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Assault on America, Day 448: Has coronavirus forever altered Trump’s approach to politics?

President Trump
What, no more jokes, no more catchy nicknames, no insults and no applause lines?

It’s true. President Donald Trump hasn’t been himself lately and it’s not because he’s come down with a Chinese virus-induced sickness or his living or personal situation has taken a turn for the worse. No, America’s commander in chief has adopted a much more serious face and demeanor in the past few weeks, very much fulfilling the role of stoic national leader as people continue freaking out over the possibility of contracting a life-threatening illness.

All along, Trump’s said he could flip the “presidential” switch and it would be easy to play the standard politician that Americans had become so accustomed to seeing prior to his entering the Washington scene. Up until recently Trump’s never felt a need to do it. But desperate times call for desperate (?) measures.

Whatever the reason for the sudden switch, Trump’s new attitude is refreshing to some -- and they hope the “presidential” version of the man will supplant the much more controversial no holds barred hard-edged rhetorical street brawler of yesteryear. David M. Drucker wrote at The Washington Examiner last week, “Although his signature stadium rallies, often laden with invective, are on hold, Trump has been typically aggressive on social media, offering cutting commentary about congressional Democrats, likely Democratic challenger Joe Biden, and the news media. And in a news conference Thursday, Trump appeared to revert to his usual, politically centered rhetoric. Republicans say Trump should not be expected to stand too far down even while managing the government’s crisis response.

“But party insiders want him to understand that his usually effective political attacks will be useless if voters decide he mishandled the pandemic and its economic aftershocks.

“Government mandates for a range of industries to cease operations to stop the spread of the coronavirus are poised to spike unemployment and push the U.S. into a deep recession. To win in November, even if these conditions recede, Trump has to win in March, April, and May, with a strategy that offers people confidence that the government has a plan to revitalize society, Republican strategists say.”

Ah, the swampy establishment never ceases worrying about behavior, does it? These are the same people who, throughout the 2016 campaign, repeatedly warned that Trump couldn’t possibly win because he didn’t fit the suit of a typical political candidate, one who goes out of his way to not be too mean to the opposition and could therefore “unite the country” if he inexplicably and unfathomably managed to best Hillary Clinton.

Trump ignored them and didn’t change a bit. And he won. Yes, it was partly due to Crooked Hillary being so awful and repulsive but a lot of people took to Trump’s anti-establishment penchant for burning bridges behind him and setting new paths. Republicans and conservatives had suffered years’ worth of wishy-washy “nice guy” politicians who “wouldn’t go there.” There was John McCain in 2008, for example, who refused to inject Obama’s anti-American spiritual mentor (Jeremiah Wright) into the campaign, a move which almost certainly cost him votes among the decidedly patriotic working class that spurred Trump to victory in 2016.

Then there was (still) spineless Mitt Romney in 2012, who for some reason, forgot all about Benghazi, terrorism and the Obama team’s outright lies (four Americans murdered?) during the infamous Candy Crowley debate. RINOs like Mitt allowed the biased media to steer the narrative without any face-to-face confrontation, something Trump was wholly unprepared and unwilling to accept.

Therefore, Trump is where he is today because of his personality and unique approach to Republican politics. Besides, have Democrats turned off their own criticism spigots since the COVID-19 panic ensued? Not exactly. Granted there hasn’t been a whole lot of Biden and Bernie news coverage the past week -- at least that I’ve watched -- but they devoted a big chunk of their last “debate” to savaging the current government’s efforts to dampen the anxiety. And it goes without saying Nancy Pelosi and “Chucky” Schumer have gotten in their usual digs about Trump’s alleged incompetence (in their eyes). And their putrid “relief bill” was chock full of non-essential items and leftist pipedreams.

The more sober Trump of late may or may not be reflective of what’s to come, but it does appear this episode has changed his approach a little. We should also remember that Trump’s family businesses are just as susceptible to economic hard times as anyone else’s. For a media that’s relentlessly hammered and accused him of taking advantage of his exalted status as president to enrich himself and his family, they’ve been hopelessly silent on the personal hit Trump the citizen is enduring along with every other business owner in the hospitality industry.

I haven’t seen statistics, but the Trump hotels must be suffering mightily these days with no one traveling or even daring to venture outside their home environments. Business treks always account for a good chunk of hotel stays and many companies aren’t even operating much less sending their people to other places. Losses in the billions and trillions (?) are afflicting the industry, again, with no end in sight. Predictably, some of Trump’s critics are suggesting his proposed bailouts for hotels and resorts are merely intended to protect and save his clan’s fortune.

Hardly. The Trump family’s assets have taken a big enough hit since he volunteered (he still donates his salary to worthy causes) to serve as president. While Donald Jr., Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany and Barron won’t likely be spotted in a soup kitchen line anytime soon, there’s little doubt that their futures are being impacted by the current panic and its corrosive aftereffects. Trump the father can’t be happy seeing his lifelong work contract and waste away.

