Rabu, 22 Juli 2020

US election: Welcome to the transformation of Trump - The Australian

Donald Trump in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Picture: AFP
Donald Trump in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Picture: AFP

Donald Trump knows he needs to do something different if he wants to remain in the hunt for a second term in the White House.

With the coronavirus raging across the US, the country in recession and his popularity tumbling in the polls, there seems little choice for the President but to try to switch gears.

Yet few people were expecting the transformation they saw in the White House briefing room on Wednesday (AEST) as a very different US President turned up to deliver his first coronavirus briefing in months.

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Gone was the previous incarnation of the rambling, angry leader who littered his corona­virus briefings with statistical lies, dubious cures and political vendettas. Faced with sliding polls in which two in three voters dis­approve of his handling of the pandemic, Trump abruptly changed course and, well, behaved at last like a president.

In sober and measured tones, he spoke about how his administration was seeking to tackle the crisis, including the steep spike in new cases in the south and west of the country.

Rather than keep pretending the world’s superpower was doing great, he conceded it was likely to get worse before it improved.

“It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better,” he said. “Something I don’t like saying about things, but that’s the way it is.”

The virus breakout in states such as Florida, which records more than 10,000 new infections a day, was no longer just a case of “burning embers” as he had previously said. Florida, he conceded, was in a “big tough” position.

So was Texas.

The country, he warned, was facing a “great national trial unlike any it has faced before” as the death toll exceeds 140,000.

Rather than portray face masks as a sign of weakness or a Republican-Democrat divide, Trump called for all Americans to wear them when they could not socially distance. He even called it patriotic to wear a mask.

“We’re asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask, get a mask,” Trump said. “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact, they’ll have an effect, and we’ll need everything we can get.”

Trump resumed his corona­virus briefings after a two-month hiatus when his advisers warned him he was getting blamed for not showing enough leadership in the pandemic.

He has prioritised reopening the US economy over fighting the virus but polls show most Americans are more worried about the virus than the stalled economy.

So he called on young Americans, who have helped fuel outbreaks in southern states by partying, to be more careful and not to crowd together in bars or other social situations.

He even showed a little empathy by thanking frontline responders for their courage and mourning those who had died. “We mourn every precious life that’s been lost,” Trump said.

“I pledge in their honour that we will develop a vaccine.”

Trump said his administration was working to address the growing turnaround time for test results, and then, remarkably, conceded he would throw more resources at testing if that was the call of his health advisers.

“If the doctors feel they should do more … I’m OK with it,” said Trump who had blamed widespread testing for inflating the number of coronavirus cases.

Trump did not use the briefing as an excuse to deflect blame and make partisan attacks on his political opponents for their handling of the pandemic. Nor did he veer from the script nor did he undermine his message by attacking the media. He did have one bad moment, in response to a question when he said “I wish her well” about Ghislaine Maxwell, accused of luring under-aged women for Jeffrey Epstein.

With that exception, the world saw a disciplined, focused Donald Trump for once. His message was much more effective as a result.

Cameron Stewart is also US contributor for Sky News Australia

Washington Correspondent

Cameron Stewart has been The Australian’s Washington Correspondent covering North America since early 2017. This is his second US posting, having previously been The Australian’s New York correspondent the lat...

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2020-07-22 12:01:00Z

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