Just to be clear, this is a dispatch from la-la land, if for no other reason than all the working parents facing reality across the country who are straining to do right by their kids while the federal government barely lifts a finger to facilitate safe learning environments. When Trump lamented the state of school and business reopenings Wednesday, saying, “We can do better,” he wasn’t talking about himself or his administration. “We got to open up. We got to open up our schools and open up our businesses,” he urged. And yet, Trump and his chief of staff were uniquely responsible for blowing up the relief bill negotiations that included north of $100 billion in school aid. Trump supposedly plans to send 125 million masks to school districts (we’ll believe that when we see it), but he isn’t mandating mask-wearing for students or teachers, and the guidelines the White House sent out were so vague, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called them “almost comical in their lack of detail and rigor.”
Almost. But not nearly as comical as the White House feeling good about their positioning headed into the campaign’s final months, which are also promising to be another grueling season of the nation’s discontent.
“Trump aides are growing confident about what they see as measurable progress: new therapeutic measures, delivery of health recommendations tailored to individual states, extensive support for vaccine development and steps to ensure hospitals have enough protective equipment and ventilators,” writes Politico. Trump aides are also giddy that Trump occasionally wears a mask these days and has resumed the task force briefings in which he sidelined all the experts who weren’t saying what he wanted them to say.
“A key goal is to demonstrate they’re once again on top of Americans’ No. 1 concern,” writes Politico.
Gosh, nailing it. Except Trump’s been wrong about every single thing he’s said and done related to the virus. It didn’t “go away” in the spring or summer like he said it would. Testing didn’t get better by any measure that matters, as was obvious by the nation’s surging case counts over much of the summer. State economies haven’t taken off “like a rocket ship.” School reopenings have gone disastrously bad, so far, with many being forced to close almost immediately due to coronavirus outbreaks. And Trump’s unending incompetence has convinced many, if not most, of the nation’s school systems to start the school year remotely. Some estimates say at least half of the nation’s kids will spend much or all of the fall in virtual classrooms, according to The New York Times.
In other words, the nation is in tatters right now, even as other industrialized countries have reopened their economies and their school systems with many notable success stories and some setbacks.
But no comparable industrialized nation has mishandled the pandemic from front to back as badly as the Trump administration has in the U.S. So the West Wing’s notion that things are relatively copacetic and they’ve gotten a sense of how to combat the virus is simply stunning.
“I would say that they are comparing things to where they were previously,” one senior Republican said of the White House. “When you compare a disaster to an outright disaster, the disaster does not seem so bad.”
In essence, our fall disaster isn’t nearly as bad as our spring disaster was. Now there’s a campaign slogan for the ages. Unfortunately, we don’t even know how bad the administration’s fall disaster will be yet. But Trump’s White House is always keen on declaring victory before the results are in, just like when keeping the number of deaths to 65,000 was going to be a huge win—100,000 deaths ago.
But precisely because Trump spent the summer pushing for reopenings without laying any of the groundwork to do so, “the fall could be incredibly gruesome,” notes Yale School of Medicine epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves. In fact, the nation is headed into a potentially perilous stretch of months in no better position than it was in June.
“I don’t feel like they kind of know what ‘under control’ would look like,” the GOP official close to the White House told Politico. “I don’t feel like even they know what the goal is.”
The goal is to get Trump reelected at any and all costs to America, and they’re very much on track to accomplish at least one of those two things.