President Trump
Credit: The White House/Flickr

A few days ago, I started telling people I know that the coronavirus crisis will begin to overwhelm us in about three weeks’ time. I based that on looking at where other countries are, particularly Italy, and then I just projected forward knowing that we haven’t done enough to prevent or prepare for the worst. The New York Times editorial board put it this way:

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he’d “love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” which falls this year on April 12. Who wouldn’t? But wishing will not make it so. This crisis has not turned a corner — it hasn’t even hit yet.

I’d love to spend a bunch of time arguing with the president about the advisability of people showing up for Easter services, but events will make the case for me. This reality will not bend to fit Trump’s fantasies.

Speaking of fantasies, that pretty well describes the rest of the editorial board’s piece, because it is basically a long exhortation for the president to do things he will never proactively and voluntarily do.

President Trump needs to call for a two-week shelter-in-place order, now, as part of a coherent national strategy for the coronavirus to protect Americans and their livelihoods.

That will not happen.

We are not suggesting that Mr. Trump has the authority to order a national lockdown, much less advocating that he attempt to enforce one. Instead, we are urging him to use the bully pulpit to put pressure on, and provide political cover for, governors to take the hard steps that are needed.

The opposite of that is happening.

He should announce that, within 24 hours, all nonessential businesses should be shut and residents directed to remain in their homes except for vital trips out, such as to obtain food or medical care.

The president could not have been more clear that he is opposed to this.

Lines of authority and policy aims need to be clarified within the White House. Vice President Mike Pence is the official crisis czar, but Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, has his own response team working on, among other things, outreach to the private sector. Certain senior aides, with business leaders whispering in their ears, are at odds with some health advisers about what restrictions are needed and how heavy the government’s hand should be…

…Federalism is integral to American government, but the administration needs to get serious about running a coordinated national response.

Why, at this point, anyone would expect this administration to be capable of coordinating a response is beyond me. This will simply never happen as long as Trump remains president. And that’s why this is delusional:

This editorial board is reluctant to grant any White House more executive power, much less this one, given its track record. But in this case, there is no one else to coordinate at the national level.

There is not “no one else” to coordinate at the national level, there is no one who can do this period. The only solution, and it’s glaringly obvious, is to remove Trump from office now and put our faith in Mike Pence to at least follow the direction of the experts he’s ostensibly organizing.

We’re past the point of there being any profit in telling Trump what he should do. He will not do it, and will most often make things a hundred times worse. That’s why this is a ridiculous waste of breath:

It’s time to put an end to the free-form daily task force briefings featuring the president, the vice president and a rotating cast of other officials. They are a poor use of time for most of the participants and, worse, have repeatedly served up confusing and even false information. The president should tap a respected figure, preferably someone apolitical and with experience in crisis management, to serve as the point person for these briefings. When developments merit, other officials can be brought in to address specific topics.

That’s the last thing on Earth that will ever happen.

If the Editorial Board wants the president to face reality they should set an example by facing reality themselves. There is only one solution here that can prevent or at least mitigate total disaster, and that’s if the Republicans can be convinced that they don’t want two million deaths on their conscience because they refused to do what was necessary while there was still time for it to matter.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at