Kayleigh McEnany: U.S. looked at 'as a leader' on pandemic

In a way, the world is looking at the U.S. "as a leader" on the pandemic, but probably not in the way Kayleigh McEnany intended.
Image: Kayleigh McEnany
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a press briefing at the White House on May 1, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP
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By Steve Benen

A reporter asked White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany yesterday, "How do you think the world is looking at the United States right now?" She replied, "I think the world is looking at us as a leader in COVID-19."

In a way, there's some truth to that -- but probably not in the way the president's spokesperson intended. By all appearances, the world is looking at the United States as leading the world in the number of coronavirus cases. Around the globe, observers are also marveling at the number of American fatalities, which also leads the world. Internationally, officials have also struggled to comprehend how our response has been so much worse than other advanced nations' handling of the pandemic.

But when it comes to the world looking to the United States "as a leader" in a more conventional sense, it appears McEnany had it backwards yesterday. For example, consider this Arizona Daily Star report from a few days ago:

Mexican authorities are closing the U.S-Sonora border to nonessential travel this holiday weekend, when Arizonans would normally flock to Mexican beach towns like Rocky Point and San Carlos for the Fourth of July. Starting Saturday, July 4, southbound travelers without essential business in Sonora will be turned away at border checkpoints in Nogales, Agua Prieta and San Luis Rio Colorado, said Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich’s office.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, we've reached the point at which "Mexico is hardening its border against Americans," which is a curious twist on Donald Trump's vision.

There are also related developments with our neighbor to the north.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has turned down a White House invitation to celebrate the new regional free trade agreement in Washington with U.S President Donald Trump and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Trump and López Obrador are due to meet Wednesday Washington, but Trudeau spokesperson Chantal Gagnon said Monday that while Canada wishes the U.S. and Mexico well, Trudeau won’t be there.

A senior U.S. administration official told the Associated Press that the Canadian prime minister's decision was motivated in part by Trudeau's reluctance to go into quarantine for 14 days, which would be necessary after returning from the United States.

British officials, meanwhile, are barring American travelers, as are members of the European Union.

Just how sure is Kayleigh McEnany that "the world is looking at us as a leader in COVID-19"?

Circling back to our earlier coverage, much of the world has been shocked by the United States' ineptitude in recent months, with the New York Times reporting in April that the pandemic is "shaking fundamental assumptions about American exceptionalism."

The Washington Post reported two weeks ago that international health experts were "watching with a growing sense of alarm and disbelief," as American officials expressed indifference to scientific warnings. Siouxsie Wiles, an infectious-diseases specialist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said, "It really does feel like the U.S. has given up."

The world is certainly watching, but I don't think global observers are impressed.