Donald Trump appears ready to put the nation at risk to the coronavirus pandemic to restart the economy, and hopefully spark a stock market rebound that will save his battered presidency.
Only three months ago, Trump was riding high on a strong economy and record stock market gains, which had become the cornerstone of his re-election efforts.
After dissembling and dawdling for 12 weeks, too spooked to take strong action to curb the COVID-19 virus, the economy is in a virtual shut-down and the stock market has given up all of the gains made during his administration.
Against that backdrop, Trump appeared to make a momentous decision Sunday night (Mar. 22), prompted by a Fox News commentator’s remarks. In a late night epiphany he tweeted in all caps:
WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!
Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, argued the same point on Monday talk shows.
“The president is right,” he said on Fox News. “The cure can’t be worse than the disease, and we’re going to have to make some difficult trade-offs.”
“At some point, you have to ask yourself whether the shutdown is doing more harm than good,” he said later on CNBC.
Suddenly, the same refrain was echoing across Fox News and other right-wing media.
Fox News’s Laura Ingraham, for example, dismissed the opinions of medical professionals on how to handle the virus.
“Doctors provide medical treatment and cures—they should not be the determinative voices in policy making now or at the end of 15 days,” she wrote.
Dan Patrick, the Republican Lt. Gov. of Texas even went so far as to suggest that grandparents should be willing to die from the virus “to save the economy for their grandchildren.”
“So you’re basically saying this disease could take your life, but that’s not the scariest thing to you,” said Fox News talking head Tucker Carlson.
Patrick said his spirit was lifted when Trump signaled that it was possible to fight the virus while sending everyone back to work. His remarks prompted a social media fire storm.
“How did we get to this point? I mean some lunatic who is Lt Governor of Texas is actually suggesting the elderly kill themselves so Trump can brag about the economy and get reelected. I have no words. Just pure anger at how far these people are willing to go,” wrote on commenter on Twitter.
Oddly, only last Monday (Mar. 16), Trump suggested stricter guidelines than most states when he told Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and to stay away from various public places for at least the next 15 days through Mar. 30.
Then, the president suddenly suggested during a news conference today (Mar. 23) that he might lift restrictions to boost the flagging economy.
“America will again and soon be open for business — very soon,” Trump said at the briefing. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”
Such a move would defy public health experts, who have warned that even tighter restrictions may be necessary to curb the virus’s spread.
The President’s infectious disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci, and other medical experts have said restaurants, bars, schools, offices and other gathering places should remain closed for many more weeks to mitigate the outbreak.
Conditions are expected to get worse before they get better in the United States.
It wasn’t lost on critics that Trump’s declaration came after six of the Trump Organization’s top seven revenue-producing clubs and hotels had been shuttered because of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
During the news conference, Trump also continued to push the view that chloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria, was also a potential cure for coronavirus, even though no scientific evidence supports that view at the present time.
Trump has repeatedly said he thinks chloroquine combined with hydroxychloroquine, an antibotic, should be deployed quickly against the coronavirus, even without proof that it works. Side effects include heart and nerve damage and suicidal thoughts.
Then came reports today that an Arizona man died after ingesting chloroquine phosphate — a fish tank cleaner—believing it would protect him from becoming infected with the coronavirus.
The man’s wife also ingested the substance and is under critical care, according to NBCNews.
The man’s wife told NBCNews she’d watched televised briefings where Trump talked about the potential benefits of chloroquine.
No drugs have currently been approved to prevent or treat the new coronavirus, according to medical experts.
The number of cases nationwide continues to rise. More than 100 deaths from the novel coronavirus were reported Monday (Mar. 23), pushing the country’s total death toll past 500 and marking the first time single-day fatalities have risen into the triple-digits since the pandemic reached U.S. soil, according to The Washington Post.
Check out the president’s news conference below.