By Erik Dolson
God, it pains me to say it.
The press is being unfair to Trump.
His missteps last Thursday at the coronavirus update were serious. Talking about using light on people to kill the virus in a minute, or wondering if there was some way disinfectant could be used internally to destroy the virus, was not his best moment.
But if I usually try to look at what Trump means, as opposed to what he says, I have to do the same here. In his own way, Trump was asking if these things might be possible, not advocating that people mainline Clorox or stand outside, mouths open, facing the sun.
Of course, it’s Trump, so he got in this trouble hoping to take credit if a cure was discovered that could even remotely be tied to his questions. Great leader stops the volcano!
It was only Trump’s fundamental inability to express himself clearly (reflecting education and mental ability) that made it seem like he might have been making a recommendation. Which makes it no less dangerous, just less stupid.
But Trump’s inability to acknowledge shortcomings or mistakes made the situation much worse the next day, when he claimed his comment was made sarcastically as a way to trap a hostile press. There’s a lot of video out there that shows this was clearly not the case.
Trump was caught in a trap of his own making: he said something kinda dumb, then obviously lied about it. At that point, he couldn’t explain away his earlier statements without being caught by the classic lawyer’s checkmate: Are you lying now, or were you lying then?
No wonder the press briefing the next day was so short.
Since then, the story that Trump was advising people to treat their insides with antiseptic has been elaborated on and joked about (this writer guilty). Which simply reenforces the idea on the right that the Left is incapable of being fair to Trump.
The episode has deeper meaning, however. It is not just that those believing every Word of Trump is Gospel are put in danger by his inability to recognize that the office of President of the United States is an obligation greater than Trump. What the country needs right now is a leader to inspire during a true crisis that affects us all, to unite us, to bring out the best in us, to create a plan of action based on sound professional advice.
But since the coronavirus crisis struck, Trump has shown over and over again he is not that man.
Everything coming out of his mouth has been intended to serve his ego and preserve his power. From dismissing the virus as one person coming in from China, to blaming China and the World Health Organization for not giving him information he already had, to blaming impeachment as a distraction, to saying an obviously bungled program to test and provide protective gear was not his doing, to saying he was in control of virus strategy and then saying instead it was up to governors, and then undercutting governor’s orders, Trump has proven that a presidency founded on serving his interests fails when we need leadership the most.
So the press should lay off on the light / antiseptic miscommunication of last Thursday, and give the man a break. We all make mistakes when speaking, and there was a lot of pressure to seem like he was in command. Instead, we should focus on the real issue: Trump is simply unfit for the office.