By David L. Phillips
President Donald J. Trump addressed the American people from the Oval Office amidst widening fears of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on March 11. It was a prime time opportunity for Trump to offer assurance and provide policy direction. He failed.
The American people expect their President to inspire confidence in times of crisis. Trump spoke for 11 minutes, unnerving his audience and rattling markets.
Though Trump used a teleprompter, he could barely read the speech. His message was muddled and confused, incoherent at times.
Blaming others for the “alien virus”, he announced a travel and trade ban on Europe. The policy was so inchoate, the administration quickly issued retractions and clarifications. Only travel, not trade is restricted. US citizens are exempt.
Rather than proactive about addressing the crisis, Trump was blame-shifting and self-congratulatory. He called COVID-19 a “hoax”, asserting that media coverage of the virus is part of a political conspiracy to destroy his presidency.