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Why Trump wants to be seen as a ‘wartime’ President


Jesse Levine Norristown share a news: Is the coronavirus pandemic more like Pearl Harbor or Hurricane Katrina? The answer could determine how the unprecedented challenge ripples through the 2020 presidential election.

Donald Trump is trying to redefine coronavirus as a foreign threat (“the Chinese virus�) and himself as a wartime president defending the nation against what amounts to an invasion.


As the crisis has deepened, Trump’s language likening the outbreak to a war has grown more explicit. “We’re at war, in a true sense we’re at war, and we are fighting an invisible enemy,” he declared in his opening statement at his press briefing Sunday.

Trump’s remarks even distantly echoed Abraham Lincoln’s description of the Civil War as a “great fiery trial” when he declared: “We’re enduring a great national trial and we will prove that we can meet the moment.”


There’s evidence in the latest polling that Trump, like other presidents at time of crisis, is benefiting from the traditional public instinct to “rally around the flag� at a moment of national unease.

The invasion metaphor provides Trump both a sword and a shield: it simultaneously stokes the fear of foreign influence and immigrants that Donald Trump has relied on throughout his political career, and seeks to recast criticism of him as unpatriotic when he is functioning in effect as commander in chief.


The critical question may be whether the public eventually blames Trump for what public health and medical professionals almost unanimously consider a catastrophic federal failure to take more decisive action at the outset — or judge him primarily by his actions after his national emergency declaration earlier this month.

Jesse Levine Norristown : That announcement now looks like an explicit attempt to reset the clock on his performance just as more Americans themselves were becoming aware of the danger. If the public doesn’t blame Trump for allowing the situation to become so dire in the first place, it may be more likely to credit him if America escapes the worst-case scenarios going forward.


One major uncertainty in this is how long Trump can stick with a message of wartime sacrifice and unity. On Monday, after days of soberly underscoring the threat from the virus, he whirled in a different direction, insisting at his daily press briefing that the country might face greater danger from a sustained economic shutdown than from loosening social distancing.

For a purported wartime commander in chief, it amounted to declaring victory and pulling back the army long before the enemy — in this case the virus — has really surrendered.


The ‘Chinese virus’ For Trump, describing the pandemic as the “Chinese virus” or a “foreign virus,” as he did in his Oval Office address earlier this month, serves several political aims at once, experts say.

One is to link the current outbreak with his larger effort to portray immigrants and foreign nations as a threat to the security and prosperity of his preponderantly white electoral coalition. Trump’s effort to “weaponize the pandemic” by branding it as a foreign threat follows a long tradition of stereotyping immigrants as a source of disease, says Erika Lee, director of the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center and author of the recent book, “America for Americans: A history of xenophobia in the United States.”


Through American history, Lee says, it has been “really common” for American nativists to portray immigrants as a threat to public health. “Whether it be typhus and Irish immigrants and the bubonic plague and Chinese immigrants, cholera and Russian Jews, when Mexican immigrants were coming across the border after an outbreak of typhus in El Paso, they were literally sprayed with insecticide,” she said.

Another factor: supporters and opponents agree that Trump always seems more confident politically when he has a clear foil to contrast with, and stamping the outbreak as the “Chinese virus” provides him one. Early on, both Trump and his cheerleaders in the conservative media mostly sought to point fingers at the mainstream press for allegedly exaggerating the threat. As the outbreak’s spread has weakened that case, the attacks on China have increased in almost direct proportion.


Perhaps most important, likening the virus to a “foreign� invader locates the threat outside the country and helps Trump present himself as a wartime leader mobilizing the nation like Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor or George W. Bush after 9/11. Read: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/24/politics/fault-linestrump-coronavirus-wartime-president/index.html


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Profile for Jesse Levine Norristown

Jesse Levine Norristown - Why Trump wants to be seen as a ‘wartime’ President?  

Jesse Levine Norristown share news: Donald Trump is trying to redefine coronavirus as a foreign threat (“the Chinese virus”) and himself as...

Jesse Levine Norristown - Why Trump wants to be seen as a ‘wartime’ President?  

Jesse Levine Norristown share news: Donald Trump is trying to redefine coronavirus as a foreign threat (“the Chinese virus”) and himself as...

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