On Friday morning, Donald Trump hustled out to stand in front of the cameras and proceed to deliver an 82-minute example of what might happen if someone connected a speech synthesizer to a pinball bouncing around the subbasement of Fox Business. Clearly buoyed by the fact that unemployment numbers are only 13.3%—also known as more than a third higher than the worst point of the Great Recession—Trump bounced from topic to topic with no apparent goal, no consistent theme, and absolutely no restraint. That led to a moment when Trump bragged about how he had personally beaten the novel coronavirus, called the morning’s labor report “the greatest comeback in American history,” and, most unbelievably, chose this moment to maintain that he had done more for the Black community than anyone in history.
Also, there was this …
“Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying: ‘This is a great thing that’s happening for our country.’ This is a great day for him.”
Tracing the course of Trump’s … speech? discourse? ramble? … is impossible. In fact, it was often impossible to connect what seemed to be the end of a sentence with the beginning. Trump began by bragging about how he “beat” what he called the “China plague” and how we are “through with the pandemic.” Or, “largely through, I think we’re largely through.”
Throughout the—speech, we’re just going to go with “speech”—Trump insisted that California, New York, and other states have to reopen. As an example, Trump declared that they need to “look at Florida.” He returned to Florida repeatedly as his example of how great it is to reopen. “Look at what’s going in Florida, it’s incredible. You gotta open it up!” Florida, on Wednesday, had the highest number of new cases of COVID-19 at any point in the pandemic, but Trump had an answer for that as well. The reason we have so many cases is because we do too much testing, apparently. “More tests means more cases.”
Even assembling this much coherence requires chasing over the full hour-plus of Trump’s whatever in order to stick sentence fragments with similar subjects together. But there’s no doubt that in the wildly spinning mind of Donald Trump, he now believes that he saved all of America by being completely in favor of locking down the nation. “We saved 2 million lives,” said Trump. And he told a “sir” story, so you know not one word of it ever happened. “They said, ‘Sir, the best thing we can do is close it down’ […] after listening for 10 minutes I said, ‘We have to close it down.’”
And Trump summed up his COVID-19 response by saying this: “I made every decision correctly.”
Oh, but he didn’t do it alone. Trump paused at one point to mention the other people who had “worked so hard” on the coronavirus response. Not healthcare workers. Nope. His thanks went to “Jared and Mike.”
In describing how the “China plague” affected the economy, Trump went through a litany of numbers that were apparently produced by a chorus of economic experts—in his mind. But after discarding the idea that the recovery was going to be shaped like a “V” or a “U,” Trump declared that “this is a rocket ship!” Then he went on for an extended period about how the COVID-19 pandemic was like a hurricane. Because two hours after a hurricane “people are mowing their yards. I’ve seen it in Texas.” Then later Trump said that recovery from a hurricane took “one day or two days.” Which … tell that to Puerto Rico.
Trump spent some time explaining how both Sweden and Brazil had screwed up their COVID-19 response, completely ignoring that he had praised both countries in the past. And then he went on a wild turn into ultimate conspiracy theory land. “A gift from China, not good, not good […] How come from Wuhan, where it started, and it was very bad […] but it didn’t go to other parts of China. […] How come they didn’t stop it from coming to the United States and other parts of the world?” At a guess it could be that China isn’t responsible for U.S. health policy, but that didn’t stop Trump from reeling off multiple claims that his decision to halt flights from China—which happened after COVID-19 was already circulating in the United States—had saved tens of thousands of lives. Or hundreds of thousands of lives. Or millions of lives. All of those numbers were given at least once.
Oh, and there was a bit about trailers. Something. Something. Something about how Trump was going to buy a trailer and drive around in it. The sentence actually started with Trump bragging about how great the airline industry was doing, then went into how everyone was driving, and then went into the trailers. “People are driving, they’re building the trailers […] I may have to buy one of those things and drive it […] What do they call those things?” It took someone off screen to prompt Trump with the word “RV.” And Trump twice claimed he was going to buy an RV and drive around in it with Melania. Which she would surely love.
And at some point—or rather points—Trump gave out his big, great Civil Rights messages. He repeated how he had done more in three years for Black people than anyone in history. That included a story in which Trump explained how he had saved historically Black universities (though he never once managed to get that phrase straight) after Obama had turned them into beggars and “done nothing for them.”
What Trump claims to have done for the Black community is create jobs. Somewhere in there Trump wandered off to brag that he had given everyone $1,200, then wandered still further into the idea that the median income in the United States is $150,000 and how “no other country” can say that. The median income in the United States is actually $31,000. Somewhere around that point is when Trump appealed to George Floyd to look down from heaven and see how great a day this is for Black people … because the unemployment rate is only at record highs.
Trump started to take questions, but when the second reporter pointed out that the unemployment rate for Black Americans has actually gone up … he left.
It really is one for the history books. Only not in the way Trump thinks.