Truth is what wins out always and the credibility in the time of crisis is the most valuable thing a public official owns.

First published in March 2020.

It’s tradition that when in the midst of a crisis – war, famine, pandemic – one holds back on any criticism of the President to allow good vibes and for him to lead us out of the problem.

President Trump doesn’t observe such traditions – as he points fingers at the “Chinese virus,” as he repeatedly exaggerates and lies during briefings which are supposed to help calm the populace.

He actually squandered the right to a “criticism recess,” during his first three and a half years as President. That’s when a President is supposed to be earning credibility so he has it – just for this purpose!

We need to believe someone and the President should be that someone. We are not facing a political issue. We are in the middle of a pandemic.

The brief respite, at Monday’s news briefing, threw everyone off their seats as he appeared to be the calm, responsive President we all need in this time of anxiety, uncertainty and fear.

That lasted a day.

He is back to exaggerating, lying and more. And he adds to the anxiety we all are feeling.

You may have noticed that the last few days neither Anthony Fauci, the world’s leading expert on infectious diseases, and the head of the Center for Disease Control have been absent from the daily briefings.

Why have they been missing? I don’t know but I think a possibility is that they know they’d have to, in real time, correct the President and the President doesn’t like being corrected. So he excluded them. I am totally guessing on that. Or as the President would say, “That’s why they haven’t been here and then again, maybe not.”

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, addresses his remarks at a coronavirus update briefing Monday, March 16, 2020. / Flickr - The White House

Thursday, Trump glowingly announced a new drug was developed and approved at record speed by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that could significantly help us face down this pandemic. The truth? The opposite, which was diplomatically explained literally a minute later, when the FDA head talked right after the president and explained the drug at issue was developed and is in use for another disease (malaria) but seems to be able to help coronavirus victims. So, despite the president saying it was available by prescription, it isn’t for coronavirus because it’s still being tested for that use to make sure it doesn’t do more harm than good. That is what the FDA does, makes sure drugs are safe and do good, not harm.

Repeat: The President of the United States proclaimed a new drug had been approved by the FDA that can significantly help fight this pandemic. Of course then he added, “and maybe not.” Thus, he can later say he did not lie. But he did carnival bark (a new phrase I just coined, or maybe not).

The President is better off standing to the side because then he can bathe in the praise from his loyal Vice President who precedes every step of progress with “as the President directed,” “as the President instructed,” and “thanks to the President’s great leadership.’

If you think Donald Trump is sitting in meetings coming up with ideas on this pandemic and directing their implementation in this crisis — well, MAGA to you.

If you watch the President closely in those briefings you can see his eyes darting to the press as accolades are piled on him by his minions to try to spot them admiringly looking at him. Or, you can believe the President when he says, as he did Thursday, “And you know what? Someday, hopefully in five years, I won’t be here and that will be fine. I will have done, I think, a great job.” Etc. Etc. and thank you Lord Trump.

Most of those people standing behind Trump at the briefings, especially Fauci when he attends and Dr. Deborah Birx – they are smart, experienced and straight talkers. Let them talk, Mr. President. You’ll get more credit. And, the country will be better informed.

Maybe when the President calls it the “Chinese Virus” he isn’t being racist. But he is being Donald Trump who brands everything and everybody for his own political purposes (right, Sleepy Joe? Crazy Hillary?). This isn’t the time for branding, boasting or exaggeration.


That reporter he called on from One America News? She asked whether “Chinese food” was a racist phrase because Trump he is called by some racist for using “Chinese virus?” That little disgusting episode, where Trump took off on the media, was like Khrushchev calling on Pravda to ask a question. “You’ll remember, sir, we went over this question and answer before? And if we didn’t, make it up. It’s cool.”

Those Navy medical ships he ordered to New York and California to help out? One is in for repairs, and has been. Both need to be outfitted for this purpose and it takes some days to get the ships to their destinations. They aren’t “on their way,” Mr. President. Those cruise ships the owner volunteered? They are cruise ships, not hospital ships and, too, need to be outfitted and staffed by medical professionals, who are falling into short supply.

And outfitting them? That means hospital masks and gowns that hospitals are pleading for even now. That defense emergency bill the President invoked but said he hasn’t used yet and governors should be ordering the supplies themselves?? The governor of Massachusetts told the President that each time his people call to order something, they run in to federal orders ahead and get stalled. Which is it?

Remember when the Administration said one million tests would be available in days and four million the following week? Where are they?

The President is berating the press because he feels he doesn’t get enough credit for, months ago, closing our border to Chinese travelers because of the flu. He says it would be “much worse” if he hadn’t done that. Well, Mr. President this is getting much worse and thanks for blocking the Chinese a few months ago it did help. It didn’t stop it, though. There is much more to be done.

And as for your “knowing” it was a pandemic before it was proclaimed a pandemic by the World Health Organization? There are no words except BS to respond to that.

The media makes mistakes, no doubt about. But the mainstream media does not make mistakes on purpose. The President flat out lies. Even now. When people are dying.

When I worked in the White House press shop my boss told his staff regularly, “if the Washington Post is saying it happened, believe it. Even if our own people are denying it.”

Truth is what wins out always and the credibility in the time of crisis is the most valuable thing a public official owns.

Unfortunately, our President is bankrupt on both counts.🔷

[This piece was originally published on The Screaming Moderate and re-published in PMP Magazine on 24 March 2020, with the author’s consent. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Flickr/The White House/Tia Dufour. - President Trump, joined by members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. | 22 Mar 2020. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)