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OPINION: Does President Trump have any idea what’s going on?

OPINION: Does President Trump have any idea what’s going on?

Does President Trump have any idea what’s going on? He has made a bad situation worse, and the only explanation is that he’s incompetent.

First he told us, for weeks, not to worry about the coronavirus and Covid-19, the disease that it causes. Everything’s fine, he said. The virus is a hoax, he said, foisted on the public by “the Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party,” who are just trying to torpedo his re-election. “The virus will not have a chance against us,” he said. “We’re prepared and we’re doing a great job with it.”

Not so fast.

Instead of listening to the experts — his own experts, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said that things will get worse and who has pointed out “failures” in the government’s handling of the virus situation — Mr. Trump minimized the danger to the American public, the very people it is his job to protect.

Instead of leveling with us, he went to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (looking dazed and wearing a red “KEEP AMERICA GREAT” hat that said this is about his political health, not our health) where he shuffled around, at one point holding up what appeared to be a blow-up of some kind of virus. Why?

Who knows.

And then he said, “And the tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect.” You know — his letter to the president of Ukraine. How could that possibly be an appropriate thing for a national leader to say during an emergency? Does this guy even know who he is, where he is, or what’s going on?

Who knows.

And then he claimed that “every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”

Well, obviously “every one of these doctors” said nothing of the sort. Even the most craven brass-polisher with an M.D. after his or her name wouldn’t say that.

Then he went on TV again, with a travel ban. Only it turned out not to really be a travel ban.

“We will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days,” he said. Curiously, the only European countries that would be exempt would be the United Kingdom and Ireland — either because they’re outside the European Union’s no-passport-needed Schengen Area, or (cynics might suspect) because they’re the only countries in Europe where Mr. Trump has golf resorts. 

Panic ensued, not just among Americans who feared they’d be trapped in Europe, but also among global financial markets. Since the once-soaring stock market was the primary bragging point of his re-election campaign, it’s clear that a plummeting stock market is not what he wanted. What’s harder to fathom is what he did want.

What he forgot to mention, and what the Department of Homeland Security had to “clarify” the very next day, was that the ban would not apply to American citizens, or their immediate families, or to legal U.S. residents. That’s a pretty big “oops.”

And what Mr. Trump had to tweet out, also the next day, was that trade and cargo would not be affected. Another big “oops.”

Stand by for more.

Reach Glenn Richter at