The late Ronald Reagan has long been regarded as the definitive Teflon president. Many agreed the press was exceptionally kind and positive towards him and criticism about him or his polices never seemed to diminish his popularity.
But as I follow the Covid-19 saga plus the Presidential race in the USA, I couldn’t help but feel the term Teflon President more aptly describes Donald Trump. In Trump’s case, the media has not been as kind. And his record on handling the coronavirus has not been great either. But no matter what the media, his haters or the Democratic party threw at him, he seem to have survived it all.
Downplaying the Coronavirus
Videos of Trump downplaying the virus in the early days are all over the Internet. His administration was largely unprepared to handle the crisis in the early days and PPEs plus ventilators were short in supply initially. He largely blamed the Obama administration for leaving the national stock pile bare, ignoring the fact that he have had ample time to replenish it given that its already been more than 3 years since Obama handed over the Presidency to him.
He took no responsibility for the shortages and also for dismantling the global health security team choosing instead to deflect blame on WHO and China, a country he initially praised.
Through it all, his support base stood by him.
The Riots and Looting
Never in my lifetime, did I expect to see looting and rioting happen so frequently in the USA. George Floyd’s death may have fuelled it, but if anything, the frequent escalation of tension highlights just how divisive America is now, as a nation.
And this division is not helped by Trump’s rhetorics as President. His frequent denouncing of Democratic elected office holders, blaming of Democratic governors and attributing violence at Black Lives Matter protests to Antifa activist and the radical left, will invariably instil an “us versus them” attitude within his fan base.
As former US defence secretary James Mattis puts it…
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us…”
Yet despite the violence and upheavals, his campaign is painting a picture of that you won’t feel safe in Joe Biden’s America…
The fact is, the violence is happening on Trump’s watch, in Trump’s America. But despite it all, his supporters stood by him.
The Bob Woodward Saga
Through Bob Woodward recordings, we got to hear in Trump’s on words on 7 Feb 2020 that he knew of the novel coronavirus was more deadly than the flu and that it spreads through air. We hear him say too on 19 Mar 2020 that he deliberately downplayed the virus because he didn’t want to create a panic.
His downplaying resulted in many Americans (especially those in his support base) not taking the virus threat seriously. Through his many rallies we can see his supporters not social distancing or wearing mask.
Indeed, the USA leads the world in terms of number of cases and deaths. CNN reported on 30 June 2020 that USA has 4% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s Covid-19 cases.
The Woodward recordings are like a smoking gun, showcasing to the world his cavalier attitude and complete disregard for the safety and well being of his fellow Americans. It’s one thing if he is dumb and did not know of the dangers. It’s another when he knew all along but did not bother to warn or educate his nation.
Woodward was one of 2 reporters, responsible for exposing the Watergate scandal which brought Nixon down, but even with his book Rage plus recordings as proof, Trump survived.
And again through it all, his supporters stood by him.
His Federal Tax Returns
Since before the 2016 elections, Trump has been asked countless times about his federal tax returns. Each time, he will insist he was happy to oblige but will have a reason why he was unable to do so at the current moment. Reasons like he was being audited, to tying the release of his returns to Hilary’s emails were used to deflect questions about his returns.
Then on 27 September 2020, 2 days before the Presidential debate, the New York Times released this damning article, revealing that he paid only USD750 in taxes in 2016 and another USD750 in 2017. The article also revealed that in 10 of the previous 15 years, he paid zero taxes largely because of the losses he incurred.
In response, the Joe Biden campaign launched their Trump tax calculator, enabling tax payers to check how much more in taxes they would have paid compared to “Billionaire” Trump.
My initial thoughts were that this reveal would surely infuriate the American people. But then again, perhaps not. In 2016, the American public did not care about his tax returns when they voted him in. Why should it be any different in 2020. My conclusion – his supporters will still standby him.
Failure to Denounce White Supremacy
At the recent US Presidential debates with Joe Biden, he was asked if he was willing to denounce White Supremacy. He failed to do so and instead called out, “Proud Boys, stand back and Standby.”
Not surprisingly, reports then came in that Proud Boys have heeded their President’s call and that his words are now part of the Proud Boy’s slogan.
As usual, the press denounced his actions but again, his fan base stood by him.
But He Is Behind on Opinion Polls
Most opinion polls show Trump behind Biden at this stage of the Presidential race. This must surely be due to his antics as well as handling of the coronavirus saga. But then again in 2016, he was also behind Hilary Clinton on almost every pre-election poll including polls from the swing states. That didn’t prevent him from stealing the win then and pulling off out of the greatest upset victory in US Presidential election history. And he did it despite Clinton having won the popular vote!
So polling results at this stage in no way suggest that the battle is over and a foregone conclusion in favour of Biden. Many of his supporters still believe that he can repeat his 2016 magic and pull off that win again.
The October Surprise
The latest twist in this ongoing saga is that Trump and first lady Melanie have now tested positive for Covid-19. While initial reports seem to suggest he is doing well in his personal battle with Covid-19, it’s still too early to tell if he will eventually pull through. His physicians are cautiously optimistic and my prayers are with him.
Still, whether he will survive Covid-19 is anybody’s guess. With the best medical care available, his supporters will hope he pulls through. But everyone knows at the back of their minds he belongs to the high risk group – 74 years old, male and overweight.
So the days ahead will be interesting. Could Covid-19, a disease he constantly downplayed, eventually become his own waterloo? Or will he survive his personal battle with Covid-19 and go on to win another 4 year term? For now, no one knows the answer. But one thing’s for sure; if he wins the election yet again, he will go down in my books as the ultimate Teflon President.