President Trump frequently downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, then reversed course, and is now downplaying it again as he seeks to reopen parts of a battered economy. But one constant throughout the outbreak has been this: Self-congratulation and blame-shifting.
Trump is consumed with making sure everyone knows how tremendously successful he has been, how bad the things he inherited were, and how grim news is not his fault. He recently gave himself a perfect 10 out of 10 for his coronavirus response, and he has said “I don’t take responsibility at all” for testing failures. He has also said the buck stops with him “normally,” but that he was dealt a bad hand.
And this focus on credit and blame was particularly pronounced during Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing.
“It’s been incredible how we’ve done,” Trump said of testing. He would go on to say no fewer than five times that the United States has tested more people than South Korea and/or any other country, which ignores early failures and plenty of nuance like population size.
“We’ve done one hell of a job; nobody’s done the job that we’ve done,” Trump said.
Self congratulation, a feature of the daily coronavirus news conferences at the White House, is especially pronounced today — even as death toll rises, unemployment surges, hospitals are overwhelmed, and state and local leaders warn of worse to come over not weeks but months.
“It’s hard not to be happy with the job we’re doing; that I can tell you,” he said after claiming New York’s governor and New York City’s mayor were happy with the number of ventilators they’ve received, despite them asking for many more.
“We’ve come a long way from an obsolete, broken system that I inherited,” he said at another point.
“We’re the ones that gave the great response, and we’re the ones that kept China out of here, and if I didn’t do it, you’d have thousands and thousands of people died — who would have died that are now living and happy,” he added, pointing to his favorite example of the alleged success of his response: travel restrictions from China.
In all, I counted well more than two dozen instances at Wednesday’s briefing in which Trump hailed the success of the coronavirus response or pointed to the obstacles he has faced. These passages constituted about 25 percent of every word Trump spoke — more than 1,500 words out of about 6,000 spoken. That’s more time than he spent conveying details about the coronavirus response.
In many other instances, he downplayed the threat of the virus or optimistically wagered that we’re winning or will win the battle in relatively short order.
Here’s a key for the transcript below:
This is an inherently subjective exercise, and what one person sees as self-congratulation (in green) may be viewed differently by another. There is also something to be said for encouraging the country and being optimistic, but I tried to highlight passages (in yellow) in which Trump put a significantly rosier spin on things than health officials and suggested we can reopen the economy in short order.
As for the actual information (in blue), I tried to focus on things that offered important details about the response and Trump’s plans without spinning them in one direction or another.
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