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Let me begin by saying that I am very glad, on so many levels, that Trump has been holding his daily updates for the COVID-19 Task Force. Here are some of the reasons I think they are a good idea:
- The broadcast tells the public that Trump and the task force members want us to be informed. Transparency is critical.
- In spite of the confusion and inconsistencies of the models, the Task Force is determined to give us the best and most up-to-date information available.
- The Task Force members, even if we don’t always agree on how they arrive at policy, or about their refusal to give the available drugs their full endorsement, have been clear about their reasons.
- It is a healthy sign to see that Trump is not always in lock-step with the Task Force members.
So what’s the problem? My biggest issue is Trump himself.
I don’t mind his going after reporters; they are asking repetitive, foolish, and manipulative questions. I think that Trump’s pointing out this irresponsible behavior to the public is valuable. I also think the public benefits by seeing him daily as a reminder that he’s in charge of the country, and knowledgeable about the situation; when he’s not, he defers to his Task Force members. His praise of those on the front line is admirable and positive.
But he is proceeding in a number of ways that I think will damage his credibility and the appreciation of the public:
- He is spending far too much time speaking at these forums. I realize that the people who are watching don’t view these presentations every day, but he not only repeats information that is dated, he does it several times during his time at the dais.
- He needs to remember that he is speaking to the general public, not just his supporters. His bad habit of overusing certain words—incredible, perfect, and other superlative terms reflects a lack of imagination. It starts to grate on the nerves after a while. (This effect would be reduced by less time to speak, not more discipline.)
- The overall time for this forum should be reduced. People will begin to tire from the length of these forums, and may very well turn them off completely—and be “turned off” to their purpose. It also gives reporters more time to try to trap Trump into a response that can be distorted.
So how could these opportunities be improved?
- Limit the President’s time at the beginning to 10 minutes, with 10 minutes for questions. Include the most important highlights, rather than trying to cover every topic.
- Since time will be limited, reporters should be referred to their colleagues for information when they insist on asking duplicate questions.
- Limit the number of questions a reporter can ask.
- Begin to bring in Mike Pence just after Trump finishes his introduction. He is, after all, heading the Task Force.
- The doctors seem to be using their speaking time effectively. We may not like everything they’re telling us, but they seem to be building credibility with the public
- These are not campaign rallies where Trump is speaking only to his base. This is the American public. But his speaking can certainly influence public perception of Trump and their decisions for the upcoming election.
Trump should use his time, and the public’s time, well.Published in