The president’s oddly thin and rather creepy-looking son-in-law ran a New York tabloid newspaper into the ground and then nearly ruined his father’s real estate empire – Chris Christie sent his father to jail for years of course, for fraud and other nasty stuff – but Jared Kushner married well and seems to assume that, since everyone loves his father-in-law, everyone must love him too. But he never says anything. He’s that silent gaunt skeletal fellow in the background when anything is happening, the skinny guy in the skinny suit that always seems three sizes too small for him. He manages a smile now and then, a rictus smile. Everyone’s skin crawls. He’s an evil Pee Wee Herman – in the same suit.
Jared Kushner is never a spokesman for the president. How could he be? The president is his own spokesman. But now times are tough. The president brags too much about how awesome he himself is and that has backfired. Donald Trump gets angry. The press is stupid and no one appreciates how awesome he is, damn it! And the public tunes out, numbed by this, day after day, and a bit disgusted. Those who have to insist that they’re awesome aren’t. And that obviously worries him. But no one really cares. Fine, you’re awesome. Now shut up and do your job.
This wasn’t working for Trump, so this time he sent out the kid:
Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser and son-in-law to President Donald Trump, praised himself and the rest of the administration on Wednesday morning for its efforts to reopen the U.S. economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kushner’s comments came after the nation’s death toll from coronavirus surpassed the Vietnam War.
“I think that we’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed,” Kushner said during an interview on Fox and Friends. “So, the government – the federal government – rose to the challenge and this is a great success story and I think that that’s really what needs to be told.”
The eyebrow-raising comment is part of the White House’s attempt to clean up its image amid criticism that the President took too long to respond to the pandemic and did not sufficiently prepare for the crisis.
Fox and Friends is a morning show and Kushner was mocked for the rest of the day, but he was there to deliver the message:
Kushner also swiped at critics who say it’s too risky to lift federal guidelines urging people to stay inside right now as the country scrambles to mitigate the outbreak.
“The eternal lockdown crowd can make jokes on late night television, but the reality is that the data is on our side,” he said.
Ah, no, not really:
Many governors, Democratic and Republican, have thrown cold water on the White House’s push to allow businesses to reopen, as have health officials. Additionally, none of the states have met the federal government’s guidelines recommending that state economies reopen if the number of cases decline for 14 consecutive days.
Kushner offered nonsense, but he said his nonsense was the true stuff, and he’s married to the president’s daughter, and that should count for something, right? It doesn’t matter. The government will proceed on the basis of Kushner Truth:
Donald Trump has said the federal government will not be extending its coronavirus social distancing guidelines once they expire on Thursday, even as the number of Americans who have died of coronavirus surpassed 60,000.
The country has recorded 60,207 deaths from coronavirus, and 1,030,487 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the US according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The US accounts for around one-third of all confirmed cases worldwide…
The death toll will continue to climb in the coming weeks, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates the current death toll may represent an undercount.
That’s not Trump’s truth. It’s time to stop this nonsense. No more masks. No more of that six-feet-apart nonsense. It time for big crowds – political rallies and baseball games with packed stands, right now, and giant political rallies in small rooms too. Florida will drop all the rules about all of this on this coming Monday. But he will keep his own hands clean:
The White House has been trying to pivot to a new stage of the crisis, focused on efforts to reopen the nation’s economy state-by-state amid concerns that lifting restrictions too quickly and without sufficient testing and contact tracing will spur a resurgence.
As part of that effort, Trump, who has both threatened to force states to reopen and said decisions will be left to them, said the White House will not be extending its “30 Days to Slow the Spread” guidelines when they expire on Thursday.
“They’ll be fading out because now the governors are doing it,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.
If this thing spikes again in the fall or even sooner and millions die, that won’t be his fault. The governors are fools, but what are you going to do? He’s cool.
No, he isn’t:
Despite the positive messaging from the White House, a new poll indicated most Americans are still not ready to reopen the country. The PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll showed large majorities are uncomfortable with reopening schools or restaurants unless coronavirus testing is significantly expanded.
