For Trump, Coronavirus Is a Public Relations Issue

Thinking only of himself, the president once again tries to lie, distract, and blame.

It was only a matter of time before Trump finally faced a crisis that is not of his own making. Such is the case with the threat posed by the coronavirus. But it should come as no surprise to anyone that his reaction is completely in line with what he’s always done.

As Aaron Blake reported following Trump’s news conference on Wednesday, the president is focused on one high-risk patient: himself. Trump’s only concern is how all of this affects him politically and so he has come up with a conspiracy theory that minimizes the threat, extols his own success, and blames not only the media, but the Democrats as well.

I am reminded of what former Ambassador Gordon Sondland told David Holmes about why Trump doesn’t give a sh*t about Ukraine.

Ambassador Sondland stated that the President only cares about “big stuff.” I noted that there was “big stuff” going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia, and Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant “big stuff” that benefits the President.

What we are witnessing with the coronavirus outbreak is a president who is too inept to know what to do, combined with an effort to treat the situation as a public relations issue rather than a public health crisis.

Shortly after Trump took office, I identified the pattern that has been on display for years now.

While it’s hard to predict how all of this ends, what I’m describing here is the way in which Donald Trump exhibits behaviors associated with a severe personality disorder. He fabricates a world in which he is both dominant and successful. When challenged, he diverts with outrageous lies designed to blame a villain and distract us from his failures. He then assumes we’ll all move on to the next fabrication of his dominance and success.

Back then, the president was trying to distract us from the way in which Russia interfered in the 2016 election to support him by throwing out the explosive allegation that Obama had wiretapped him. Three years later, he’s still doing the same thing, having done nothing to protect this country from foreign interference in our elections.

The pattern of lie, distract, and blame has been Trump’s pattern throughout his presidency. The difference this time, as I’ve already suggested, is that this crisis is not one of his own making. Attempting to lie, distract, and blame in order to protect himself will not make this one go away. As a matter of fact, it simply makes the situation we face much worse.

We’ll have to wait and see if, as Martin Longman has suggested, this pattern helps Trump politically. That seems to be exactly what Steve Bannon is attempting to do by calling his own show “WarRoomPandemic.”

But as Chris Lu pointed out, effective crisis management requires truth-telling and competent leadership. Donald Trump has demonstrated over and over again that his approach to governing is to place his own interests first, while engaging in a pattern to lie, distract, and blame in order to cover up his own incompetence. We have no reason to expect anything different at this point.

What this means is that things are likely to get a lot worse. Given that, it is important that we all pay attention to the experts, like Zeynep Tufekci, who wrote a whole piece about preparing for the coronavirus at Scientific American. You’ll want to read it all to dispel the lies being put out there by this administration, but she also provides important information about how to prepare if an outbreak occurs.

Here’s what all this means in practice: get a flu shot, if you haven’t already, and stock up supplies at home so that you can stay home for two or three weeks, going out as little as possible. The flu shot helps decrease the odds of having to go to the hospital for the flu, or worse yet, get both flu and COVID-19; comorbidities drastically worsen outcomes…

If you live in a regular household, here’s a handy, one-page guide on what you need, with up-to-date information on top, but it is essentially this: potable water (that’s a general just-in-case item for all emergencies), shelf-stable food (doesn’t need refrigeration, again just-in-case), your prescription medication and a few basic medical supplies (first aid/your usual over-the-counter meds). Depending on the composition of your household, things to keep you busy (books, board games, toys).

There’s also this from the good doctor:

At this point, the most important thing we can all do is to ignore Donald Trump and take care of ourselves, as well as our families and friends.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.