Coronavirus crisis shows a key region of Trump’s brain ‘is entirely offline’: New York Times columnist
President Donald J. Trump, White House photo by Shealah Craighead

In an op-ed for The New York Times this Thursday, columnist Jennifer Senior writes that President Trump's strategy for reopening the economy is like "offering to use a condom after you’ve already gotten a woman pregnant."

"Donald J. Trump has taken a rather peculiar view of the new coronavirus: If he can’t see the damage it’s doing, it’s not doing any damage," she writes.

According to Senior, Americans have the assumption that a president will plan, self-moderate and reason. But what Trump is doing is the exact opposite. While Trump's disrespect for norms is a characteristic that helped him surge to the presidency, he has nevertheless been slow to admit that life won't be normal after the outbreak.

"Only under duress did he start to encourage a national program of social distancing," Senior writes. "He persisted in shaking hands at news conferences, even when the rest of us were leaving six-foot wedges between ourselves and our fellow citizens. He says that he, personally, won’t wear a face mask."

Senior noted that humans are somewhat “hard-wired” to ignore dangers that they cannot see, citing Harvard social psychologist Daniel Gilbert.

“The apparatus that sees the world is over 400 million years old. The prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain that comprehends projection models from the C.D.C. — is maybe 2.5 million years old. That’s brand-new, in evolutionary terms. It’s still in beta testing,” Gilbert told her.

But Senior said that Trump’s prefrontal cortex appears to be “entirely offline.”

“His plans to fight this pandemic vary from hour to hour, minute to minute. He has all the focus of a moth.”

Senior admits that it wasn't only Trump who was slow to react to the virus. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted that he rode the New York subway in the pandemic's early days -- "Which makes the early action of some of our governors all the more remarkable," Senior writes.

But with the work of stamping out the coronavirus unfinished, Trump is signaling that he wants to reopen the economy sooner rather than later.

"It’s essential to our economic health, it’s true," writes Senior. "But the president refuses to concede there’s a testing problem, and absent testing, it may be hard to get many people to go back outside. Before, no one wanted to be the only chump to avoid crowds; now many will be reluctant to be the chump who rushes toward them."

Read her full op-ed over at The New York Times.