With 23,000 Americans dead and millions without a paycheck, President Donald Trump dimmed the lights in the White House briefing room, fired up a misleading propaganda video and boiled over.
In one of the most unchained presidential tantrums ever captured on television, Trump’s Monday display flouted every notion of calm leadership by the commander in chief in a crisis.
He claimed powers never envisioned by the Constitution and insisted his “authority is total” to order states and cities to get moving again to break out of the frozen economy. His warning came as two blocs of Eastern and Western hot-spot states banded together in an implied challenge to his vow to get people back to work soon, setting off a brewing confrontation over the power of the federal government.
During the news conference, Trump moaned that the press was not giving him credit because “everything we did was right” in the coronavirus pandemic.
Raging at reporters, the President used the campaign-style video to mislead the nation about his sluggish recognition of the threat from the virus, after once predicting a “miracle” that would make it go away. He called up his top medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, to publicly repudiate his own words Sunday on CNN, which had been interpreted as criticism of early administration actions.
When the Category Five presidential storm had blown out, Trump had offered no new guidance on the key issues — for instance, the continued inadequacy of testing, which will hamper the nation’s economic opening. He vowed that the economy would fire up “ahead of schedule” but did not explain how, when many states are at or are approaching their peak infection rates. And he appeared to warn he would try to force open state economies, including shops, schools and restaurants closed by governors and mayors. He did not explain, either, how he would convince the public to get back to normal if people did not feel confident they were safe.
“The President of the United States calls the shots,” Trump said.