Apr 07, 2020

Trump finally leveled with the American people, CNN.com

Trump finally leveled with the American people Peter Bergen Opinion by Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst Updated 10:00 AM ET, Mon March 30, 2020 "Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, a vice president at New America and a professor of practice at Arizona State University. He is the editor of the Coronavirus Daily Brief and author of the new book "Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles at CNN." (CNN)At his Sunday coronavirus briefing at the White House, President Trump sounded like he had just been mugged by reality. There were no more Trumpian fantasies about reopening the country so that church pews could be filled with people on Easter Sunday on April 12. Instead, Trump talked soberly about the 2.2 million Americans that could have died if the US government had done nothing to stop the spread of the virus. Trump seemed to be citing an influential study by Imperial College London that projected up to 2.2 million Americans would die if no efforts were made to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. During Sunday's briefing, Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the US government response to the crisis, mentioned another recent study by Christopher Murray of the University of Washington. Murray's study projects that the number of deaths in the United States will peak three days after Easter Sunday on April 15 with more than 2,200 deaths on that day and also that the total number of deaths in the United States will be more than 82,000 by August 4. It is the work of scientists and the advice of experts that seems to have brought a welcome change in Trump's thinking when he announced at the Sunday briefing that all the social distancing guidelines that his administration had instituted were now being extended until the end of April. At the briefing Trump commended Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci for their handling of the crisis response. Earlier Sunday, Fauci had emphasized these sobering facts, telling CNN's Jake Tapper that computer models suggested that deaths from the coronavirus in the United States could range from 100,000 to 200,000. Of course, Trump can rarely resist dipping into his usual bag of tricks and during Sunday's briefing he berated reporters from CNN and PBS for asking questions that he didn't like. Trump also made some bizarre comments about a New York hospital that he said had started using a vastly larger number of masks, saying, "How do you go from 10 to 20 [thousand masks per week] to 300,000?...Something is going on, and you ought to look into it as reporters. Are they going out the back door?" It's pretty clear that demand for masks is skyrocketing in New York, not because they are being pilfered but because medical staff need a lot of them given the scale of the emergency. Yet, overall Sunday's briefing at the White House was more along the lines of the briefings by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that treat Americans as adults who can be leveled with about the scope and nature of nature of the coronavirus threat. The crisis communications 101 rule is that you just tell folks the facts as best you know them. On Sunday Trump began to do that.