Trump Tries the Town Hall Format and It Doesn’t Go Well

With his signature dishonesty, the president is ill-quipped to answer questions from ordinary citizens.

I can’t think of a worse format for President Trump than a town hall meeting. In such a scenario, he’ll be confronted by ordinary citizens, where his complete lack of honesty and integrity will show in plain sight. Still, he decided to do one Tuesday night. He didn’t go on a partisan outlet either, but chose ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, a former high-ranking staffer for President Clinton, as the moderator. It had predictably bad results.

When asked why he had misled the country about COVID-19, he compared himself to Winston Churchill. When questioned about his desire to have Obamacare ruled unconstitutional by the courts, Trump lied and said he has a brand new health care plan “ready” that will protect people with preexisting conditions.

It was so bad that Laura Ingraham of Fox News basically mocked Trump’s judgment in participating and said the whole thing might as well have been organized by the Democratic National Committee.

The audience questions were frequently hostile, and Trump was often reduced to gobbledygook in his responses. For example, after Julie Bard of Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, asked why he doesn’t promote mask wearing, he blamed Joe Biden and then the following exchange occurred:

TRUMP: Now there is by the way, a lot of people don’t want to wear masks. There are a lot of people [who] think that masks are not good. And there are a lot of people that as an example you have…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Who are those people?

TRUMP: I’ll tell you who those people are—waiters. They come over and they serve you, and they have a mask. And I saw it the other day where they were serving me, and they’re playing with the mask … I’m not blaming them … I’m just saying what happens. They’re playing with the mask, so the mask is over, and they’re touching it, and then they’re touching the plate. That can’t be good.

There are a lot of people. If you look at Dr. Fauci’s original statement … You look at a lot of people, CDC, you look at a lot of people’s original statement, they said very strongly, George, don’t wear masks. Then all of a sudden they went to wear masks.

The concept of a mask is good, but it also does … You’re constantly touching it, you’re touching your face, you’re touching plates. There are people that don’t think masks are good.

I don’t see how a response like that reassures anyone, including his supporters. Perhaps his fans were more receptive to his explanation for lying, but they probably wonder why he talked about a “herd-mentality” being a solution to the pandemic.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So do you think it’s OK to be dishonest?

TRUMP: I’m not looking to be dishonest. I don’t want people to panic. And we are going to be OK. We’re going to be OK, and it is going away. And it’s probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccines.

It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it’s going to go away a lot faster with it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It would go away without the vaccine?

TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time it goes away.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And many deaths.

TRUMP: And you’ll develop—you’ll develop herd-like a herd mentality. It’s going to be—it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen.

But with a vaccine, I think it will go away very quickly.

According to an analysis by the Washington Post, approximately 65 percent of the world’s population has to be infected with COVID-19 to achieve herd immunity, which would translate to about 2.13 million American deaths.

Near the end of the town hall meeting, Flora Cruceta of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, told the president that he had a question about immigration from her mother who recently died of breast cancer. Trump demonstrated his ace listening skills in his response:

TRUMP: The love that you have for your mother, I can see that, it’s hard. And so many people and they die alone. They die alone because this is such a vicious thing. You can’t go there and hold their hand.

You can’t give them a kiss good night. It’s a terrible, terrible thing. And hopefully the vaccines are going to be very soon, hopefully. Did you have COVID? You didn’t have it right?

CRUCETA: No.

TRUMP: You didn’t have it, your mother. We’ll have it taken care of. It’s going to get taken care of. The vaccines are going to make a big difference. What has made a big difference is Remdesivir.

Again, Ms. Cruceta had just explained at length that he mother’s cancer had metastasized to her brain, bone, and lungs.

I doubt very much that Trump’s political advisers thought this format was a good idea for him, but he doesn’t listen to experts. Sometimes that hurts him politically, and other times it results in more than a hundred thousand unnecessary deaths.

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Martin Longman

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