It's been nearly three weeks since CARES Act benefits expired for millions of Americans who relied on them, and negotiations on a new economic aid package have effectively collapsed. It was against this backdrop that a reporter asked Donald Trump why he doesn't at least try to sit down with officials to negotiate a deal.
The president, speaking from one of his private golf clubs, said over the weekend that he'd like to possibly work something out at some point, though he also said it doesn't much matter.
"Will something happen? Possibly. But I want to tell you, the country is doing very well right now. We can live very happily with it, without it."
The country is not, in reality, "doing very well right now." For that matter, given the number of families that recently lost their economic lifeline, the Republican's indifference toward a new round of federal aid almost literally adds insult to injury.
At the same press event, Trump sounded a similar note, celebrating his country's status quo.
"If I win, which I hope to win -- how can you not when you see numbers like this, both on the virus and on the economy? I mean, we should win."
The president didn't specify exactly which "numbers" he's so impressed with, but in reality, COVID-19 has now claimed the lives of 170,000 Americans. Daily infection rates have improved a bit over the last month, but they're still much higher than they were in the spring, and the totals are well above 5 million.
Daily death totals over 1,000 have once again become common in the United States.
As for the economy, the unemployment rate is still above 10% -- higher than at any point during the Great Recession -- and it's been in double digits for four consecutive months for the first time since the Great Depression.
And yet, there's the president, delighted with how "very well" the country is doing right now, and pointing to "numbers" that he believes should guarantee a second term.
Even some in Trump's party are acknowledging the reality the president chooses to ignore. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) noted last week, "Short term, I think it's fair to say we really have not distinguished ourselves in a positive way by how we responded to the crisis when it was upon us. And the proof of the pudding of that is simply that we have 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of the world's deaths due to covid-19."
The Utah Republican added, "And there's no way to spin that in a positive light."
Evidently, Trump's inclined to try to spin the "numbers" anyway.
Postscript: While the president downplays the need for economic negotiations, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN yesterday that he'd like to see lawmakers return to the negotiating table. "Congress needs to come back and get their act together and work," Meadows said.
First, this was obviously at odds with Trump's message from a day earlier. Second, Meadows recently walked away from the negotiating table and took a vacation. Third, Democrats have "their act together," as evidenced by the fact that they're the only ones who've actually passed an economic aid bill.
And finally, if anyone's responsible for the breakdown in legislative talks, it's Meadows.