Credit Where Credit is Due

Partial credit at best, however.

Via the NYT: Trump, in a Shift, Endorses Masks and Says Virus Will Get Worse:

Mr. Trump urged Americans to avoid packed bars and offered his most robust endorsement of masks, saying, “When you can, use a mask,” even as he falsely claimed he had always been supportive. “I have no problem with the masks,” he said, holding up a blue one with a presidential seal. “I view it this way: Anything that potentially can help, and that certainly can potentially help, is a good thing. I have no problem. I carry it. I wear it. You saw me wearing it a number of times, and I’ll continue.”

And, of course, there was this tweet:

As I stated last week:

I am in squarely in the middle for planning for students to return to campus in Fall, and our plan includes a mask requirement. It was immensely helpful for our governor to have issued a statewide mask order. It would be even better if Trump would get on board.

So, credit where credit is due: I am grateful that Trump is at least making positive noises in the direction of mask-wearing. Anything that will help cut down on people pretending like there is a phantom constitutional right not to have to wear a mask.

Does he still deserve criticism for not promoting masks prior to now? Of course.

Is he doing enough now, in my opinion, to promote mask usage? No.

Do I think this is more about someone convincing him his poll numbers are down because of his lack of leadership with regards to the pandemic (and that his position is not especially sincere)? Ab-so-lutely.

Keep in mind it was roughly 10 days ago that Trump visited Georgia and praised Governor Kemp, who had just made it more difficult for Georgia’s mayors to manage the public health crisis as it pertained specifically to masks.

Indeed, if Trump was really a convert to the importance of masks, he could meet with governors and give them the cover they need to enforce rules in their states. All it would take would be rhetoric help. He would also go out of his way to wear a mask at events and to make sure others were as well.

A quick trip to the White House Flickr page illustrates my point. Here’s an event from yesterday:

President Trump Presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Note the lack of mask, even though the Tweet says “wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance.”

President Trump Presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Not, too, this event on Thursday the 23rd:

President Trump Hosts the Opening Day of the Little League Baseball Season

Even if we presume that all of these visitors have been tested (as Trump is constantly, as I understand it), the visuals matter if you want to teach the public how to behave in this crisis.

There are plenty additional examples on the feed.

Wearing a mask prominently in public once, tweeting about, and then saying a few words in favor is utterly inadequate.

So, credit where credit due, but the credit is decidedly partial.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    No acknowledgment by Trump or by Cult45 that he has systematically misled his people with transparently stupid positions that were then uncritically accepted by his followers. Has anyone seen a single Trumpie yelling, ‘Wait! You mean Trump lied and we were dumb enough to fall for it?’

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  2. CSK says:

    The funny thing is that Trump is being heavily criticized by some right-wing commentators for giving in on mask wearing. James Delingpole wrote in the UK Spectator of how profoundly disappointed in Trump he was.

    Apart from that, Trump’s polling doesn’t seem to have improved much with this volte-face, but perhaps it’s too soon to tell.

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  3. Mister Bluster says:

    How many YEARS did Trump claim that President Obama was not a natural born United States citizen?
    Then Trump said: “Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period,..”
    His whole “birther” scam just vanished.
    He probably thinks people will believe that he always wore a mask.

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  4. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    That will never happen. The culties ignore what they can’t spin.

    @Mister Bluster:
    Sure, and remember when Trump claimed he’d sent detectives to Hawaii and that we wouldn’t believe what they were finding? He later said that his true goal was to force Obama to produce his birth certificate, and when Obama did so, Trump crowed that he’d won.

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  5. Kathy says:

    This feels like giving credit to a robber because he didn’t clean the whole place out.

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  6. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    That’s exactly what it’s like. “How wonderful–the robber only stole 75% of my valuables instead of 100% of them.”

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  7. @Kathy: I get that position.

    The problem is, he is still POTUS and so even a little bit helps. But, as noted, the credit is decidedly partial.

