Thursday Reads: A World Transformed and A “President” Who Has No Idea What To Do NextPosted: March 12, 2020
Last night Trump gave a disturbing “speech” from the oval office. He stumbled over his words, huffed and snorted, seemingly gasping for air. Is he already infected with the virus or is it dementia. There was nothing reassuring about the “speech,” which he read from a teleprompter. Instead it resembled a hostage video, read word or word with none of his usual inane interjections.
He instituted another travel ban with exceptions for countries where he has businesses and said nothing about increased testing of Americans, which is what we need more than anything if we are to understand the scope of the problem in this country. He again suggested a payroll tax cut, which would only serve to starve Social Security and Medicare and would never pass the House.
The Washington Post: Europe blindsided by Trump’s travel restrictions, with many seeing political motive.
PARIS — European officials strongly condemned President Trump’s decision to severely restrict travel from Europe to the United States on Thursday, a sudden move that took them by surprise and that many saw as politically motivated.
Of all the slights between Washington and Europe in recent years, the new travel restrictions had all the makings of a potential rupture. In a short statement on Thursday morning rare in its directness, the European Union expressed only exasperation.
“The Coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” the statement read, co-signed by E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel.
“The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”
President Donald Trump set out to steady a rattled nation and a diving economy in a solemn Oval Office address, but instead sowed more confusion and doubts that he is up to handling the fast-worsening coronavirus crisis.
Trump spoke to the nation at a fearful moment, when the rhythms of everyday American life are starting to shut down — with schools closing, the NBA suspended, hospitals on high alert and movie icon Tom Hanks saying he and his wife have the disease.
“The virus will not have a chance against us. No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States,” the President said, before painting a rosy picture of an economy that is already taking a beating from the virus fallout. The President unveiled several measures to help on that score, to help workers who lack sick pay but have to self-isolate and are hard-hit by shutdowns, though his call for a payroll tax cut is not popular in Congress.
Trump’s big announcement for keeping the virus at bay — what he said was a 30-day ban on travel to the US by Europeans and restrictions on cargo — was immediately engulfed in confusion.
The dollar slid in another seismic shift to price in more U.S. interest rate cuts on Thursday, as President Donald Trump sapped market confidence with a coronavirus plan light on details.
The greenback dropped as far as 1% to 103.32 yen, fell as much as 0.6% to $1.1333 against the euro and lost 0.6% to the safe-haven Swiss franc.
Riskier currencies were punished as the fearful mood sent the Australian dollar down 0.6% and the South Korean won skidding 1%, and losing even more ground to the rising yen.
Trump announced on Wednesday a ban on travelers from 26 European countries entering the United States for a month.
“The market was looking for more,” said Moh Siong Sim, currency strategist at the Bank of Singapore.
London (CNN Business)Airline stocks tumbled Thursday after US President Donald Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel from more than two dozen European countries, including Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
The move will deepen the crisis facing airlines, which have been forced by the coronavirus outbreak to cancel huge numbers of flights and make dramatic changes to their operations. The industry was already facing hundreds of billions of dollars in lost sales.
Edward Luce at Financial Times: Donald Trump’s troubling coronavirus address.
On Wednesday night the global pandemic met US nationalism. It will not take long to see which comes off best. As Donald Trump was speaking, the Dow futures market nosedived. His Europe travel ban came just a few hours after the US stock market entered bear territory — a fall of 20 per cent or more — for the first time since the global financial crisis. It also followed the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global pandemic. Mr Trump’s address was meant to calm the waters. By the time he finished they were considerably rougher.
His purpose was to convey that he has a grip on the epidemic. Having spent weeks playing down the threat, Mr Trump had already tied one of his arms behind his back. The previous day he told Americans to “stay calm. This will go away.” A few weeks ago he described the epidemic as a Democratic “hoax”.
Then on Wednesday night he pivoted. He suspended all travel from Europe for 30 days. For the first time since the second world war, direct US travel to the European continent will be closed off. He excluded the UK and Ireland from the ban despite the fact that Britain has almost half the number of US infections with less than a fifth of its population.
Moreover, his action contradicted expert guidelines. The WHO clearly advises against international travel bans because they stifle the flow of medicines and aid, and “may divert resources from other interventions”. Mr Trump has been badly shaken by the stock market fall that has wiped out most of the gains of his administration. Yet his actions will almost certainly deepen market pessimism. In addition to the chilling effect on transatlantic trade, Mr Trump has elevated the uncertainty risk. To put it bluntly, no one has much clue what he will do next.
At every turn, President Trump’s policy regarding coronavirus has unfolded as if guided by one rule: How can I make this crisis worse?
Presidents are not all-powerful, especially not in the case of pandemic disease. There are limits to what they can do, for good or ill. But within those limits, at every juncture, Trump’s actions have ensured the worst possible outcomes. The worst outcome for public health. The worst outcome for the American economy. The worst outcome for American global leadership.
