Monday in a Rose Garden, flanked by a giant Bluth family-style banner that declared both that “AMERICA LEADS THE WORLD IN TESTING” and that nobody in the Trump administration knows anybody who is good at graphic design, President Trump took questions from the press on the ongoing disaster that has been his administration’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. CBS News’ Weijia Jiang, referencing the banner, asked “Why does that matter? Why is this a global competition to you if everyday Americans are still losing their lives and we’re still seeing more cases every day?”
The hamsters in the president’s brain huffed and puffed as they raced to their wheels and fired up his Comeback Generator. All of the blood rushed to his head at the same time. This was going to be a good one, as deep within the exhaust-folds of his face, the president’s beady little eyes lit up. “Why don’t you ask China?” he snapped.
The Jerk Store called, and they’re all out of you!
Jiang lowered her face mask and followed up by asking why, specifically, Trump would ask her that question. Trump then called on another reporter, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, who, in either a shocked or classy move, yielded the microphone to her fellow journalist. Jiang continued to follow up. Collins then tried to ask her question, and Trump stormed out of the press conference like a real tough guy. It was refreshing to see White House press corps members stand up for each other, or at least give each other space to confront the president’s insistent unreality.
Something tells me that, for the president, the most emotionally devastating aspect of the COVID outbreak isn’t the staggering loss of human life or the economic desperation many in the middle class find themselves in now. It’s that Trump had to cancel his rallies. He doesn’t get to do his tired standup act in front of a packed demolition derby field of dipshits who screech approvingly with every cheap shot. His only chance at a crowd is these press conferences, where he flops around gasping for approval like a fish on a dock. The racism-sexism-xenophobia constellation like the one we saw today is the “what’s the deal with airline food” of his hacky routine.
But one thing we can take from his tiresome attacks is this: When Trump would rather pick on the reporter than answer the question, he’s losing.
And he is losing, bigly. More than 80,000 Americans are dead, we’re not flattening the curve, and the president has made a political issue out of public health to the point that Republican governors are endangering their own citizens so as to not make the big baby they worship angry. Jiang’s question was a great one. What does an arbitrary international contest on testing matter if America is still the home of the worst outbreak in the world? Why should the president expect accolades for doing the bare minimum to begin to atone for the unforgivably shitty job he’s done with handling the pandemic for months?
His leadership through this has been about as valuable to this country as a fire chief who gives a gas can to an arsonist, shows up while your house is burning down with a bottle of Smartwater, and demands to be complimented for eliminating fire better than the Chinese.
Jiang landed on the president’s bad side recently by committing the journalistic sin of being good at her job while being a member of several target demographics that the president’s supplicants and suck-ups love to see him shout at. She was born somewhere else, she’s not white, she’s a woman, she’s a journalist, she’s intelligent. She joins a pantheon of “nasty” female journalists Trump has targeted, including Katy Tur, Yamiche Alcindor, April Ryan, Jiang’s CBS colleague Paula Reid, Megyn Kelly, and Kaitlan Collins. And the people who would swallow bleach for the president love this stuff. They think that by storming off and losing his temper, he’s winning. Trump could end a press conference by pissing himself and the B-level conservative media wannabes would still declare that he’d turned in a masterful performance.
Scampering away from a microphone at the first sign of adversity isn’t a brave thing to do. Neither is losing your temper and screaming comebacks you practiced in a mirror. Along with stairs, sharks, and books without pictures, is the president afraid of women? Maybe he should be. They stand poised to vote him out of office in November. They could very well hand the Senate to Democrats, and Trump’s legacy as a president would be the same as his legacy as a successful businessman: somebody who once played one on TV.