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Trump Faces His Fiercest Trial

After a panned national address on COVID-19, the president's on the ropes.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The United States government, America’s economic infrastructure and the country’s character are being stress-tested. So is the American president. 

Let’s not be bashful: President Donald Trump addressed the nation Wednesday, a rare salvo from the Resolute Desk, against a backdrop of belligerent criticism. His administration, it was argued, or facets of it, including the president himself, had willfully ignored the worst, tail-end risks of the international proliferation of the Coronavirus disease, COVID-19 or Wuhan flu, as stated in more off-color corners, including the Republican leadership. 

America is a week away from following the example of Italy, now on national lockdown, it’s argued. The subtext: a lapse into genuine Third Worldism can not be ruled out, a coming catharsis for years of national breakdown, as well as the outlaw nature of the Trump presidency. 

If the president’s goal was to put these anxious criticisms at abeyance, he failed Wednesday night, perhaps through no fault of his own as fewer Americans actually watch these addresses anymore, relying instead on a clique of viral tastemakers. But his address was marred by factual slip-ups. Not all travel from Europe, namely by U.S. citizens, is suspended, for instance, and the government is, apparently, only, at current, willing to pick up the tab for Corona co-pays, not the entirety of the treatments. Trump also failed to bat down paranoid speculation that he, himself, is sick. 

Added into the dissatisfaction, in some quarters, is the discordance, ongoing even five years into Trump’s national, political career, between Trump on the stump and the more polished parlances of the presidency. 

Formal addresses aren’t really his bag. Trump looks like he’s in a straight jacket. Which is quite the manacle for a politician for whom body language — gesticulation — is so central.

He did better Thursday morning. 

Even as the market weathered its worst morning since Black Monday, the ruinous ‘87 crash, Trump swapped the last night’s diminishing digs for a more flattering, extemporaneous environment. Astride Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, goofily, amidst the crisis, still on hand for St. Patrick’s Day, Trump said, referring to the Europe ban: “It’s also possible we could end it early.” Trump noted: “It was an important thing to do.” He appeared irked, but, perhaps, at ease.  

And in an intentionally divisive remark, love it or hate it, Trump said: “Well, I think, the Democrats won’t be having rallies.” He continued: “But nobody showed up to their rallies anyways.”

For now, America waits. The Corona crisis cuts, deep, both ways. 

For every American concerned that the United States’ response is lethargic and embarrassing, and more so than it might have been a generation ago, there’s a rival perspective skeptical of an elite class that brought the country the Y2K pandemonium and the Iraq war.

Most every observer concedes the tail-end risks, but such trenchant skepticism, some might say nihilism, seems to define the spirit of this outsiders’ administration. 

Hard questions will be asked when the dust clears, hopefully, by summer. 

Why were American supply chains so, completely vulnerable to the turmoil emanating from a mafia state such as China? Why was John Bolton, as national security advisor, allowed to take such a narrow view of national security that he shuttered a special bureau dedicated to pandemics? 

Or perhaps why, hopefully not, did America panic?   

about the author

Curt Mills is Senior Reporter at TAC covering national security, the Biden White House and the future of the Republicans. He has reported for The National Interest, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, Washington Examiner, UnHerd, the Spectator, among others. He was a 2018-2019 Robert Novak Journalism fellow, and has been a fellow at Defense Priorities and the Claremont Institute. He is a native and resident of Washington, D.C.

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