If you’re wondering how Mike Pence of all people came to be appointed the coronavirus czar, although that’s not his title, it’s strictly because Trump thinks he can do a PR spin that will be to his liking more than anybody else — or at least that is Trump’s hope and if Pence doesn’t pull it off, goodbye 2020 ticket. Covid-19 has Trump freaking out like no other thing. He can’t tweet at the virus, it doesn’t care. He can’t have the complicit GOP stack the deck for him against the virus, they’re powerless. It’s like nothing else Trump has ever dealt with before. He can’t buy the virus off. So he’s doing the next best thing and filtering what information about the virus gets out and how. Like everything else, this is all about Donald Trump. Bess Levin, Vanity Fair:
On the darkest of dark sides, we also learned Thursday about a new gag rule requiring all government officials to get Pence’s approval before making statements about the virus that could make the president look bad:
The White House moved on Thursday to tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists, directing them to coordinate all statements and public appearance with the office of Vice President Mike Pence, according to several officials familiar with the new approach…. Mr. Pence was scheduled to lead a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force on Thursday.
The vice president’s first move appeared to be aimed at preventing the kind of contradictory statements from White House officials and top government health officials that have plagued the administration’s response. Even during his news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Trump rejected the assessment from a top health official that it was inevitable that the coronavirus would spread more broadly inside the United States.
According to the New York Times, administration officials are unsurprisingly saying that “the goal is not to control the content of what subject-matter experts and other officials are saying, but to make sure their efforts are being coordinated,” and they’ve definitely, 100% never given us a reason not to believe them.
Their goal is to control the content, make no mistake about that. Trump is freaked out over the markets crashing and that’s what he seeks to get a handle on, not the virus. He doesn’t give jack about the virus, except as insofar as it poses an obstacle to him controlling his economic narrative, which is basically his entire pitch going into reelection mode.
Trump is in bunker mode now and needs to surround himself with his most devoted toadies so as to feel secure. There is no other reason to explain why Larry Kudlow, of all people, has also been named to this commission that Pence is heading up. Kudlow is worthless in his own field and has zero credentials in medicine or infectious disease — but he is a Fox News alumnus, so that gives him credibility in Trumpworld, where it counts. Kudlow is there because he can play Trump’s favorite game, spin the narrative. it will be interesting to see how this develops, a health care crisis, being dealt with as a PR inconvenience. As Max Boot pointed out, Trump can’t even spell coronavirus — but maybe we’ll get lucky and it will spell doom for him.