President Trump took a question about possible ramifications for China if it were clear that their mishandling of the coronavirus crisis affected other countries and turned it into an opportunity to raise the specter that China may have been “knowingly responsible” for the virus.
During Saturday’s COVID-19 daily briefing, Trump was asked about China’s delinquency in telling “the rest of the world what was going on” with their own coronavirus outbreak and whether he thinks there should be consequences.
“Well, if [China] were knowingly responsible, certainly,” he said, adding, “If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, then there should be consequences.”
— PoliticsVideo23 (@politicsvideo23) April 19, 2020
Later in the same briefing, Trump went back to the same line of attack, with no proof and offering no logical motive, that China may have “deliberately” spread the virus.
“The question was asked, ‘Would you be angry at China?’ Well, the answer might very well be a very resounding yes, but it depends: Was it a mistake that got out of control, or was it done deliberately? There’s a big difference between those two,” Trump said.
According to a report in the New York Times, Trump is giving Republican allies who are concerned about his reelection chances exactly what they want by driving home a blame China message. With the state of the economy in disarray and the pandemic death toll rising, GOP lawmakers think it’s best for Trump to have a scapegoat.
“Trump has always been successful when he’s had a bogeyman and China is the perfect bogeyman,” Republican strategist Chris LaCivita told the Times.
It’s a way of deflecting responsibility that Trump has used consistently. This week he went after Democratic governors, saying they are complaining about the lack of COVID-19 tests, not because it’s true, but instead to reflect badly on him. It’s the same claim Trump made when governors raised concerns about ventilator shortages.
The president has made it clear that he will never take responsibility for anything that has gone wrong under his administration. He literally used the exact words when asked last month during a COVID-19 briefing last month, saying, “I don’t take responsibility at all.”
Trump’s mishandling of the crisis has him boxed in more than ever. So, using methods that have worked for him in the past — like blaming others for his failings — isn’t a surprise. But the country needs competence and accountability, not a president and a Republican Party who are spending time strategizing about who is the best scapegoat, instead of using that time to conquer a pandemic. People are dying.