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  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    Apropos:

    So committed are these Americans to assuaging their sore egos over their imagined lack of status that they are literally willing to die for it. Unfortunately, they seem all too willing to take many of us with them. This is not Jonestown or Heaven’s Gate, whose cult members fled society to go and die together. This is worse. This is an attempt to create a Jonestown in every American city and town and then invite the rest of us over for a cool drink.

    The irony here is that the same people who reject expertise because they believe they are smart and clued in to the mistakes of experts will accept the word of Donald Trump — a man who has obliterated most of the projects he’s ever been involved with and who stands as the uncontested champion of American public liars — as the gospel truth.

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  9. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Yes, but help with whom? Cult45, the vast majority of whom are anti-maskers, is ignoring this because they can’t spin it, and pretty much everyone else is already donning masks. I don’t think there’s anyone who’s anti-Trump who’s going to be persuaded by this to grab a facial covering and start wearing it.

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  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Again, I think you’re being unfair. How can you be sure that the President wasn’t wearing a mask at those times because his mask was unavailable on account of needing to be sanitized? How many masks with the Presidential seal do you suppose there are in the world? What’s he supposed to wear when none are available? A common mask like an ignint cracker such as myself would buy at WalMart? Be reasonable.

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  11. @CSK: If it helps the faculty at my university talk down even a handful of kids who don’t want to wear a mask, it is a positive.

    There is zero doubt in my mind that each layer of support helps. A university-level mandate is heavily reinforced by the governor’s mandate and the governor’s mandate is helped even by this lipservice. It means that it isn’t just the pointy-headed prof trying to solely impose their will on the students.

    I am looking at this primarily from a very practical POV.

    Moreover, though, I know that partisans will take cues from elites, so it is more than reasonable to assume some Reps will start being at least more compliant on this issue than they were a few weeks ago.

    But, again, the intensity of the effect is linked to the intensity of the effort and his effort level is insufficient.

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  12. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I see that your university has a mask order in place, and that Governor Ivey’s mask order is due to lapse on July 31. Do you think she’ll extend it?

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  13. gVOR08 says:

    This is Trump again trying to have it both ways. Don’t really tell, or even ask, people to wear masks, but inoculate himself against a charge of opposing masks.

    I had been drawing down my lockdown stores. Now I’m stocking back up. It’s starting to smell like Trump and/or my beloved Governor DeUseless will do some rash security theatre stunt. Bodies are piling up.

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  14. @CSK: I think it is inevitable that she will have to do so. But, we shall see.

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  15. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Perhaps if it were more than lip service.

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  16. charon says:

    @gVOR08:

    This is Trump again trying to have it both ways.

    Exactly, a little something for everybody, that is what the unmasked photos are for.

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  17. @Kathy: The bottom line is: a lot of people do listen to his nonsense and take his lip service seriously. If they didn’t, he wouldn’t be in the White House at all.

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  18. As a generic matter, folks can’t both tell me that he is a cult leader and the followers will do whatever he says, even risk death and then tell me what he says doesn’t matter (not that I recall Kathy adhering specifically to the cult narrative).

    And, again, I am not saying that these words are magical. I am simply taking a marginal victory from it. It is certainly better than him going on TV and saying the opposite.

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  19. Jen says:

    The damage has been done, his supporters all assume that he’s just placating the press corps or whatever, and that he doesn’t really mean it.

    Also, making the right noises doesn’t matter at all if he’s not going to consistently follow the advice being given.

    And, finally: what is the point of his constant testing? Once infected, one is infected. Frequent testing doesn’t ameliorate that.

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  20. CSK says:

    @Jen:
    I don’t believe that Trump himself is tested every day. I do believe that anyone who comes near him, with a very few exceptions such as Ivanka, Melania, and perhaps Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway, is tested on a daily basis.

    On second thought, scratch Melania from that list. She probably stays as far away from him as she can as often as she can. It’s possible she gets tested on the occasions when she’s forced to play the arm candy role. Barron, I assume, barely recognizes his father, since he seems to spend all his time in Maryland with his Slovenian grandparents.

    I do heartily agree that the damage has been done, and that Trump is winking at Cult45.