The US has dramatically increased its testing after a slow and rocky start, many health experts say the country still must do more – as many as 5 million a day – to safely reopen the economy. Otherwise, they warn, cases will rise sharply as Americans return to work, creating another deadly spike. Trump has dismissed that recommended number, calling it unnecessary and a “media trap”.
Meanwhile Kushner, who has been helping with the effort to get medical supplies to states that need them, suggested in the interview with Fox and Friends that the federal government has accomplished its mission…
The administration, he added, is preparing the country to “get as close back to normal as possible as quickly as possible”, and said that by July the country would be “really rocking again.”
This is a coordinated message, which Paul Waldman questions:
While the Trump campaign would no doubt like to make November’s election about anything other than the novel coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying collapse of the U.S. economy that will inevitably be the focus of the fall campaign. So how do you spin one of the most catastrophic presidential failures in U.S. history?
Well, there is the coordinated message:
The president and those who work for him clearly believe that if they simply repeat over and over again that everything is going great, the public will believe it. They have other subsidiary arguments – no one could have predicted the arrival of a pandemic, it’s actually Barack Obama’s fault – but at the core is the contention that Trump’s leadership on the pandemic has been masterful and we should all be applauding his extraordinary performance.
This will be an excellent case study in the power of the president and his party to create an alternate reality. But there’s one reason it will be difficult: The administration doesn’t control the flow of information.
That’s the major flaw here:
In other contexts, the president has had more power to fool the public – when he could exercise greater control over what they learned. For instance, when George W. Bush and his administration set about to convince the public that Saddam Hussein was about to attack us with his fearsome arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, that lie was challenging to disprove, at least for a while. It was difficult to see into Iraq much of the information even journalists were able to access came filtered through the very government that was mounting what turned out to be a spectacularly successful propaganda campaign.
But today, the Trump administration has no such control. We don’t need classified intelligence materials or brave whistle-blowers to know what’s happening with the pandemic. The daily death toll is available for anyone to see. We get reports from all over the country about hospitals that don’t have sufficient personal protective equipment, “essential workers” forced to do jobs that have become dangerous and the heartbreaking stories of lives lost.
In short, there’s too much real life out there and that’s accessible to all, messing up the plan here:
This is why the administration’s efforts to convince us that this has been a smashing success aren’t working – though we have to be careful about what it means for this effort to “work.” Polls are showing approval for Trump’s handling of the pandemic similar to his approval ratings overall, in the 40s, which suggests that if Trump is your guy you’ll say he’s doing a good job, and if he isn’t, you won’t.
At the same time, state governors – especially those who have acted aggressively to impose lockdowns – have seen their approval shoot into the 70s or even 80s. Meanwhile, overwhelming majorities of the public in poll after poll reject the line being pushed by the administration that everything is under control and we’ll soon be able to resume normal activity. For instance, 79 percent of Americans in this poll believe a second wave of infections is likely, 80 percent in this poll say it’s a bad idea to reopen restaurants, and 82 percent in this poll say current restrictions are either appropriate or not strict enough.
Yet from now until November, the administration, the Trump campaign and Trump himself will continue to insist that his management of the pandemic has been positively awe-inspiring, no matter how high the death toll climbs.
That’s just stupid, or it’s not:
They know that they don’t have to fool everyone. The experience of 2016 taught Trump that he could still win even if most Americans disliked him. At the end of that campaign, Gallup polls showed 61 percent of Americans with an unfavorable view of Trump (compared with 52 percent for Hillary Clinton). Yet a constellation of unpredictable factors enabled him to prevail in the Electoral College even as Clinton got 3 million more votes.
Anyone with a commitment to reality might wish that at some point all Americans would agree that the president has failed and continues to fail, with tragic consequences. But that won’t happen. His supporters will close their eyes and insist that 2+2=5, the moon is made of green cheese and Trump has done a great job on this pandemic.
They may not be a majority, but Trump is hoping there are just enough of them to keep him afloat.