Here are the things the president did not do in that speech.
He offered no guidance or policy on how to prevent the spread of the disease inside the United States. Should your town cancel its St. Patrick’s Day parade? What about theatrical productions and sporting events? Classes at schools and colleges? Nothing.
He offered no explanation of what went wrong with the U.S. testing system, nor any assurance of when testing would become more widely available. His own previous promises of testing for anyone who needs it have been exploded as false. So what is true? Nothing.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Trump’s Speech Shows He Has No Idea What to Do About the Coronavirus.
Guiding the United States through a pandemic would be a difficult task for any president under any circumstance. The challenge has grown more forbidding by barriers decades in the making — the skeletal social safety net, with its patchy access to health-care and pressure placed on sick workers to keep earning money — as well as President Trump’s decision to dismantle the White House pandemic response team.
The most basic necessity for grappling with the coronavirus is understanding how pandemics work. And Trump revealed in his Oval Office speech that he does not comprehend the most basic facts.
Trump’s speech had no mention of the central problem in the American response to the coronavirus, which is the lack of a functioning testing regime. Having falsely promised on Friday that everybody who currently wants a test can get one, Trump simply ignored the question altogether. At the moment, people who have symptoms do not know what they can do about it. The number is due to explode, and Trump offered them no guidance.
Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Allen at The New York Times: Trump’s Re-election Chances Suddenly Look Shakier.
President Trump faces the biggest challenge yet to his prospects of being re-elected, with his advisers’ two major assumptions for the campaign — a booming economy and an opponent easily vilified as too far left — quickly evaporating.
After a year in which Mr. Trump has told voters that they must support his re-election or risk watching the economy decline, the stock market is reeling and economists are warning that a recession could be on the horizon because of the worsening spread of the coronavirus.
And instead of elevating Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as Mr. Trump made clear was his hope, Democrats have suddenly and decisively swung from a flirtation with socialism to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has run a primary campaign centered on a return to political normalcy.
“Biden’s success in the suburbs makes him an acceptable alternative to Trump,” said Scott Reed, the top political adviser for the United States Chamber of Commerce. “His turnout in the suburbs threatens the Republican Senate.”
That presents Mr. Trump with a confounding new political landscape, one that close advisers concede he had seemed unwilling or unable to accept until Wednesday, when he addressed the nation about the pandemic.
The good news is that we have Nancy Pelosi’s leadership to look to.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was preparing to hop in a caravan of SUVs to depart the Capitol Tuesday afternoon when he called Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Mnuchin had just spent an hour huddling with Senate Republicans as President Donald Trump tried to sell wary GOP lawmakers on his plan to prevent an economic collapse from the coronavirus pandemic. Pelosi, who was having a hard time hearing Mnuchin due to poor cell phone reception, asked if he just wanted to come to her office across the Capitol instead.
Just hours before, Trump had taken his latest shot at Pelosi in a morning tweet. But that didn’t deter the speaker, who huddled with Mnuchin for a 30-minute meeting in her office. The two also chatted on the phone twice on Wednesday, and Pelosi is now on the verge of pushing through a massive stimulus bill that could earn GOP support, as well as Trump’s signature.
For any other leader, the rapid turnaround on the recovery plan would be a herculean feat at best. But for Pelosi, successfully negotiating a multi-billion-dollar economic package with a hostile and often antagonistic Trump administration was just another day in the speaker’s suite.
It’s also a reminder that for all Trump’s omnipresence on Twitter and cable TV, Pelosi remains the dominant figure on Capitol Hill when it comes time to actually getting something accomplished.
Not that Trump is happy about having to work with Pelosi. The Daily Beast reports that Trump is “seething” about it.
All of official Washington has come to an agreement that swift, bold action is needed to counteract the dramatic economic impact of the coronavirus’ spread. But negotiations around such a package have been complicated by the fact that President Donald Trump can’t stand the idea of negotiating one-on-one with his chief counterpart, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Indeed, he suspects that she would use the moment to try to humiliate him.
Two senior Trump administration officials described a president who, out of an intense bitterness toward the House Speaker, has shuddered at the prospect of being in the same room with her during the ongoing public-health crisis and economic reverberations.
Instead, Trump has deputized some of his more prominent lieutenants to handle the delicate negotiations. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, in particular, has emerged as one of the administration’s top envoys to Capitol Hill, as Team Trump and lawmakers attempt to cobble together some form of economic stimulus in the wake of a now-declared global pandemic.
“At this time, the president does not see it as productive to [personally] negotiate directly with Nancy Pelosi,” said one of the senior administration officials. “For now, it’s best for her to deal directly with Sec. Mnuchin and others in the administration.”
That sounds like a good idea, because Trump has no idea what to do. Too bad Nancy can’t be president.
As we face another day in a world transformed by the coronavirus, I wish you and yours good health and courage. As always this is an open thread.