On Wednesday night, in an effort to allay fears about the rapidly spreading coronavirus, Donald Trump held a press conference designed to convince the American public that he’s totally got everything under control. While this sort of effort might have worked under previous administrations, led by a guy who no doubt thinks you can get gonorrhea riding the G train and that strep-test sticks go in the anus, it had the opposite effect. Over the course of nearly an hour, Trump repeatedly referred to “15” cases in the U.S. despite the fact that there are at least 60; blamed virus-induced stock market declines on Democrats; claimed he’s beating “everybody” in the polls; trashed the Federal Reserve; endorsedRush Limbaugh’s conspiracy theory that the media is weaponizing the virus to take him down; and announced that he was tasking Mike Pence with leading federal efforts against the disease. More than anything else, it was the Pence appointment that seemingly caused people who hadn’t been worried about Covid-19 at all to reconsider.
What are Pence’s qualifications for the job? In addition to not being a doctor, he famously helped cause the worst HIV outbreak in Indiana’s history while serving as governor. (As cases surged, he turned to prayer.) In 2000 (!) he was still insistingthat “smoking doesn’t kill” or even cause lung cancer. He thinks condoms don’t do enough to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
On the bright side, on Thursday, the vice president’s office announced that Pence had selected the State Department’s top AIDS official, Deborah Birx, a real live doctor, to join the response team. On the less bright side, Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who has never been right about anything in his life, was also addedto the team.