Trump’s public schedules tell the story. He had nothing on his calendar yesterday, just like Tuesday. Monday he had lunch with Pence. Over the weekend, he golfed. Last week, he met with aides, spoke in the Rose Garden about Operation Warp Speed, and attended Veterans Day commemorations, but little else.
The president hasn’t given an interview since before Election Day. Beyond the Rose Garden remarks, a dangerous but deflated statement two days after Election Day, and brief, defiant comments in the hours after polls closed, Trump has largely disappeared from public view—a jarring turn of events, given his omnipresence for the past five years, and especially in the closing weeks of the campaign. For several days immediately after the election, even his Twitter account was subdued, though it’s back up at full volume now. A little (or a lot) less Trump might be cause for celebration if not for all the things a president has to do, especially in a crisis like the current one.
David A. Graham: America has no president
Give the man his due: Losing a presidential election must be miserable. (The late Senator John McCain often joked that after his 2008 defeat, “I slept like a baby: sleep two hours, wake up, and cry.”) That must be especially true for a president who made the election a referendum on himself. But leadership means at least letting that grief coexist with the needs of the country he really was elected to lead four years ago.
There are a few exceptions to Trump’s indolence. He has continued to send judicial nominations, which stand to be his major legacy, to the Senate. He reportedly toyed with the idea of starting a war with Iran, though advisers believe they’ve talked him out of it. And he has been working on a spree of punitive firings, on Tuesday dismissing the election-security official Chris Krebs not because he did a bad job, but because he did too good a job and said so, which undermines the president’s bogus election-fraud complaints.
But there’s a great deal that really does need doing. The pandemic is the most obvious example, but Anthony Fauci said on Sunday that the president hasn’t attended a meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force for “several months.” Trump was slow to acknowledge the seriousness of the pandemic, because he worried that it would imperil his reelection. The conclusion of the election could free him from those concerns, except that Trump hasn’t admitted that the election is over.
The president could also focus on persuading Congress to pass some sort of economic-relief bill to mitigate the damage caused by the virus. Businesses are failing, state and local governments are going broke, and 12 million Americans could soon lose unemployment assistance. The federal government is also funded only into next month. The president could have more effectively worked to solve these problems before the election, when he had more political muscle to use on recalcitrant Republican senators, but any effort now would be better late than never. For Trump to want to do this, though, he’d have to care about the condition of his fellow Americans, especially those who didn’t vote for him, and he’s shown little evidence that he does.