Trump at a July 2020 COVID-19 Coronavirus update
Credit: The White House/Flickr

Annie Karni of the New York Times reports that the president is bluffing when he says “I’m not losing” to Joe Biden. He knows that he’s down because his own pollsters have been honest with him about it. They apparently feel the need to sugarcoat the situation and reassure him that he’s not to blame, but he’s definitely losing.

So, he’s been solicitous of advice on how to improve his standing, and appears to made a decision to recommend the wearing of masks for purely political reasons.

[Trump’s] internal numbers still show him trailing Mr. Biden, and he is worried about his standing. He asks his advisers with more regularity, “What do we need to do?” and grills his friends about “how is it looking?” while making public course corrections, the advisers said.

Over the past several weeks, he changed his stance on promoting masks, claiming that it was “patriotic” to wear one, and resuscitated the daily coronavirus news conference — both an acknowledgment that he needs to be seen as taking the virus seriously again.

Evidently, he’s also been told that he gives the strong impression that he doesn’t give a shit that more than 130,000 people have died and thousands more are clinging to life in hospitals. This isn’t a good look, and he has to make it clear that he understands what people are going through.

This is cited as the reason he has “resuscitated the daily coronavirus news conference.” But, of course, Trump can’t fake empathy, which was clear in announcement of the resumption:

“I think it’s a great way to get information out to the public as to where we are with the vaccines, with the therapeutics, and, generally speaking, where we are,” Trump told reporters Monday. “I’ll do it at 5 o’clock, like we were doing. We had a good slot. And a lot of people were watching.”

This isn’t new. Back in March, during the first iteration of his nightly coronavirus press conferences, Trump also bragged about his ratings. But eventually those briefings because so glaringly self-injurious from Trump, especially after he recommended people ingest disinfectant, that he was convinced to stop attending them. Then they were cancelled altogether, since the health experts’ information didn’t support the president’s desire to quickly reopen the economy. It’s important to remember that a key reason people were able to persuade Trump to abandon his highly-rated show is that they corresponded with a slump in his polls.

Yet, now he has revived the show sans health care experts in an effort to revive his poll numbers. That seems counterintuitive, but I suppose Trump can’t come up with a better option.

He held his first solo briefing on Tuesday and won some praise for taking a more somber and appropriate tone, but he still spread disinformation, and he actually got the most headline for something completely unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Donald Trump has bestowed his good wishes on Ghislaine Maxwell, who faces federal charges for allegedly enabling the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking of minor girls.

At a press conference ostensibly to discuss the coronavirus crisis gripping the US on Tuesday, Trump took questions from reporters, one of whom asked him about Maxwell’s recent arrest and whether she might implicate some of the “powerful men” who formed part of Epstein’s jet set social circle.

“I don’t know – I haven’t really been following it too much. I just wish her well, frankly,” Trump responded. “I have met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well, whatever it is.”

Many people interpreted this as a signal to Ms. Maxwell that she shouldn’t divulge what she knows about the president’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what the Trump campaign was hoping he would accomplish in the briefing. He seems to only have nice things to say about acquaintances who have been arrested or are under criminal investigation. Well, he’s also fond of Confederate generalsracist sheriffs and war criminals, but he doesn’t have a kind word for anyone else.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and Trump’s new coronavirus briefings are not going to be any more informative, reassuring, or helpful to his poll numbers than the ones he abandoned in the Spring.

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Martin Longman

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