That’ll teach us.
Frustrated that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper wouldn’t guarantee him a packed house in Charlotte amid a raging pandemic, President Trump huffed and puffed and took the Republican National Convention to Florida.
How’d that work out?
Trump last week announced that the event had been canceled in Jacksonville, whose Republican mayor had pitched aggressively for the convention. “We won’t do a big, crowded convention, per se — it’s not the right time for that,” Trump explained.
But it hadn’t been “the right time” in Charlotte, either. Having a capacity crowd in an indoor area with no plans for masks or social distancing was as reckless when Gov. Cooper first defied it as it is now.
What has changed is that Florida has become a simmering hot spot for COVID-19. Nearly 5,800 Floridians have died from the virus. As of last week, one out of every 52 residents in the state had been infected with the virus. Some prominent Republicans said they wouldn’t attend. Donors were antsy. And a group of businesses in Jacksonville had sued to block the convention.
“This is great news for our city,” said the group’s attorney, W.C. Gentry, a Republican. “It would have created the largest super-spreader event in history.”
The president said public safety had concerned him all along. But it didn’t seem to be much of a priority when Trump was haranguing Cooper for daring to suggest that an arena filled with 18,000 people, not socially distancing, wasn’t a good idea.
Now the Trump Train has careened into a wall of reality. A drastically scaled-back, one-day convention will happen after all in Charlotte on Aug. 24 with Trump not expected to attend.
As for whether more measured rhetoric from the president in recent days signals a shift in his approach to the pandemic, those messages remain mixed and often ambiguous.
For instance, the president has resumed regular briefings about the coronavirus. But without health experts.
The president (finally) has endorsed wearing masks, but still rarely wears one in public, even as National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has tested positive for the virus. Among others who have tested positive: Kimberly Guilfoyle, the girlfriend of one of the president’s sons and a top campaign fundraiser, several Secret Service agents and campaign staffers, the vice president’s communications aide and one of the president’s personal valets.
Trump also has backtracked slightly on his demands that schools reopen in person by saying schools in virus hot spots should delay in-person instruction — but he wants federal assistance in those cases to go directly to parents who may want to send their children to private or charter schools. As if that makes anyone safer.
And the president still meanders into misleading and inaccurate comments with no experts on hand to correct him or clarify — or at least to cover their faces with their hands. For instance, Trump said during a briefing last week that children don’t transmit the virus easily, but a recent study in South Korea found that children between the ages of 10 and 19 transmit the virus just as easily as adults.
On July 19, Trump repeated his claim that the virus “is going to disappear” and continues to insist, erroneously, that more testing accounts for the national surge in infections.
Bottom line: Trump’s transformation seems more show than substance.
As for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the first-term Republican had been cavalier about the threat of the virus, largely ignoring health experts.
Closer to home, Cooper isn’t out of the woods yet, either.
But his judgment has been sound and he has given it to us straight about the challenges ahead, even when the news is bad.
Is that too much to expect from any of our leaders?
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