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I'd like to give President Trump the benefit of the doubt.

He simply may have gone wobbly, which Margaret Thatcher famously advised George H.W. Bush not to do when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Or it may be that Trump is playing a self-assigned role as the national cheerleader. Maybe he's merely trying to spread hope to keep Americans' spirits up, as Gov. Asa Hutchinson put it at his daily coronavirus briefing in Little Rock.

I could see it either way, or, as usual, parts of both.

But one thing Trump should never do is even imply, as he did Tuesday, that, hey, people die, whether in car wrecks or with flu or novel viruses, but money must be made.

His ego may be despairing of all this bunkering and cowering as a strategy. He is about mass overstatement, not private retreat. Impatience may be among his disorders, or a symptom of one or more of them.

Meanwhile, he's very good at superficial hyperbole. Everything is "incredible" with him, or "great," or "never seen before."

So he simply may be seizing the role of cheerleader-in-chief, invoking the image of full churches on Easter only to give Americans some incentive to help them through the fear and distress that they must endure indefinitely--and certainly past Easter.

On Tuesday, Trump gave his happy talk--his declaration of an Easter goal--some credit for the stock market jumping more than 2,000 points from its day-before nadir.

Most people credited progress in the Senate toward the more concrete promise of a stimulus deal.

The Senate was the football team, playing the game where the score was kept. But every team needs cheerleaders. The president was doing rhetorical cartwheels.

I understand the frustration and lack of sustainability of sitting at home as a national defense strategy. We are obeying a government dictate to mobilize ourselves into immobility. It goes against what we've always been taught, which is to get up and do something. And the economy cannot long survive in idle.

But whatever the method to the current Trumpian madness, the more important issue must remain public health. The nation must not become either so wobbly or falsely hopeful that we undo these efforts we've made now for less than two weeks.

Easter is but three weeks away. As any national public health official will tell you, that's too soon to return to any semblance of normalcy in our economic and social activities.

This is the "calm before the storm" for Arkansas, as Hutchinson put it at his briefing Tuesday.

Our statistics in Arkansas have been based on yesterday's situation. Only now is testing picking up. Cases came late to us compared to other states. So we are still low along the upward trend line, which may not top out for eight to 12 weeks, the governor said.

We have enough personal protective equipment for medical personnel for 60 days, which could be "in the middle" of the outbreak, he said.

That's why he talks frankly about the challenges of buying more.

When a reporter asked Hutchinson about Trump's Easter talk, the governor said, with the finesse the occasion called for, that he hadn't heard those remarks and couldn't be sure what they were. But he said the president's job is to give hope.

The reality is not filled pews on Easter. It's probably not a festival on Memorial Day. Perhaps it could be thousands in downtown Little Rock cheering fireworks over the river on July 4.

The likeliest scenario for our economic return came Tuesday from the man who suddenly is outshining Trump in the one place the president can't bear to be outshone. That is the television screen.

I refer to Andrew Cuomo.

The New York governor's gift of blunt glibness has made him something of a shooting star the last few days. Right now, if only right now, he'd be a better Democratic presidential nominee than Joe Biden.

Cuomo said in a widely telecast briefing that a "pivot to economic functionality" would start "in a few weeks" with a return to workplace activities only by young persons, recovered persons and tested persons.

The rest, meaning most, will hang back for the second or third or fourth wave.

That's incremental, as most progress must be.

Full economic recovery will begin to take place the day a dozen or so people crowd nose-to-nose into an elevator car without hesitation, thumbing their phones to make weekend travel plans.

Neither Trump's wobbliness nor his cheerleading will have much to do with that.

We'll need instead a vaccine or a treatment medication or, most likely, a trend line substantially on the downhill side, occurring only because we'd stayed the hard course on the tough assignment to sit still.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 03/26/2020

Print Headline: Slow down there, Trump


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