On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece that gushed about Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus epidemic, hailing the president for "rewriting the book on emergencies." The piece, written by the Hudson Institute's Christopher DeMuth, effectively celebrated the White House's rejection of the historical model of a centralized federal response to a national emergency.
Near the top of yesterday's press briefing -- which, in case anyone's forgotten, is supposed to be about the pandemic and efforts to address it -- the president decided to read excerpts from the opinion piece about his perceived excellence.
At one point, while sharing the piece with the press corps and a national television audience, the president read DeMuth's praise that Trump had "vivified the American way in action," which was "once reluctantly aroused." Ad-libbing his own related thoughts, the president added, "It was hard to get it aroused, and it is hard to get it aroused, but we got it aroused."
I'm just going to let that go without comment.
The oddity of the display was not Trump's unfortunate choice of words, but rather his self-indulgent, self-congratulatory presentation. The president thought it'd be a good idea to start a pandemic briefing by, in effect, telling the White House press corps, "Hey, everybody, look at this op-ed from a guy who appreciates my awesomeness more than you people do."
A couple of minutes later, Trump paused the briefing in order to play a video of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) saying positive things about the federal response to the crisis. After it was over, however, the president complained that the White House staff had "left out the good part," which included related comments from Cuomo about ventilator access. Sarcastically, Trump said to members of his own team, "Great job, fellas."
Before the briefing ended, "the good part" was also played on the briefing room screens.
Eventually, a reporter asked Trump about his focus on himself on the same day the U.S. death toll from the pandemic crossed 40,000: "Can you explain then why you come out here and you are reading clips and showing clips of praise for you and for your administration? Is this really the time for self-congratulations?"
Trump said he was merely trying to honor hospital workers and administration officials on the front lines of the crisis. Reminded that the featured praise didn't reference hospital workers, the president eventually declared:
"It's not about me. No, nothing is about me."
No, of course not. Heaven forbid. Trump read paragraphs from an op-ed headlined, "Trump Rewrites the Book on Emergencies" because of his deep and abiding appreciation for medical heroism.
The president went on to tell the CNN reporter who dared ask the question, "You don't have the brains you were born with."
One of these days, I suspect someone will ask Trump what he sees as the point of these briefings. I'll look forward to his answer.