Late Wednesday, President Donald Trump sent global markets reeling with an announcement of a ban on the majority of travel from dozens of European countries in what was billed as an effort to stem the spread of the Coronavirus. According to a new recap from Bloomberg News of the situation leading up to that announcement, Trump only agreed to the travel ban within the last hours before he delivered his Oval Office address, following a day of tense meetings between officials with opinions both for and against the plan. According to Bloomberg, in the tense and chaotic final moments before the eventual speech — Trump and his aide Stephen Miller apparently deleted well wishes for “prayers and love” for those infected.
It’s unclear why, but Bloomberg reports:
‘The hastily drafted 10-minute speech had undergone last-minute edits from the president and one of his senior advisers, Stephen Miller, after other aides had left the room… Among the changes they made: deleting a sentence where Trump said he and Melania were sending their prayers and love to people suffering from the illness.’
Perhaps they slashed the line because of Trump’s long-documented attempt to downplay the effects of the illness in order to try and avoid making himself look too bad.
On Twitter recently, he even derided the idea that dozens of deaths from the Coronavirus in the United States were anything to worry about at all, although of course, one might hope that a U.S. president feels that even one preventable death in the U.S. is too many. Apparently Trump isn’t fazed.
‘So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!’
So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020
In the time since that tweet, the number of deaths has about doubled and the number of cases has about tripled. But the exact numbers don’t change the underlying reality that in the midst of a crisis, what’s Trump doing? He’s downplaying the effects of a deadly virus to the point of — apparently — deleting well wishes for victims from an Oval Office speech.
The speech was marked by other problems. Trump indicated both that all passenger travel would be blocked from Europe and that trade would also be affected, but neither of those things are true. (U.S. citizens can return to the U.S. freely, and cargo and trade are not affected.) According to Bloomberg, “medical experts” on Trump’s team were behind the ban, while figures like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow opposed the idea on the basis of potential economic repercussions. They were — for once — on the right track, because the next day, the stock market value plummeted in the worst single day drop since 1987.
Bloomberg notes that “aides now see this moment as the most crucial of Trump’s presidency, the time when voters will decide whether he deserves re-election,” and if so, he’s not on a great track — one recent poll showed a solid majority of voters actively disapproving of Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus situation.