The Six Weeks we Lost, Redux

Trump's performance during this crisis is a reminder that electing an amateur to the presidency is a really bad idea.

“#USAxAUS” by White House is in the Public Domain

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled “The Six Weeks we Lost” which highlighted a piece that compared the US and South Korean responses to the coronavirus outbreak. Now, the NYT has an in-depth look at that period of time: He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump’s Failure on the Virus.

The whole piece should be read in full, but this passage leapt out at me:

These final days of February, perhaps more than any other moment during his tenure in the White House, illustrated Mr. Trump’s inability or unwillingness to absorb warnings coming at him. He instead reverted to his traditional political playbook in the midst of a public health calamity, squandering vital time as the coronavirus spread silently across the country.

Every time I think about late February, I think about this:

we have done an incredible job.  We’re going to continue.  It’s going to disappear.  One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear. 

-Donald Trump, February 27, 2020

And it notes an especially crucial three week period:

The push to convince Mr. Trump of the need for more assertive action stalled. With Mr. Pence and his staff in charge, the focus was clear: no more alarmist messages. Statements and media appearances by health officials like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Redfield would be coordinated through Mr. Pence’s office. It would be more than three weeks before Mr. Trump would announce serious social distancing efforts, a lost period during which the spread of the virus accelerated rapidly.

Over nearly three weeks from Feb. 26 to March 16, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States grew from 15 to 4,226. Since then, nearly half a million Americans have tested positive for the virus and authorities say hundreds of thousands more are likely infected.

All of this is a reminder that electing amateurs to high office is a really, really bad idea. Especially one who does not trust experts and thinks that his instincts are all he needs to survive (and where survival means making it through the current moment with no thought to the past nor the future).

I sincerely struggle to understand how anyone who has been paying attention takes him seriously.

Again: I recommend the NYT piece in full.

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. CSK says:

    Because everything you, James Joyner, despise about Trump–the ignorance, the loutishness, the total lack of intellectual curiosity, the laziness, the ineptitude–is what makes him a hero to his admirers. He’s authentic. He’s like them.

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  2. Gustopher says:

    Over nearly three weeks from Feb. 26 to March 16, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States grew from 15 to 4,226. Since then, nearly half a million Americans have tested positive for the virus and authorities say hundreds of thousands more are likely infected.

    And people say we have no tests…

    2
  3. Gustopher says:

    The saving grace of the Trump presidency before the pandemic was the incompetence — terrible ideas executed poorly and ineffectively.

    He might give George W. Bush a run for his money in terms of body count by the time this is all said and done.

    8
  4. DrDaveT says:

    All of this is a reminder that electing amateurs to high office is a really, really bad idea.

    Depends what you mean by “amateurs”. I can think of dozens, hundreds of non-politicians who would have done just fine — not just at handling the pandemic, but at the general business of being President.

    I think the real problem is electing sociopaths, be they amateur or professional.

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  5. @DrDaveT: I would agree that a non-sociopath amateur would be better than a sociopath amateur.

    I still think it is a bad idea for the presidency to be someone’s first job in government.

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  6. Kurtz says:

    @DrDaveT: @Steven L. Taylor:

    Just a reminder, this book was written.

    At some point, there was a (possibly minor) trend of calling Obama "Celebrity-in-Chief." Maybe the GOP was just trying to keep up.

    1
  7. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I don’t know why I attributed this piece to James Joyner rather than you. Sequestration must be getting to me. In any case, I apologize for my error.

    1
  8. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I still think it is a bad idea for the presidency to be someone’s first job in government.

    I think we can agree on that. 🙂 Some errors are more egregious than others…

  9. An Interested Party says:

    Thinking of non-politicians, businessmen in particular…contrast this idiot in the White House with another business owner who had little political experience–Tom Wolf, the governor of Pennsylvania, and the difference is amazing…and proof that someone with executive experience can do well in political office, and actually serve effectively, as long as he isn’t an incompetent, petulant dirtbag…

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  10. CSK says:

    @An Interested Party:
    And of course Trump isn’t even a good businessman.

    6
  11. Scott F. says:

    I sincerely struggle to understand how anyone who has been paying attention takes him seriously.

    As recently as 2 days ago, >45% of Americans polled approved of his handling of the pandemic. That’s nearly half of the US who not only take him seriously, but actually think he’s going a good job.

    This is the heart of it to me. The “alternative facts’ and the “fake news” framing have been so profoundly effective that this clown’s ineptitude can do massive damage and no amount of news coverage, data or evidence will convince his worshipers that he’s not doing great.

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  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott F.: Even easier than that. People who think he’s doing a good job aren’t paying attention. The alternative facts/fake news schtick helps those who aren’t paying attention pretend that they are, but really they are doing the thing from the movie where the lawyer sticks his fingers in his ears and shouts “la la la naaaaahhhhhht listening naht listening, no no no not…”

  13. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT: @An Interested Party: @Steven L. Taylor: I think a President Bill Gates or President Mark Cuban would have done a far, far better job than Trump simply because they’re smarter, more decent, and more inclined to surround themselves with highly competent people and listen to them. But, yeah, I’d still prefer that they try their hand at running a state or a major city first.

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  14. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    He’s not even a good Trump.

    He can’t claim both there’s nothing to worry about COVID-19 and that Democrats and the media re exaggerating it to hurt him, while aslo claiming it’s the deadliest pandemic ever, which he alone saw coming 6 weeks after everyone else, and he’s busy saving the country from.

    That requires doublethink, and he can’t even hold one thought in his head.

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  15. @James Joyner:

    I think a President Bill Gates or President Mark Cuban would have done a far, far better job than Trump simply because they’re smarter, more decent, and more inclined to surround themselves with highly competent people and listen to them. But, yeah, I’d still prefer that they try their hand at running a state or a major city first.

    Indeed, but then again I actually said to one of my son’s last night that “a lump of moldy bread would make a better president.”

    I likely made a mistake by even bringing up the fact that he is a an amateur, as I agree that it is far from his worst trait.

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  16. @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    People who think he’s doing a good job aren’t paying attention

    I think this is true en masse. But I know people who can watch his press conference and still think he is doing a good job. It is amazing.

    And setting aside my expiration, I fully understand the power of partisanship, but Good Lord.

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  17. Barry says:

    @Kathy: “That requires doublethink, and he can’t even hold one thought in his head.”

    The Base can, quite easily.

    2
  18. Tyrell says:

    Farmers are going broke and are having to destroy valuable crops because restaurants are not doing as much business. I hope that this does not portend food shortages later on in the fall or winter. That could be much worse than the current situation. Many areas could open restaurants back up fully and retail also, using adequate safety measures. That would help boost the morale of the people.

    1
  19. de stijl says:

    As a general rule, billionaire businessfolks are crappy politicians. You have to at least pretend to be of the people in a public setting for an extended period.

    You have to convincingly fake empathy and folksiness.