Lots of entrepreneurs and sole proprietors are feeling the pinch.

No one is “immune” to an economic downturn of this magnitude. But even so, there are some good things that might come from it. Americans are now wise to China and aware of the secretive communist country’s leaders, and there’s already a push for domestic production of critical medicines and other national security priorities.

Amidst all the talk of potential silver linings to this coronavirus craziness, perhaps it will force our otherwise complacent public and political class to focus more attention on government spending, borrowing and debt -- when it’s all over, of course. When war breaks out -- and this most definitely feels like a war even if there’s no shooting (yet) -- the public rallies around approving the necessities to fight it. For a short period of time no one dwells on raising tax rates through the roof to square the balance sheets when dollars and cents are required to combat the mortal threat more than punishing people for being too prosperous.

Not even congressional Democrats would dare demand tax hikes when the president asks for trillion dollar appropriations and bailouts to save industries (airline, etc.), small businesses and families from succumbing to the much more prevalent (than coronavirus) and dangerous bankruptcy bug. In effect, the “rich” get a pass during hard times even though many of them rallied to the call of the hour and paid workers who aren’t permitted to work through government decree.

The political truce on the tax issue will only be temporary, however, as sooner or later the emergency and panic will subside and then we’ll be stuck looking up at a mountain of red ink-laden ledgers that won’t be expunged with gobs of American-made hand sanitizer or thorough surface scrubbing. And after weeks/months of shelter-in-place pent up frustration and anger, people will be out for proverbial blood.

With some estimates of this year’s federal budget deficit ballooning as high as $5 trillion, Americans won’t ignore the government’s fiscal problem any longer. Does this mean the issue will be front and center in the coming campaign? Not likely. Neither Trump nor Biden will home in on spending too much money -- that’s a certain campaign loser crusade when citizens are reeling from having their livelihoods and living situations disappear before their eyes.

Experts are correct in saying that hard times like these aren’t the best opportunities to talk about government overspending, but the numbers don’t cease adding up and the U.S. debt clock probably hasn’t yet recalibrated to account for the MUCH bigger numbers.

Markets despise instability, and that’s all we have right now. We can only hope the borrowing and spending and sending every citizen thousand-dollar checks will result in preserving some of what we’d gained in recent years. Then Trump can return to acting however he feels is necessary and the establishment will commence fretting  over whether it’ll make voters turn against him again.

For anyone concerned about how Trump says something as opposed to what he says, he or she should take an honest look at nominee-to-be Joe Biden and ask themselves whether the Democrat’s spiel is “presidential” in contrast. Trump has been exceedingly patient in fielding media inquiries regarding the coronavirus -- including accusatory queries on whether his calling it the “Chinese virus” is racist(?) -- and Biden is yet to face any tough questions on this or any other matter. Would Grampa Joe oppose chastising China? (On another note, does China have dirt on Biden and son Hunter? Talk about blackmail potential.)

As I’ve argued a lot lately, the campaign will take care of itself. For the time being, let’s concentrate on tamping down the plague fears and treating the sick and then see what emerges once people leave their homes and start living life again.

For now, Trump backers wonder when they can unleash their ads on Biden. Rob Crilly wrote at The Washington Examiner, “Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh declined to discuss advertising strategy but said: ‘We know Americans want to see their president leading and taking every action possible to protect this country, and that’s what President Trump is doing. At the campaign, we amplify that.

“’At the same time, we have to stay on top of Joe Biden and the Democrats and repel their attacks and keep on top of the mainstream media’s erroneous reporting.’

“Campaign rallies are on hold, supporter events are being turned into virtual seminars, and there currently is no paid advertising going out as officials adjust to the disruption. Instead, officials are using their Twitter feeds to call out what they see as inaccurate reporting and reminding readers of Trump’s efforts to shore up the economy and prevent the virus spreading.”

Isn’t this precisely what so many politics watchers have said they wanted, an end to negative campaigning and more “civility” in American discourse? Almost as eerie as experiencing empty store shelves, customer-less restaurants and lifeless city centers is the absence of political warfare on TV.

No doubt both parties are hanging back and saving their dough not knowing how fundraising will be impacted by the COVID-19 virtual shutdown and whether they’ll need additional resources for the months ahead when things get back to the way they were.

By then, folks may be hankering for a good ‘ol fashioned American political slugfest. You never know, it could happen! If the old saying was “Never say never,” it’s even more true now.

Time and circumstances will reveal whether President Trump’s new, more restrained public persona lasts throughout the coming presidential campaign. Through necessity, politics has been placed on hold until the coronavirus runs its due course, which leaves a lot of folks wondering if we might’ve seen the last of the “old” Trump.

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