Trump needs to stop the daily press briefings

The Trump administration’s most recent press briefings on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic have been downright frightening, even more so than usual.

Even with two doctors present — Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, who have injected some semblance of stability, reassurance and truth — President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s performance Friday was nothing less than despicable. 

These have not been White House press conferences; they are three-ring circuses with Trump as the deranged ringmaster.

They continue to prove just how much the country needs and deserves a change of leadership come November. It will be the only way to put this country back on track. 

Several examples from just the past two days prove how much this president is hurting the country right when we should be able to look to a normal, stable commander in chief for relief, truth and solace.

Most telling was a question by NBC reporter Peter Alexander, who asked Trump what he would say to Americans who are scared. Trump lost his mind. He answered, “I say you are a terrible reporter. That’s what I say.” 

This was after Alexander asked Trump if it was appropriate for him to say that a drug was going to work against the coronavirus when Dr. Fauci said there was no proof that it would. 

Instead of reassuring Americans, Trump personally attacked the reporter and the media in general. 

Trump called the reporter and several other outlets “fake news” and went on to falsely accuse the media of making up stories and using fake sources in their reporting.

At another juncture, when Trump was about to refer questions to Pompeo because Pompeo was about to leave, instead of referring to the State Department, Trump referred to “the Deep State Department,” after which Pompeo smiled. 

We are at an unprecedented crossroads of uncertainty, danger, anxiety and dread. The civil servants at the State Department are part of the first responder team we need to deal with overseas travel, asylum-seekers, refugees and border policy and to work with other countries to contain the coronavirus.

For the president to throw a broad-brush insult toward decent public servants on national television during a press conference designed to inform and reassure Americans is, quite simply, repulsive.

Then, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar blamed health care providers for not having enough masks and swabs, saying in effect that they just don’t know anything and aren’t listening to information about how to “get them on the open market.”

This sounds grossly familiar to Thursday’s declaration from Trump, who told governors that it was up to them to obtain the equipment their states needed to combat the pandemic, stating that the federal government “is not a shipping clerk.”

Trump clearly does not understand, nor does it seem that he cares to learn, the immense power the federal government can wield to address national emergencies. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked the president to invoke the Defense Production Act on Friday, and Trump said he would. This would give Trump the power to tell companies to ramp up the production of life-saving equipment desperately needed by the country’s health care providers.

At Friday’s press conference, he was ambiguous about whether he has or would do so. It seemed as if he had no idea whether he had actually invoked it.

This erratic behavior does not give Americans the confidence they need at this moment of national angst. 

As ridiculous as it sounds, this is par for the course for Trump and his administration. The tactics the Trump administration always turns to are to blame the media, other countries and other groups of people.

At Thursday’s press conference, a very disturbing picture emerged showing that Trump had crossed out the word “corona” and substituted it with the word “Chinese” in prepared remarks about the virus.

This is not a president who’s ready and able to confidently inform the American public about all the measures he and his administration are taking, nor is he a commander in chief leveling truthfully with his country and reassuring it that we are all in this together and that we will get through it together.

Rather, Donald Trump is an egomaniac afraid he will be blamed (rightly so) for his bumbling response to the global pandemic, and for the deathly delays in ramping up testing and production of life-saving equipment.

As such, the president devolves into using racist and xenophobic rhetoric to weaponize a virulent disease that has proved more resilient than the administration has been as it wastes precious time blaming everyone and everything else for its own incompetence. 

Enough is enough. Americans deserve so much better than what this president offers every time he approaches the podium. 

He needs to give up the daily press briefings and let the experts take control so that they can use these press conferences to reassure Americans in our time of distress and not cause more fear when we need it least.

Maria Cardona is a longtime Democratic strategist and co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee for the party’s 2020 convention. She is a principal at Dewey Square Group, a Washington-based political consulting agency, and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.

Tags #coronavirus #2019nCoV #contagion Alex Azar Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer coronavirus Defense Production Act Donald Trump Mike Pompeo NBC

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