By now we should all be inured to the whiplash-inducing comments of President Donald Trump, who, as my father used to say, could screw up an iron ball.
Just last week he was tweeting his support to armed anti-government activists and conservative protesters seeking an end to stay-at-home orders in three states with Democratic governors: Michigan, Virginia and Minnesota. The president also, contradicting his top health advisers, says he wants an early resumption of normal business and social activity.
Well, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican Trump backer, seemed to take the president seriously (silly man) and announced that Georgia would begin rolling back stay-at-home restrictions, just the kind of move demanded by the folks Trump encouraged to "LIBERATE" (the all-caps were his) other states.
Trump's response to Kemp's move?
"I want him to do what he thinks is right, but I disagree with him on what he is doing," Trump said late Wednesday. "I think it's too soon."
So, it's fine to "liberate" Michigan, but too soon to "liberate" Georgia?
The folks at the federal Centers for Disease Control - based in Atlanta - must be having some, um, interesting internal discussions over that.
Of course, this is all politics, and part of Trump's standard operating procedure to goad, troll and agitate to create as much chaos, uncertainty and smoke as he can. Amid the noise, he pushes forward his agenda, keeps flogging his supporters like a jockey at Santa Anita Park and tries to keep those who disagree with or oppose him on a defensive footing.
That's no way to lead a country, even one that isn't in the midst of a dangerous pandemic.
There have been more than 842,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 46,780 deaths in the U.S., and both numbers are in all likelihood undercounts. The truth is that health authorities and the federal government don't know the full scope of the pandemic, in part because of Trump's slow and inadequate response, but also because the virus appears to have been among us earlier than officials thought.
It's a confusing situation, exacerbated by confused and at times ignorant and nearly always self-serving utterances by the president, though he recently came to the correct conclusion in one situation. After initially saying he had the authority to reopen the country, he later backed off in recognition of the powers state governors have in their jurisdictions.
So Trump is reduced to his bullying pulpit, where he tells people in some states to pressure their governors (in a threatening manner for those openly carrying firearms as they descend on state capitols) to relax the restrictions, while pushing back on the governor of Georgia for relaxing the restrictions.
Here's a thought. How about if the president doesn't have anything constructive or useful or - perish the thought - consistent to say, he says nothing at all?
Yeah, I know. You can stop laughing now.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Scott Martelle, a veteran journalist and author of six history books, is a member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board.
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
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