We’re not clear

Trump said words last night.

At 9.02pm, Trump began as presidents so often do: “My fellow Americans.” But in the next breath, he reverted to his familiar us-versus-them nationalism, referring to the coronavirus outbreak “that started in China” and is now spreading throughout the world. “This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history.” Not just a virus. A foreign virus.

The president touted his own sweeping travel restrictions on China and, far from expressing sympathy and solidarity with allies, argued the European Union “failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots. As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe.”

Trump announced the US will be banning travelers from many European countries to the US for the next 30 days with exemptions for Americans, permanent residents and family of US citizens who have undergone screenings and, mysteriously, the UK, despite it having a higher caseload than some other European countries.

And despite the fact that people from other European countries will just nip over to Heathrow to fly here.

He went on to talk of the pathogen as if it [were] a foreign army or terrorist network. “The virus will not have a chance against us,” he said. “No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States.”

If that were true Trump would not be president.

Many observers found the address unreassuring and downright weird. Susan Glasser, a staff writer from the New Yorker, tweeted: “The militaristic, nationalistic language of Trump’s speech tonight is striking: a ‘foreign virus,’ keeping out China and Europe.”

David Litt, who wrote speeches for Obama, posted: “As a former presidential speechwriter, my careful rhetorical analysis is that he’s gonna get us all killed.”

Trump’s second Oval Office address was over in 10 minutes. Then a man off camera said: “We’re clear.” The president unbuttoned his jacket and exclaimed with relief: “OK!”

Man off camera has now been executed.

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