That’s the plan, but the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni report trouble in paradise:
Frustrated by a faltering economy that is out of his control, and facing blowback for his suggestion that disinfectants could potentially combat the coronavirus, President Trump had sunk to one of his lowest points in recent months last week. And he directed his anger toward the one area that is most important to him: his re-election prospects.
Mr. Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the exchange, erupted during a phone call with his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, two days after he was presented with polling data from his campaign and the Republican National Committee that showed him trailing Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, in several crucial states.
Reality can be such a bother, and this more than bothered Trump:
He lashed out at Mr. Parscale and said it was other people’s fault that there had been fluctuations in a race they had all seen as his to lose just two months ago. At one point, Mr. Trump said he would not lose to Mr. Biden, insisted the data was wrong and blamed the campaign manager for the fact that he is down in the polls, according to one of the people familiar with the conversation. Mr. Trump even made a threat to sue Mr. Parscale, mentioning the money he has made while working for the president, another person familiar with the call said, although the threat did not appear to be serious.
“I love you, too,” Mr. Parscale replied, according to the people briefed on the call.
It’s easy enough to imagine what Trump shouted out – I made you rich and you give me these numbers, and you say they’re real? I want my money back, damn it! I’ll sue you and get my money back – and more! I’ll ruin you!
Those might not be Trump’s exact words but he was upset:
The lack of easy options to reset his political trajectory has been deeply unsettling to Mr. Trump, who began the year confident about his re-election prospects because of a thriving economy, but whose performance on the virus has Republicans nervous about losing the White House and the Senate in November.
In the phone call last week, for instance, Mr. Trump demanded to know how it was possible that a campaign that had been projecting strength and invincibility for two years was polling behind a candidate he viewed as extremely weak and, at the moment, largely invisible from daily news coverage.
Never ask a question when you really don’t want the answer:
The answer, according to nearly a dozen people inside and outside the White House, lies in factors both beyond the president’s control, such as the economic downturn and the spread of the new form of coronavirus – as well as those in his control, namely, his playing down of the coronavirus over several weeks followed by his own performance at the briefing room podium.
Instead of calming the country or presenting a clear plan of action on testing, Mr. Trump has spent the majority of his time during the briefings nursing his grievances with Democrats and with members of the news media. His own advisers have pleaded with him to curtail the appearances, telling him that they hurt him more than help him.
At one particularly bad outing last week, a day before Mr. Trump screamed at Mr. Parscale, the president mused about the possibility of injecting disinfectants into people’s bodies to wipe out the virus, prompting responses ranging from outrage to mockery.
How was it possible that a campaign that had been projecting strength and invincibility was now being mercilessly mocked? That shouldn’t be, except that there is reality:
Mr. Trump’s firm belief that the daily news conferences have been helpful to him is not backed up in the polls.
“What we’re seeing in polls is that Trump’s personal ratings have gone down even more than his job approval ratings,” said Geoff Garin, a veteran Democratic pollster. “And what that tells me is that all of Trump’s antics are taking a toll on his vote because now more than ever people see his lack of judgment and lack of temperament as being consequential.”
The only thing to do now was to cheer him up:
In an effort to buoy his spirits, some Trump advisers have flagged for him surveys that are rosier than most Republican internal polling, including a recent CNBC poll that showed him virtually tied with Mr. Biden in six battleground states, including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They said they viewed that as a positive sign given how hard life has been for most Americans confined to their homes over the past month and suffering economically.
But that poll was more favorable than other recent surveys. A Quinnipiac University poll last week, for instance, showed Mr. Biden ahead in Florida, 46 to 42 percent. And a recent Fox News poll found Mr. Biden leading Mr. Trump, 49 to 41 percent, in Michigan.
Oops, but there was this:
On Tuesday, Mr. Parscale, who had not seen Mr. Trump in person in a month, flew to Washington from Florida to pay an in-person visit to the president, according to three people familiar with the meeting, and they patched up the dispute. Mr. Parscale showed Mr. Trump new campaign polling data in which the president’s standing had climbed, according to a person familiar with the visit.
