Donald Trump hasn’t sounded like a great president this week. He maybe hasn’t even sounded like a good president. But during a press conference yesterday, something remarkable happened: Donald Trump sounded like a president. The world is truly upside-down.
The only way to fight this pandemic involves informing the American people, and changing their behavior. The president’s belated flirtation with competence—delivering a genuinely important call for social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus in his speech Monday, turning the mic over to public-health experts, and respectfully answering questions—couldn’t have come at a more important time. He mostly stuck to that approach at the Coronavirus Task Force briefing on Tuesday.
As a former presidential speechwriter, I believe the importance of presidential rhetoric is generally overrated. But this moment is different. What the president says, and how he says it, matters. Whether or not you support this president, his words are now a matter of life and death.