Hail to the Chief

Look and read, but please don’t tell. This is, believe it or not, a defence of US President Donald Trump as he stumbles, trips, and bluffs his way through the corona pandemic whilst its centre of gravity shifts towards the United States. It is easy, almost gratuitously so, to deride the present occupant of the White House: He regularly makes a right old fool of himself with outlandish performances, blessing the nation with his peculiar out-of-the-box thinking and novel approaches to virology and immunology.

If anything, President Trump is as much at a loss as everybody else. Regrettably, he has much experience in being rather clueless but has nearly always managed to bluff his way out of a corner. Except, of course, for the four times that businesses he owned were forced to file for bankruptcy. Even so, Chapter 11 can be used as a clever stratagem to offload debt. Mr Trump is a smart, if not overly successful or trustworthy, businessman.

As commander in chief he is now expected to plot a course through uncharted waters. Like many of his counterparts elsewhere in the world, President Trump proved slow on the uptake. He was by no means the only one needing some time to let the true scale of the pandemic sink in. Being the greatest president, negotiator, and businessman ever to have walked the face of the earth, Mr Trump just had to insist that he was aware of the corona virus’ spread and impact long before anyone else.

Mr Trump tried to make the best of a bad situation in the only way he knew how to: proffering a white lie a New York minute – the Washington Post has now tabulated well over 18,000 alt-truths and false claims – whilst hoping that his ignorance would not show and, when it did, swooping doubters aside with an overpowering display of self-confidence.

It is of little use to blame President Trump for the thousands of deaths that might possibly have been prevented had he managed to live up to his self-aggrandisement. It is not as if Mr Trump suffered a sudden change in personality when he assumed the presidency. The man is who he is and has most certainly not fooled voters into believing him to be someone else.

In that sense, President Trump he been true to himself from his first day in office and has been scrupulously honest.

Initiatives such as the ‘death clock’ unveiled yesterday are, however poignant, slightly misplaced. The clock aims to track the number of corona fatalities directly attributable to the Trump Administration’s failings. Next time, US voters may perhaps want to be a bit less flippant and a bit more discerning when selecting their chief. In 2016, Americans wanted a showman as their president and that is exactly what they got.