He may have lied, but it’s best to humor this man:
For now, Mr. Trump’s campaign is not airing television ads, the only kind the president cares about. The president nixed a series of ads the campaign was set to air that tried to portray Mr. Biden as close to China; one adviser said this was because Mr. Trump thinks it is too early for such a tough blow.
Another adviser said the concern was more basic: Mr. Trump did not like the visuals in the ads, which featured images of Mr. Biden when he was younger.
Donald Trump is spooked, and then he gave an exclusive interview to Reuters:
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he believes China’s handling of the coronavirus is proof that Beijing “will do anything they can” to make him lose his re-election bid in November.
In an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office, Trump talked tough on China and said he was looking at different options in terms of consequences for Beijing over the virus. “I can do a lot,” he said.
He’ll get them before they get him? That seems to be the general idea:
The Republican president, often accused of not acting early enough to prepare the United States for the spread of the virus, said he believed China should have been more active in letting the world know about the coronavirus much sooner.
Asked whether he was considering the use of tariffs or even debt write-offs for China, Trump would not offer specifics. “There are many things I can do,” he said. “We’re looking for what happened.”
But he has to do something:
“China will do anything they can to have me lose this race,” said Trump. He said he believes Beijing wants his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, to win the race to ease the pressure Trump has placed on China over trade and other issues.
He hit them with big tariffs on what they sell here and they want revenge. So they started a worldwide pandemic that will kill millions in every country in the world, to make HIM look bad and get Biden into the Oval Office now. Trump says they hate him. This pandemic that will kill millions in every country in the world was designed to make Donald Trump look bad. That’s all. Trump hints seems to imply such things. It’s as simple as that.
But nothing is simple:
Trump and his top aides, while stepping up their anti-China rhetoric, have stopped short of directly criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping, who the U.S. president has repeatedly called his “friend.”
Trump also said South Korea has agreed to pay the United States more money for a defense cooperation agreement but would not be drawn out on how much.
“We can make a deal. They want to make a deal,” Trump said. “They’ve agreed to pay a lot of money. They’re paying a lot more money than they did when I got here” in January 2017.
This is about making money. South Korea will pay big bucks now, or else he’ll hand over South Korea to the Kim guy he admires so much, as a gift, and as a warning to our allies. Pay up or die! And now America will make a profit! Everywhere!
But there is reality:
Trump sounded wistful about the strong economy that he had enjoyed compared with now, when millions of people have lost their jobs and GDP is faltering.
“We were rocking before this happened. We had the greatest economy in history,” he said.
Sad… but there are things better than reality:
At the end of the half-hour interview, Trump offered lighthearted remarks about a newly released Navy video purportedly showing an unidentified flying object.
“I just wonder if it’s real,” he said. “That’s a hell of a video.”
Yes, he does wonder about reality:
There’s “no way on Earth” the U.S. can test 5 million people a day for the coronavirus, the government’s top testing official said in an interview, just hours before President Donald Trump vowed that the country would be able to test that many people daily “very soon.”
“There is absolutely no way on Earth, on this planet or any other planet, that we can do 20 million tests a day, or even five million tests a day,” Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health who is in charge of the government’s testing response, told TIME in an interview he gave Tuesday morning that was published later in the evening. The interview took place before Trump’s eye-popping pledge about testing.
This is just one more problem with reality:
Speaking to reporters the following day, Trump denied having said there would be 5 million tests per day, but he added that he does believe there will, in fact, be 5 million tests per day at some point.
“Somebody came out with a study of 5 million people. Do I think we will? I think we will, but I never said it,” Trump claimed during an event at the White House. “Somebody started throwing around 5 million. I didn’t say 5 million,” the president insisted, adding, “Well, we will be there. But I didn’t say it. I didn’t say it.”
He did say it of course, pretty much, less than twenty-four hours earlier. Oh well. The president and those who work for him do seem to believe that if they simply repeat over and over again that everything is going great, the public will believe it. They will, until they don’t. That might be right about now, and by July the country will be really rocking again – just not in the way Jared Kushner imagined.