Last Thursday, speaking in his position as President of the United States (ex cathedra, as it were), Donald Trump said that injecting disinfectant into a patient’s body might be a good treatment for coronavirus. He’s not a doctor, but he has a good mind; implicitly, how hard could it be? He later excused his remarks by saying he was being “sarcastic.”
“Drinking bleach” is an apt metaphor for the Trump presidency, if not for Donald Trump’s career as a whole. There isn’t the slightest hint that Trump isn’t serious in offering this “advice.” The message is vintage Trump. It’s pithy; it’s easy to understand. It’s also loony. And like almost anything Trump is associated with, it’s most damaging to those who trust and support him.
( side notes: even rookie managers know never to use irony on the job, because of the very real risk of being taken literally. Also, Trump has no clue (consciously, at least) what the word sarcasm means (i.e., “words to wound,” intended to taunt, demean or otherwise injure the addressee).)
This frightening performance comes as domestic coronavirus casualties have exceeded total US deaths from the Vietnam War and are approaching 10x those from Middle East conflicts. The Trump camp is now embarking on a chillingly Stalin-esque attempt to revise history and cast blame for his months-long coronavirus denial on Alex Azar, his Secretary of Health and Human Services.
As regular readers will know, my view is that Trump has done a lot to damage the long-term economic prospects of the US–deficit-inducing but useless tax cuts for the ultra-rich, the attack on the Federal Reserve, undermining the domestic auto industry, weaponizing–with the risk of ultimately disenfranchising–the US banking and capital markets systems, halving GDP growth potential by attacks on immigration, pardoning military criminals, punishing loyal officers…
Last Thursday marks a new low, though. It was like seeing the home team’s ace pitcher taking the mound. He’s a career minor leaguer with a checkered history. You fret about his fastball and his control. But these end up not being issues, because he’s lost so much arm strength that he can’t throw far enough to get the ball to the plate.
How can the stock market be going up after this? Two reasons:
–we saw the man behind the curtain last week, so there probably are no more negative surprises there
–the economy is in the earliest stages of opening up again. This is not to say COVID-19 is in the rear view mirror. It’s a judgment that the health care system will be able to manage the level of future infections. In typical fashion, Wall Street is beginning to sort through the debris of cruise ships, hotels, restaurant chains…to separate potential economic rebound winners from losers.