On His Initial Coronavirus Response, Trump Gets A ‘D-Minus’ Grade — And That’s Being Generous

It is perhaps uncouth, in some people’s minds, to talk about the political failings, or to criticize leaders based on their politics, during a time of crisis.

But politics is a subject that transcends all aspects of our lives. If anything, discussing the success rate — or in President Donald Trump’s case, numerous shortfalls — of our leaders within a political lense is more necessary during such critical moments, to ensure that they understand the gravity of the moment they find themselves in.

Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro/Joint Chiefs of Staff (Public domain)

In short: the more critical and vocal the American populace is of Trump, the more likely he is to do what we, the collective, feel is right.

Overwhelmingly, poll after poll demonstrates the citizenry wants to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously by implementing “stay at home” social distancing policies and other necessary restrictions. The president, meanwhile, is only doing so after stubborn reluctance.

In fact, if I were to grade this president based on his performance so far in terms of how he’s handled the crisis, I’d have to give him a “D-” grade — and that’s being generous.

Slow to understand that a crisis loomed

Trump deserves some kudos for closing travel from China after it became apparent coronavirus was spreading rapidly. Beyond that, however, it’s been like pulling teeth to get him to act in any other appropriate way.

The president spent the entire month of February simultaneously patting himself on the back for his efforts, while actually doing next to nothing to prepare for the impending pandemic that was to come. As Democrats and the media noticed the words of health experts weren’t being heeded, Trump took criticisms politically, calling them a “new hoax” and suggesting the virus wouldn’t do much damage in the U.S.

“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” Trump tweeted out on February 24.

A week later, the number of cases had risen…and yet Trump had promised it would be down to zero within a matter of days, defying what his own health experts had said while standing right next to him.

On March 7, Trump said he wasn’t “concerned at all” about the looming crisis.

The president was comparing the disease to the flu, suggesting it was no big deal, as late as March 9. The following day, he said the following:

“We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

It took until March 19 for Trump to declare an official national emergency over COVID-19. And even then, he showed signs of incompetence.

Failing to understand the crisis wouldn’t be over in a few days’ time

The commander-in-chief, who described the situation as war-like, continued to treat the pandemic as small potatoes by suggesting the U.S. economy could re-open by mid-April:

“You can destroy a country this way, by closing it down, where it literally goes from being the most prosperous…I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” Trump said.

That was just last week. Trump has since changed his mind on the matter, saying at the earliest the economy should re-open by the end of April.

Not expediting his presidential powers to combat the virus

Trump has done poorly in a third way: he delayed implementation of the Defense Production Act, a law that allows presidents to demand private industries to produce or manufacture items needed for the country’s interests.

The president said he was implementing the law to produce more healthcare products, such as ventilators…then, he didn’t. Then, he said it wasn’t needed because companies were doing what he wanted anyway, when in fact, they weren’t.

On March 27 — less than a week ago — Trump finally said he’d use the law to compel General Motors to shift its production toward making the life-saving devices. But it’s still unclear whether he’s using it or not.

The final grade: D-

The president, as mentioned before, did well in one respect, noting that a problem existed in another country and taking direct action to prevent travel to the United States from there. Beyond that, he’s been utter failure.

Sure, the president has done the right things on a number of fronts. But he’s done them in a delayed and slow way, not out of an abundance of caution, but rather because he didn’t want to admit his assurances from before were wrong.

Any teacher who is grading their students will tell you that turning the assignment in on time is part of the grade. Trump has consistently failed in that regard, which is why he deserves to be docked even after having done the right thing.

Even when he’s done good, it’s only come after he caused problems. His recognizing the crisis as real and not a hoax didn’t happen without some of his base believing that coronavirus itself was a fictional thing, for instance.

Finally, Trump’s low grade comes because his mistakes actually matter a great deal. This isn’t a grade on whether he’s been a good president, or assessing his first 100 days — this is looking at how he’s handled a crisis. A poor grade on this doesn’t just result in a sad look for the president, but is also reflective of the fact that there will be a significant loss of people’s lives due to his actions and inactions, more than what would have happened had a more competent leader been in his place.

Trump’s “D-” grade for his initial response to coronavirus is wholly appropriate. If anything, it’s better than he deserves.

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