What on earth is the president doing? One possibility is that he’s not really serious about lifting the restrictions, and is just blowing hot air to make sure the stock markets don’t get scared downward any further. Trump is known for his short-term thinking, responding to even complex issues with improvised day-to-day or minute-by-minute antics. Maybe that’s what’s happening here, too.
But maybe he’s serious. If so, here’s a modest proposal: As an example to his followers, Trump and his entire White House team can go first.
To really boost confidence, Trump could go big and bold, temporarily relocating White House operations and personnel to the hottest coronavirus spot in the country, New York City, and relax restrictions in a place where all can see. He could move his Resolute desk into his Trump Tower office and could instruct his White House staff to take the elevator down at lunchtime to patronize food carts and restaurants, take the subway and buses to work, and play pick-up games of basketball.
To further demonstrate his sincerity, Trump should also order his entire family to break out of their life-support cocoons to take jobs as cashiers, deliverymen, nursing home janitors, bus drivers, EMT assistants and other positions that require regular contact with potentially infected people.
Of course, Trump won’t do any such thing. He’s a germaphobe whose prize possession is his family. But his love of family makes it fair to ask why he seems so eager to sacrifice other people’s families while offering no corresponding sacrifice of his own. (Is he really advocating getting-coronavirus-to-own-the libs?)
There’s also something exploitative about how he has relied on his loyal followers at Fox News Channel to downplay the danger of the coronavirus outbreak. Fox, whose virus commentaries were cavalier until recent days, obviously knew better weeks ago. Even as Fox anchors were dismissing the virus as an unnecessary panic, the people who own and control the network were acting differently. As the New York Times columnist Ben Smith reported Tuesday, the big 89th birthday party planned for Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch was canceled on March 8 because such a large gathering posed a threat to his health.
To be fair to Trump, he isn’t the only one talking about lifting restrictions. America’s shadow president, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who, unlike Trump, has been serving accurate medical information in his pressers, likewise conceded on Monday that the economy can’t remain on shutdown forever. But heeding scientific advice instead of rejecting, Cuomo doesn’t anticipate opening the window for many weeks or months, favoring the “surgical” approach of restarting parts of the economy in stages while protecting the vulnerable.
If Trump were to conduct a coronavirus experiment on himself, he wouldn’t be the first medical thinker to expose himself to danger to prove a theory. There’s a long tradition of self-experimentation by doctors and researchers who have made themselves guinea pigs. If Trump is as medically savvy as he claimed to be while touring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta earlier this month—“I like this stuff. I really get it,” he said—and it’s as epidemiologically sound as he makes it out to be to abandon the current restrictions, Trump can show us the way. All we should request in return is his promise to refuse a ventilatior should he get sick enough to need one.
Your move, Mr. President.
I made a home ventilator out of a Mighty Mite vacuum cleaner and a long length of garden hose. Send your disaster blueprints to [email protected]. My email alerts tried to kill my Twitter feed for drinking the last beer in the refrigerator. My RSS feed promises all who subscribe to it everlasting life.