As the nation has struggled with the coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump has held some highly unfortunate press briefings. It's why even some Republicans have grown tired of the president's antics, with the New York Times last week quoting a top Trump political adviser saying the president is handing ammunition to Democrats with these over-the-top daily White House presentations.
But even by Trump standards, yesterday was ridiculous. As the nation came to terms with a pandemic death toll that's crossed the 23,000 mark, the president thought it'd be a good idea to hold a self-indulgent event in which he whined incessantly, aired grievances, and lashed out wildly.
A Washington Post analysis added, "[I]n the middle of this deadly pandemic that shows no obvious signs of abating, the president made clear that the paramount concern for Trump is Trump -- his self-image, his media coverage, his supplicants and his opponents, both real and imagined.... Trump has always had a me-me-me ethos, an uncanny ability to insert himself into the center of just about any situation. But Monday's coronavirus briefing offered a particularly stark portrait of a president seeming unable to grasp the magnitude of the crisis -- and saying little to address the suffering across the country he was elected to lead."
But of particular interest was the point in the briefing in which the White House lowered the lights so Trump could play a video. The New York Times reported:
The video -- which the president said was produced by a social media team in "a period of less than two hours" -- included video clips of Mr. Trump taking action to confront the virus, and did not include any of the many instances when the president said the virus was "under control" and would "miraculously disappear" with little effort. Set to music, the video largely skipped over February and early March, when public health experts say the administration failed to provide enough testing for the virus and did not act quickly enough to promote social distancing and prevent its spread.
The president put the whole thing online, and if you watch it, pay particular attention to the shift around the 44-second mark. The video appears to be showing a timeline of events -- what the White House called a "timeline of action" -- which jumps from February 6 to March 2.
CBS News' Paula Reid noticed the gap and asked Trump to explain what he and his team did during this empty period. "A lot," the president replied, without pointing to anything specific. Pressed further, the president did what he always does: he told Reid that she and her network are "fake."
Trump's tantrums notwithstanding, the gap in the White House's own timeline matters. It was in February, after all, that the administration needed to step up with an aggressive response, which did not occur. Instead we saw a president inclined to look past warnings, pass the buck, and assure the public that the viral outbreak would "work out fine."