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  21. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “As a generic matter, folks can’t both tell me that he is a cult leader and the followers will do whatever he says, even risk death and then tell me what he says doesn’t matter (not that I recall Kathy adhering specifically to the cult narrative).”

    Agreed. My money is on Trump’s actions making a noticeable dent in the number of people who refuse to wear masks.

    “And, again, I am not saying that these words are magical. I am simply taking a marginal victory from it. It is certainly better than him going on TV and saying the opposite.”

    I will agree with at as well, though that is a low bar to hurdle.

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  22. Gustopher says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Agreed. My money is on Trump’s actions making a noticeable dent in the number of people who refuse to wear masks.

    If he continues them. And is consistent.

    Otherwise, with a mixed message, people will either remember that they want to, or remember what he has said the loudest.

    Maybe split the difference with “well, he wore a mask going into a hospital. That’s just common sense. But out here, in the world, we don’t need masks.”

    People build a model of consistency even when it isn’t there.

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  23. KM says:

    @Moosebreath:

    My money is on Trump’s actions making a noticeable dent in the number of people who refuse to wear masks.

    Disagree. We starting to see more and more anti-maskers threaten violence when confronted. People have had guns pulled on them for daring to try and enforce mask usage in stores, something a company has a legal right to mandate. Many of them actually have masks on their person but deliberately choose to not put them on *Because*. Being anti-mask has gone beyond “don’t you tell me what to do, I have RIGHTS!!” and become a fundamental culture war feature with its own mythos. The mindset will survive Trump should he lose in Nov and Biden will be stuck dealing with 1/3 of the country who’s somehow decided it’s part of their personal identity to resist basic public health.

    Trump may have started this but it’s gotten beyond his control – same with FOX and the GOP. They deliberately tapped into an irrational vein in their followers’ psyche and made damn sure to hit every trigger they could. If the virus were to mutate to Contagion levels and start taking out 25% of the population, they still wouldn’t wear masks because someone told them to do it. At this point, it’s gone beyond politics to the deep-seated resentment that festers in many Americans. He just happened to the guy that packaged and sold this particular piece of stupidity; it’s going to be lingering long after he’s left us .

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  24. gVOR08 says:

    @KM: I’m seeing much better rates of mask wearing here in FL. However it started to ramp up before Trump’s flip-flop. (Flip- half-flop with a twist? What do you call a visibly insincere flip that goes half way at best?) Almost daily headlines about new records is really what drove it. But maybe Trump will do some good. Remember, this is the Teavangelical base. They can go from, “You’re not the boss of me!” to “I’ve always worn a mask against the China virus.” in the blink of an eye and never realize the contradiction.

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  25. @Moosebreath:

    I will agree with at as well, though that is a low bar to hurdle.

    That’s for damn sure.

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  26. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And, again, I am not saying that these words are magical. I am simply taking a marginal victory from it. It is certainly better than him going on TV and saying the opposite.

    I can appreciate taking any marginal victory you can. But, I think any benefit will be greatly diluted by the cognitive dissonance. Because what Trump first told them was that the pandemic was a small matter, if not a hoax, and his people didn’t just listen, but committed to the level of belief. Their position that masks were a matter of freedom, not a matter of science and public safety, was established truth.

    Now, even though their Dear Leader is saying something different, to go with his new position they have to deny their belief and accept that they (not Trump) were wrong all along. That’s hard for all humans to do, yet even harder for the faith based vs science based among us.

    Once Trump set the narrative for his followers, it became much, much harder to reverse course. The toothpaste just won’t go back in that tube.

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  27. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    As a generic matter, folks can’t both tell me that he is a cult leader and the followers will do whatever he says, even risk death and then tell me what he says doesn’t matter (not that I recall Kathy adhering specifically to the cult narrative).

    Ah, but you’re ignoring the fact that the cultists themselves keep telling us that what he says, in terms of literal denotation, is irrelevant. We’re to take him seriously, not literally. And any idiot can see that he seriously does not like masks, does not want masks, does not believe masks are positive or Making America Great Again, and are for loser libtards. No matter what mouth noises he makes. So zero credit for mouth noises absent behavioral changes that would be convincing.

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