More than 1,500 people in the US died from the coronavirus on Monday, bringing America’s death toll to nearly 43,000, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker. But you wouldn’t know that from looking at President Donald Trump’s tweets Tuesday morning.
In a string of posts that began a bit after 6 am Eastern time, Trump lambasted MSNBC in particular, and the “Lamestream Media” in general, ghoulishly bragged about his “great ‘ratings’” during daily press briefings ostensibly about a pandemic, fudged polling numbers to inflate his popularity, and promised to bail out the US energy industry. To close out the morning, he retweeted posts from someone with the handle @SexCounseling.
The president’s only reference to the coronavirus was to brag in passing about the purportedly great job he’s doing handling it. He didn’t have a single word to say to Americans with loved ones who are ill or who have died, or who are worried about getting sick themselves.
Taken together, the tweets paint a picture of a president who’s obsessed with himself at a time when Americans are losing their jobs and lives. They illustrated that Trump is fixated on fighting his perceived political foes at a time when governors, even Republican ones, are becoming increasingly disillusioned about the federal coronavirus response — or lack thereof.
“I’ve had great ‘ratings’ my whole life, there’s nothing unusual about that for me”
Trump’s Tuesday morning tweets came hours after he abruptly announced he’s signing “an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States” because of unfounded worries that immigrants are coming to the country during a pandemic and taking the “jobs of our GREAT American Citizens.”
In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2020
But travel bans and closed consulates mean immigration is already at historic lows. Even if this wasn’t the case, the US has the most coronavirus cases in the world, and the job market is in ruins because a pandemic has shuttered many people inside their homes — not because of immigrants. So Trump’s immigration ban announcement was widely seen as an effort to toss some red meat to his base.
If that tweet indicated the president might be focused on the wrong things, Trump didn’t help matters when he followed that up by retweeting a string of posts from Fox News personality Gregg Jarrett attacking Hillary Clinton, as well as law enforcement and intelligence community officials involved in the Russia investigation.
Trump apparently kicked off his Tuesday by watching a bit of Morning Joe on MSNBC. The opening segment featured a discussion about how the federal government isn’t doing enough to develop a coronavirus testing capacity sufficient to safely reopen businesses and schools — a viewpoint widely shared by public health experts.
“Everybody has been talking about testing, Mr. President,” host Joe Scarborough said. “Until you get widespread testing, you can’t really reopen the government safely.”
Trump, however, didn’t appreciate the criticism and responded with an unhinged personal attack on Scarborough.
Watched the first 5 minutes of poorly rated Morning Psycho on MSDNC just to see if he is as “nuts” as people are saying. He’s worse. Such hatred and contempt! I used to do his show all the time before the 2016 election, then cut him off. Wasn’t worth the effort, his mind is shot!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2020
More than 20 minutes after posting that tweet, Trump was still stewing. He posted another bashing the media.
It is amazing that I became President of the United States with such a totally corrupt and dishonest Lamestream Media going after me all day, and all night. Either I’m really good, far better than the Fake News wants to admit, or they don’t have nearly the power as once thought!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2020
These attacks on the press come as Trump routinely lashes out at reporters who ask him straightforward questions about his own past statements during his nightly White House coronavirus briefings. Those briefings are ostensibly about the pandemic that has claimed tens of thousands of lives across the country, but Trump seems more concerned about how many people are tuning in to watch him.
As the news value of the briefings have diminished, CNN and MSNBC have increasingly cut away from live coverage of them to avoid giving Trump a platform to lie and try to pin blame on others. Nonetheless, on Tuesday morning the president tweeted, “I’ve had great ‘ratings’ my whole life, there’s nothing unusual about that for me. The White House News Conference ratings are “through the roof”(Monday Night Football, Bachelor Finale , @nytimes) but I don’t care about that. I care about going around the Fake News to the PEOPLE!”
I’ve had great “ratings” my whole life, there’s nothing unusual about that for me. The White House News Conference ratings are “through the roof”(Monday Night Football, Bachelor Finale , @nytimes) but I don’t care about that. I care about going around the Fake News to the PEOPLE!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2020
The president closed out this session of what his schedule usually refers to as “executive time” by seemingly making up a poll showing that his approval rating in the Republican Party is 96 percent — recent polls indicate his approval among Republicans is high but not that high — and then used that fabricated data point to make a case that “[t]his must also mean that, most importantly, we are doing a good (great) job in the handling of the Pandemic.”
96% Approval Rating in the Republican Party. Thank you! This must also mean that, most importantly, we are doing a good (great) job in the handling of the Pandemic.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2020
One would think, however, that the number of coronavirus cases and deaths would be a more appropriate metric to use to evaluate the president’s response to the crisis than polling numbers or television ratings.
The tweets are the presidency
Trump’s tweets are certainly not reflective of a well-adjusted adult operating with a basic sense of empathy for others. They’re ugly, and it’s tempting to ignore them. It’d be easier to do that if there was a presidency going on beyond the tweets. But in Trump’s case there really isn’t.
On Monday, Trump had nothing on his schedule other than the daily White House press briefing, which is more about ego-stoking and sparring with reporters than it is about conveying useful information to Americans. On Tuesday, Trump has nothing on his schedule other than a meeting with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the briefing. Television and Twitter appear to be taking up large swaths of his time. Essentially, the tweets are the presidency.
As the coronavirus crisis in the US continues into its second month, state governors have by and large figured out that Trump is of little use to them, and have starting working together — or even with foreign countries — to obtain coronavirus testing kits and other medical supplies. The president, meanwhile, sits in the White House and broods about his favorite topics — his own popularity and petty beefs.