The President’s tone shifts on the pandemic as he resumes briefings at the White House – except he’s sans experts.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Americans want reassurance and relief, and they are looking to their elected leaders as the coronavirus continues to disrupt their communities, their personal lives and, for many, their livelihoods. Six hundred dollars a week in enhanced unemployment benefits are set to expire in less than a week. Meanwhile, uncertainty about whether schools can safely reopen and long waits for COVID test results leave many with little sense of security.
Joining me to talk about the week in politics is NPR’s Ron Elving. Good morning, Ron.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Leila.
FADEL: So a tough week again for Americans, and a tough week, too, for President Trump. It started with a challenging interview with Chris Wallace from Fox News. And from there, the going only got tougher, starting with the state of the pandemic.
ELVING: The pandemic keeps getting worse, Leila, and that’s driving all the other bad news. We’re back to having a thousand deaths a day, and we’re seeing that now for the past four days in a row. This next week, we will likely reach the grim milestone of 150,000 dead in the U.S. Some states that had reopened are shutting down again or considering shutting down again. And as for the schools in the fall, the Centers for Disease Control had, on orders from the president, relaxed their earlier guidance, but it also said it would be hard to reopen schools in areas where new cases exceeded a certain standard. And right now, that covers a lot of the country.
FADEL: So coronavirus briefings are back at the White House, but now without the experts.
ELVING: That’s right. The briefings are back, but the president is now doing these pretty much on his own. He delivers some information but with a lot of his own spin. We haven’t seen Dr. Anthony Fauci, for example, at these events. He says he’s not been invited. So the reassurance value here may be rather limited.
FADEL: So the president also had to face the facts about his much-desired formal convention speech and rally in Jacksonville, Fla. It’s not happening.
ELVING: That’s right. And this has been the real message of these new briefings the president has been having. He’s giving us a more realistic assessment from a somewhat chastened chief executive. He said wearing masks could be seen as patriotic. He said some schools might not be able to reopen. And as you noted, he gave in on his big convention celebration in Jacksonville. That’s the event he had moved out of North Carolina earlier when they told him he couldn’t have that kind of crowd that he wanted.
FADEL: So in the midst of this, Americans learned a new military-style code name this week, Operation Legend. Ron, what is going on with the dispatch of federal agents to various cities, including Portland?
ELVING: When the president introduced the program this week, he talked about reducing gun violence in some American cities, and that would certainly be welcome. But the main focus so far seems to be on quelling street protests in cities such as Portland, which has seen nightly demonstrations for two months. Local and state officials were struggling to deal with that in their own way, but the president has no patience for their own way. And so reacting to vandalism at federal property in Portland, the president has sent Customs agents and other officials in camouflage uniforms with military weapons to make arrests. And he tells us he’s doing it in other cities as well, and that is raising all manner of questions.
FADEL: So finally, as the week is ending, the president’s own party, the Republicans in the Senate left for the weekend without a proposal for coronavirus relief, leaving in limbo the negotiations with the Democratic-controlled House. What are the sticking points, Ron?
ELVING: One big thing keeping the Republicans divided is that $600 per week enhancement to unemployment compensation that you mentioned earlier. That’s going on to – that’s going out right now to about 20 million people. Some of the Republican senators say it’s too generous and it’s discouraging them from going back to work. But at the end of next week, another 12 million Americans are going to be vulnerable to eviction, and that number will increase at the end of each month as the virus forces more layoffs and furloughs in the months ahead.
FADEL: That’s NPR’s Ron Elving. Thanks.
ELVING: Thank you.
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