The journalists at CBS This Morning on Thursday lashed out at Donald Trump’s Coronavirus address from the White House, objecting to the President using the word foreign in his Wednesday-night speech. This, apparently, made the effort an “America-first” attempt at sliming “outsiders.”
Guest host Michelle Miller complained, “The President also called this a foreign virus. What has he accomplished by making this an outsider's problem?” Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett derided, “It is kind of an America-first rhetorical flourish that has nothing to do with public health, safety, or public health communication.”
Here is the lone use of the word “foreign” from the speech that so triggered the journalists on CBS:
This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history. I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus.
Later in the segment, Garrett turned to full-on critic, chiding the European travel ban part of the address:
The European travel ban may or may not work. Hard to explain. Hard to implement. But in the reality of community spread and governors and mayors and county-level officials having to be on the front lines, I was also expecting the President to praise them more, talk to — talk to the country more about how they're your first line of defense, and this level of cooperation between the federal government and local and state governments. That's still the missing component in the President's rhetoric.
A transcript of the segment is below:
CBS This Morning
7:33:07 to 7:36:42
TONY DOKOUPIL: We're joined by now by chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett. Major, good morning. You made the point last night after the President's address that the Coronavirus can't be tweeted away. It can't be talked away. So we saw a new look from the president. Did he succeed in reassuring Americans?
MAJOR GARRETT: The American people will decide whether or not they were reassured. But you heard Paula Reid say the White House is about decisive action. Okay, to what end? Is that going to reduce the number of cases? No. Every public health official said “We’re going to have more cases in this country.” And we have community spread already. The reviews on this travel ban are mixed to put it charitably. What is most important about trying to reassure the public is did the President actually speak what he was supposed to say? No, he didn't. He misspoke about goods and people, co-mingling them. Then the White House and the Department of Homeland Security were in a very rough position trying to explain after the Oval Office address.
If you were trying to reassure a nervous public, don't misspeak when you are trying to reassure them. Point one. One other thing I was to talk about here. Understand this: This White House does not have a functioning chief of staff right now. Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, is out, he's helping with the transition. Mark Meadows, to come in, has been self-quarantined with coronavirus this week. Mick Mulvaney's had a sinus infection, but he's been out of it. These things are essential to putting together a coherent message and a reassuring strategy spoken by the President. He is not surrounded by the kind of people he ordinarily would be at a moment where the country might lean on that more.
ANTHONY MASON: The President said the government is moving quickly to expand testing capabilities. But we're hearing from doctors it's still difficult to get tests. The governor of New York said “We can't rely on the CDC or the FDA to test. They're a bottleneck for us.” So there's a disconnect here.
GARRETT: This feeds on the sense of anxiety the public has. When Alex Azar was on this program yesterday and said every public health official can give a test if they want to, a public health official is not a doctor. As David Agus explained. That is a big disconnect. When you're not connecting the most credible, family actually information to the public, knows what to believe and how to be, back to that word, reassured about what to believe you leave gaps. You know what fills in gaps — anxiety, fear, tension.
MICHELLE MILLER: The President also called this a foreign virus. What has he accomplished by making this an outsider's problem?
GARRETT: It is kind of an America-first rhetorical flourish that has nothing to do with public health, safety, or public health communication. This is a virus that's going to spread. And when you saw on Capitol Hill yesterday various modeling about how much this could spreads, millions of cases. We don't how many deaths because we don't know the lethality of this. And I was expecting in the President's address last night to say, “You know, there's uncertainty, I know you're concerned, but here’s we and here's where we're heading.”
There was very little of this. The European travel ban may or may not work. Hard to explain. Hard to implement. But in the reality of community spread and governors and mayors and county-level officials having to be on the front lines, I was also expecting the President to praise them more, talk to — talk to the country more about how they're your first line of defense, and this level of cooperation between the federal government and local and state governments. That's still the missing component in the President's rhetoric.
DOKOUPIL: Yeah. It’s a time to take partisanship and put it to the side.
GARRETT: His best friends happen to be Democratic governors in Washington, New York, and California because they are totally on the front lines.
DOKOUPIL: One of whom he called a snake unfortunately.