the contagion has few limits on its spread across the developed world.

Numerous high schools across New England have already had to shutter away students who have recently returned from school trips to Italy.

Now the question for the Trump administration is: Have they done enough to prepare America for this outbreak and the mass concern it will engender?

Most Americans will feel that the answer is no.

This is human nature. Someone needs to be blamed.

The buck does stop with the president on this one.

The president and his people also have an abysmal track record when it comes to preparing for pandemics.

The budget he recently submitted to Congress savaged the BioShield account. This is the program that was set up after the SARS epidemic and anthrax events well over a decade ago to allow the federal government to fund research on pharmaceutical responses to biological attacks or a pandemic outbreak.

The program was needed because this type of research is extremely expensive and has little commercial upside. The drugs developed are unique and narrowly targeted.

Thus, in order to get this research up and running, Congress and the prior administrations created the program. In this instance, Congress actually anticipated a serious issue and began addressing it effectively.

But the president and his people got it wrong. In their usual naive and uninformed style, they have tried to eviscerate the program.

This action came in the face of significant warnings from the intelligence community that a biological attack is one of the primary threats we face from terrorists. And now we know a pandemic is also a primary threat.

The president and his people have mismanaged this issue. The electorate will take note.

Two key side effects of the coronavirus, beyond the physical, are the general angst it is creating in the nation’s population and, relatedly, the effect on the economy.

An international economic recession seems likely to follow the shutdown of the second largest economy in the world, China, and the dramatic disruption that is occurring in a European Union that had already been showing signs of slowdown.

Recession is definitely in the wind.

This significant economic slowdown will mostly like be occurring with full force by this fall, during the election season.

This is not good for the president’s reelection hopes.

Another ominous, growing threat for Trump and his cadres is the fact that people who identify with the Democratic Party — and who have as their primary purpose the removal of Trump from office — appear to have concluded that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would be an incredibly counterproductive choice as their presidential nominee.

This is not to say that Bernie is not still a viable candidate.

He is.

But his “movement” is running into the wall of common sense within the Democratic Party.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a bit like a figure from an old science fiction movie, has reappeared. He has walked out of the cemetery into which he had been cast by the pundits only a few weeks ago.

He has returned, marching across the landscape of the primary election calendar.

Others who had been in the contest have pulled back.

It is now a Bernie vs. Biden show.

There is no question that these two contenders represent starkly different choices — with the exception of their ages, which are almost identical.

Bernie is a socialist.

He may be in the mainstream of the millennial masses, but to the hard-working, family-oriented, concerned Democrats who make up the vast majority of the primary electorate, he is a fringe figure.

Biden, if he can stay even somewhat on-message and avoid gaffes, is a formidable figure.

Even though he has stepped considerably to the left of his past record, he is the person who represents a clear antithesis to Trump.

Biden is decent, fair, substantive and well-informed. He has served with distinction in every office he has held.

He can draw into his orbit not only Democrats, but also the all-important moderates and independents.

Biden is a stronger opponent for Trump than Sanders would be — and the president’s team knows it.

As the storm approaches from these various directions, building force, it might be expected that the president would make some adjustments.

He has not done so.

He claimed the effect of the coronavirus was grossly exaggerated — a conspiracy fomented by his opponents.

Having first vilified the pharmaceutical industry, he now calls on them to fix the problem with a new vaccine.

He continues his endless attacks on the Federal Reserve as the accelerant of the coming slowdown, taking no responsibility for his own actions.

{mossecondads}He makes no effort to abate his trade policies, which have conclusively been shown to slow economic activity.

Most importantly, he marches on with his banal and peevish tweets. These give most Americans the sense that he is out of touch with the issues that are affecting them and only cares about himself and his assaults on those he deems his enemies.

The clouds are gathering quickly, yet the president moves on with little apparent concern.

This may be because he has purged those advisers who were strong enough to tell him the facts as they are rather than as he wishes them to be.

Or it may be that his natural inclination toward self-aggrandizement causes him to believe there is no storm in the forecast that he cannot master.

Whatever the reason, the president plows the ship of state onward with little recognition of the threat rising on the horizon.

He has made no adjustment as to how to maneuver through the political storm and come out on the other side still serving as the president of the United States.

But the storm is coming nonetheless.

It looks like it is going to be a perfect, political storm, with potentially devastating consequences for the president and his cult of chanters now known as the Republican Party.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.

Tags 2020 Democratic Party primary 2020 presidential election Bernie Sanders Coronavirus Donald Trump Joe Biden

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