In his first three years in office President Donald Trump has been able to survive various “scandals,” such as the Mueller investigation into Russian collusion and the Ukrainian quid pro quo that ended in a failed impeachment conviction. Notwithstanding these rocky moments, Trump did not detour from his duties in protecting Americans — he had both ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani eliminated while simultaneously keeping the U.S. from another potential war in the Middle East. He was also able to do what no prior president has done over his first 35 months, keeping the unemployment to less than 4% at 3.9% — the closest was Dwight Eisenhower, when the rate averaged 4.3% between February 1953 and December 1955. As Stanford’s Hoover Institution research fellow Bruce Thornton said: “The opposition Democrats looked increasingly likely to be settling one of two old, rich, white mediocrities as their standard-bearer for November [election day], with nothing to recommend them other than utopian, expensive anti-free market policies and their irrational hatred of Donald Trump.”
However, since the COVID-19 outbreak, the invisible enemy has thus far infected over 140,000 Americans and killed over 2,600. The economy has taken a massive hit as Wall Street’s 11-year bull run came to an end, ushering in a recession as shutdowns of economic activity roll across America; the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits soared to a record-shattering 3.283 million. Now that Trump’s presidency is being tested like no other in the modern period, how will history judge his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, especially since he’s been criticized by the usual suspects for mishandling the situation?
Let us not forget that information was rather thin when China “identified” it in December. The Chinese Communist Party ordered its scientists to destroy evidence of the virus, suppress physician warnings, turned around ships loaded with vital supplies, and threaten to block critical pharmaceuticals so that America might experience “the hell of a novel coronavirus epidemic.” As for the false accusation that Trump reacted late in handling the invisible enemy — it would be in the accusers’ best interest to know that he took action before any other Western leader. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated on January 14: “There is no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.” [emphasis added] Incidentally, Trump was also falsely accused by Democrats of saying that the coronavirus was a “hoax.” An examination of the video and transcript show Trump actually described Democratic complaints about his handling of the virus threat as “their new hoax.” He never referred to the coronavirus itself as a hoax. In any case, just a week after the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Seattle, Washington, Trump announced on January 29 the creation of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force to lead the “United States government response to the novel 2019 coronavirus and with keeping him apprised of developments.” Two days later the Trump administration suspended entry into the United States by foreign nationals who had traveled to China within the last 14 days (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), and presidential hopeful Joe Biden accused Trump of “hysteria, xenophobia and fearmongering” for this; the travel ban was extended to Europe on March 11.
It is true that Trump at a news conference on February 25 in India said that the coronavirus is “well under control” was in fact true — one of so many Trump statements taken out of context and misconstrued by those who want him to fail. In fact, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume addressed critics of the president’s daily coronavirus briefings saying that while some in the press corps play it straight, “too many of them are still trying to, you know, play the old game that you do… asking these questions intended to show there’s something that Trump said previously was inconsistent with somebody. So that’s fine for normal times. These are not normal times.”
The Trump administration was handling the outbreak the best it could with what it had on hand, unlike other leaders in the free world who demonstrated complete ineptitude.
Keep in mind that I am an American who lives in the European coronavirus hotspot, Italy, which has everything a good democratic socialist in America would want, including universal health care — prior to the outbreak, Italy was judged by at least one study to possess the world’s second-best health care system. When the severe outbreak occurred in the northern part of the country, Florence Mayor Dario Nardella and the Regional President of the Lazio (southern Tuscany) Nicola Zingaretti, both encouraged everyone to hug the Chinese and to disregard any social distancing — afterwards the former went into quarantine for 14 days and the latter announced that he was positive for coronavirus. Let us not forget UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who initially refused to take aggressive measures and wound up, like Prince Charles, testing positive for the virus.
Paralleling the lockdown measures put in place in China and Europe, on March 16 the White House released a 15-day advisory, requesting citizens to avoid all but essential excursions from the home, such as for food or to pharmacies. On March 27 Trump signed into law a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill after it passed in both the House and the Senate. And as of March 30, because of his “business-type” style in working with the private sector, a new COVID-19 test from the medical device company Abbott was approved for emergency use thus far only in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration. The test can return positive results in five minutes — and it can be run in a doctor’s office.
Trump, again compared to the rest of the free world, has acted with lightning speed within the last month with the Task Force anchored by Vice President Mike Pence — I have told my family, relatives and friends in the States that I wish we would have the same in Italy, especially after the European Union has thus far done nothing for us here. Despite this, in addition to his daily briefings, the #NeverTrump media have continued their obsessive-compulsive habit of manipulating people’s fears and vilifying Trump’s decisions to the point that they circulate patent lies, such as both the Associated Press and the Washington Post printing that Trump had cut funding for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which they had to correct.
How will Trump be judged, especially by Americans at the ballot box come this November? It is still rather early, but President Trump’s overall approval rating has gone up by 5% in the most recent weekly Gallup poll. For only the second time in his presidency, Gallup found more Americans approving (49%) than disapproving (45%) of his job performance; some 60% gave him positive reviews for his handling of the pandemic. As Bruce Thornton succinctly stated: “By this point, at least half of American voters have become used to the media and Dems crying wolf. Many voters no doubt will see these antics as a despicable search for partisan advantage at a time when the whole country faces a serious health crisis. What they see on the news nearly every day is Trump’s attention focused on resolving the crisis and instituting policies to soften the economic blow.”
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University in New York, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University. He is author of Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.