In the last few minutes, The Washington Post reported a second coronavirus case of unknown origins. CNN just identified a third case of unknown origins. There are now sixty-four entire cases in the United States.
Earlier today, we learned that the Trump administration will not permit Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to appear on five Sunday morning news shows.
Conservative media is doing its best to shape the political narrative. Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity of Fox News are claiming that the Democrats are trying to weaponize the coronavirus in an election year. Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is telling his audience that the coronavirus is “the common cold.”
Medical and scientific experts are needed to diagnose, stop the spread, and find a vaccine for the coronavirus. But populists do not trust experts or intellectuals. Populism is Trump’s political brand. This is a problem.
Not all conservatives run with the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh crowd. Wall Street Journal columnist and former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan writes in her recent column: “If coronavirus becomes a formally recognized world-wide pandemic, and if it hits America hard, it is going to change a lot—the national mood, our cultural habits, the economy.” Here is another taste:
In a public-health crisis the role of government is key. The question will be—the question is—are the president and his administration up to it?
Our scientists and health professionals are. (I think people see Tony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health as the de facto president on this.) Is Donald Trump? Or has he finally met a problem he can’t talk his way out of? I have written in the past questioning whether he can lead and reassure the nation in a time of crisis. We are about to find out.
Leaders in crises function as many things. They are primary givers of information, so they have to know the facts. They have to be serious: They must master the data. Are they managerially competent? Most of all, are they trustworthy and credible?
Or do people get the sense they’re spinning, finagling, covering up failures and shading the facts?
It is in crisis that you see the difference between showmanship and leadership.
Early signs are not encouraging. The messaging early this week was childish—everything’s under control, everything’s fine. The president’s news conference Wednesday night was not reassuring. Stock market down? “I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democratic candidates standing on that stage making fools out of themselves.” “The risk to the American people remains very low.” “Whatever happens we’re totally prepared.” “There’s no reason to panic, because we have done so good.”
It was inadequate to the task.
Read the entire piece here.