On Friday, writing for The Washington Post, David Nakamura outlined a key problem with President Donald Trump's efforts to use White House events to project strength against the coronavirus pandemic.
"At the White House this week, President Trump sat less than six feet from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in the Oval Office. He invited small business owners to crowd behind the Resolute Desk for a photo shoot. His vice president toured a medical research center without a face-mask in defiance of the company’s policy," wrote Nakamura. "The daily images projected a sense of confidence that life, at least for the nation’s most prominent resident, is returning to a semblance of normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic — a visual cue to the public that conditions are improving as Trump pushes to restart sectors of the economy."
The problem, Nakamura pointed out, is that the president and his top officials have access to on-demand testing and other safety precautions that the general public does not enjoy.
"Trump, Vice President Pence and their aides are tested regularly, and all who enter the White House campus to meet with them are required to undergo on-site rapid tests developed by Abbott Laboratories, which provide results within 15 minutes," wrote Nakamura. "It is a cocoon of safety that does not exist almost anywhere else in the country. Governors and municipal leaders have scrambled for basic supplies; hospitals and elderly care facilities, dealing with the most vulnerable, have cried out for more testing; and workers at grocery stores and manufacturing plants are risking their health to keep open critical businesses."
Indeed, Vice President Mike Pence has bragged about how frequently he is being tested as a justification for why he failed to wear a mask during a recent visit to the Mayo Clinic.
The White House, said one anonymous Capitol Hill staffer, is the "only place that [testing on this scale] is happening — they’re living in a dream world." It's good that they are being tested, the official added, but "they shouldn’t throw it in people’s faces. They should not be bragging that they’re tested constantly and everyone around them is tested constantly. That sends the wrong message when they promised everyone 27 million tests."
Liberal think tank official Simon Roseberg put it more bluntly. “Is that what the whole country needs to go back to work? Why does he get things we don’t get? He’s reinforcing a version of, ‘Let them eat cake.’ Trump is saying, ‘I’m an uberman. I can do whatever I want because I get testing and you little people can get the virus.’ Because they have not set up the testing regime.”
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