No, This is not a Pivot

Trump and virus politics.

White House Coronavirus Update Briefing President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House COVID-19 Coronavirus task force, delivers remarks and answers questions from members of the press during a coronavirus update briefing Thursday, April 16, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House COVID-19 Coronavirus task force, delivers remarks and answers questions from members of the press during a coronavirus update briefing Thursday, April 16, 2020, in the James S. Brady White House Press Briefing Room. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

This assessment, via ABC News, is just ridiculous: The Note: Trump changes course as COVID-19 response faces critical tests

You don’t have to believe in pivots to see the big moments piling up.


The president is displaying a new tone and a new level of engagement, after aides and allies have pleaded with him to recognize the gravity of the moment. His tweet of himself wearing a mask came just a day after another interview aired where he said people should have “freedom” and that “masks cause problems, too.”

No, Trump is desperate to correct his poll numbers and so is willing to try and pretend like he is interested in the pandemic because ignoring it wasn’t working for him.

Let’s not forget that the man was just downplaying the mortality rate of the virus and also referring to most cases as “the sniffles” just on Sunday.

Do I think he is going to try and re-engage on this topic for the moment? Sure. But I am more persuaded that the main reason he wants to resume daily briefings not because he wants to communicate with the public on the topic of public health or because he can’t hold any rallies at the moment.

And since his “tone” back when he was paying attention wasn’t too serious, I can’t imagine it will be all that serious now.

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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


  1. CSK says:

    Trump as much as admitted that these “briefings” were going to be substitutes for rallies when he concluded this afternoon by noting that in future he’d be speaking on other matters such as the economy.

  2. An Interested Party says:

    And who would actually believe that this is a pivot? Those stupid enough to already follow him? Plus, he is walking gaffe machine…who honestly thinks that he will actually help himself by resuming these briefings? It is much more likely that he will continue to hurt his reelection by exposing himself further to the public…

  3. Teve says:

    People are tweeting ABC five distinct different times where they have literally said Trump is changing his tone.

  4. MarkedMan says:

    The press is gullible, and seem to especially want to get led by the nose by Republican spin doctors. I’m just waiting for the endless articles on “A 12 year old investigation into Biden’s campaign finances found no wrong doing. But do they create an impression of corruption? And what about Hunter Biden?” In four months the chatterati will be wondering why the Democrats ran a candidate with such obvious issues….

  5. Jax says:

    @MarkedMan: In four months we could have a quarter of a million dead Americans, and any Democrat who isn’t making that loud and clear in EVERY campaign ad and tying it to Trump’s criminal ineptitude at “governing” probably deserves to lose. This should be a slam dunk if Dems had their shit together and the media wasn’t in it for the clicks.

  6. Teve says:


    You’re assuming they’re gullible, I assume they’re just acting in their short-term best interests.

    Alternate hypothesis:

    1 the press acts fundamentally as a business.
    2 most Americans know essentially nothing about politics.
    3 he-said/she-said stories seem fair to people who know nothing about politics i.e. most people.
    4 therefore he-said/she-said stories maximize revenue FTW.

    Why would they care if disregarding the truth pisses off me and you and the 5% of the public who knows the truth? Especially with the craigslist era where news revenue has collapsed, why would a corporation fighting to survive give a shit what you and I think about the truth? Have you seen how many newspapers these days are owned by private equity? Those guys definitely don’t give a shit about the truth.

  7. Hal_10000 says:

    Every few months, Trump’s staff points to his unpopularity and persuades him to act more Presidential. And he does … for a little while. But he quickly reverts to who he is.

  8. wr says:

    If history is any guide, what happened yesterday is that Trump’s staff spent hours urging him to be brief, factual (kind of) and presidential, and to say the things that needed saying. And under all that pressure, he did what he needed to.

    Afterwards, his staff spent hours blowing smoke up his ass about how wonderful he was, and how his poll numbers are already skyrocketing. There’s a good chance that he will be sufficiently pleased with this success that he’ll give another relatively short, relatively useful briefing. After which the smoke blowing will commence again.

    That will make Trump decide that he’s a genius and that he’s winning, and that everything he does is perfect. So briefing number three will revert to clown show and by the fourth he’ll be claiming that Antifa, working with Joe Biden, designed the virus to hurt his reelection but that if we bathe in raw sewage it will go away.

  9. dazedandconfused says:

    I think he’s a serious, it’s simply that it’s about being re-elected. He has the basic intelligence needed to notice that Fauci’s comments are more popular than his own, so he has set it up so Fauci’s comments are now disseminated primarily, if not solely, by himself.

    This does not directly contradict your point, but in a way it can be termed a pivot. If the comes to think closing every business and enforcing a full lockdown would be popular he will do it. Childlike, he isn’t concerned with and may have little conception about right and wrong. His only concern is only what serves his interests and what doesn’t, so “pivots” can happen at the drop of a hat.

  10. CSK says:

    He already said yesterday that he’ll be talking about “other things” in briefing number two. He didn’t even wait for the staff to tell him how wonderful briefing number one was. Resuming these sessions was never, for Trump, about anything but resuming, some way, his campaign rallies.

  11. inhumans99 says:

    Just imagine if Trump had told his base to wear masks and social distance several months back, why it might have come to pass that right about now he would be enjoying some rounds of golf in-between his rallies. He could be listening to the roar of the cheering crowd as they enthusiastically praise him every time he uttered Sleepy Joe (which would be about 30 times a minute knowing Trump) but instead he has to tell them to wear a mask.

    If he had thought this through for about 5 minutes worth of his time back in March he could have said to himself okay, I may not like wearing a mask but I want every single one of my adoring fans to wear one for the next couple of months so I can get back to holding MAGA rallies in June/July.

    Instead he has to tell folks to wear masks, and try to gin up images of protesters trying to harm police (another headache for him, as Kevin Drum notes the mothers in Portland are not providing the Trump admin favorable optics on that front).

    Trump literally made his own life miserable, tell people wear a mask back in March and it leads to MAGA rallies throughout the summer letting him dominate (a word he loves) the news cycle and giving him a chance against Biden but now instead he has to “pivot” for the 20th time in as many days and show people how seriously he is taking the pandemic…I almost feel for the guy, having to do get serious now must be driving him bonkers.

    Biden really only has to leave his basement a small handful of times to prove to America that he still has a pulse, amble back down to his basement after spending a few minutes in front of a camera, and then just sit back and watch the Trump show.

    Never before has a candidate had to do so little to convince people to vote for him, it is amazing how nervous people were about Biden’s chances against Trump just a few short months back compared to now.

  12. @dazedandconfused: Fair points. I guess I am really saying it isn’t a pivot to being “presidential” and I also don’t think he has the discipline to stay on message very long.