Trump Failed The Pandemic Test That Ron DeSantis Won
And that could make all the difference
Donald Trump has been dinged by some of his supporters for being the biggest vaccine advocate in the world — supporting them, and the success of Operation Warp Speed, to the nth degree.
But there’s an obvious reason that he’s doing this: it’s the only aspect of his Covid policies that actually worked.
Most of his approach was a disaster.
Urged on by Tucker Carlson and others, he went along with shutting down the country and the “15 days to slow the spread” approach, endorsed repeatedly by a White House unwilling or incapable of taking on the bureaucracy that led us into a maelstrom of terrible policy which destroyed the education of American children, the small businesses their parents owned, and ultimately paved the way for Joe Biden’s presidency.
Donald Trump’s Covid policy was terrible, there is no defense of it, there is no one serious who can defend it, he caved to every terrible bureaucrat in the building.
In all likelihood, Donald Trump will soon announce his re-entry into the presidential stakes — a decision that, with the exception of Grover Cleveland and Teddy Roosevelt, is largely unique to American history. In so doing, he plans to build on the success he had in office, the Supreme Court’s decisions on abortion and other matters, and the Biden administration’s mistreatment of the economy, the border and the culture.
But one thing that will absolutely prove to be problematic for Trump when it comes to a primary — which he will absolutely have, given the machinations of multiple politicians who take issue with his approach or who will seek to supplant him — is a defense of his own performance in the last year of his presidency, facing a global pandemic.
To say that Trump failed in this moment is putting it lightly. Virtually every decision he made was wrong, with the notable exception of a travel ban. The decision to maintain Anthony Fauci in his role was absurd and insane in retrospect. He kept on Deborah Birx and others long after they had proven to be incompetent. The outsourcing of decisions on keeping schools open was ridiculous. And time and again, he engaged in an approach that ceded authority to others rather than making decisions himself about the process of governance.
In contrast, Ron DeSantis governed as a leader not trapped by the vagaries of the moment. He made decisions the media judged, but stuck to them in spite of it. Trump, beholden as always to the whims of the newspapers and CNN, caved in the face of this pressure. He allowed Anthony Fauci and others to become the de facto policymakers of the moment. And he did nothing to defend the truly balanced perspectives of those like Scott Atlas and the signers of the Great Barrington Declaration, who risked their careers to tell the truth about what our national policy ought to be.
Trump will run in 2024 on a record of success. But his Achilles’ heel is a failure of monstrous proportion, at a moment when leadership was needed. The pandemic came, and in its face, he caved like a weakling to the dominant bureaucratic forces that put children in a box and imprisoned workers at home. He met the maskers, and let them run wild. Until he grapples with this failure, his foes in 2024 will be ready to exploit it. DeSantis got it right. Trump got it wrong. It’s time for Republicans to reckon with that fact.
Trump and DeSantis Jockey For Position
The current front-runners for the Republican presidential nod are both in Florida. Whether Palm Beach or Tallahassee is more likely to produce the eventual winner might depend on if GOP voters here and around the country want an encore from the party’s most dominant voice or prefer to hand the stage to its fast-climbing star.
Former President Donald Trump is very likely to run again in 2024, aides say, and he has said publicly that he is weighing whether he should announce before or after this November’s midterm elections. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has developed his own devout following and is one of the few potential 2024 contenders who hasn’t said he would defer to Mr. Trump, though there are several other high-profile candidates who could end up challenging one or both men.
Once close allies—Mr. Trump’s endorsement helped fuel Mr. DeSantis’s rise, and Mr. DeSantis lavished praise on him in return—the two Republicans have jabbed at each other across the state, particularly over each man’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr. DeSantis is capturing the interest of some Trump voters, as well as party officials and donors.
Here in Hollywood, among 1,500 GOP activists at a guitar-shaped resort on Saturday evening, many said Mr. DeSantis should run for president because they like his brand of defiant conservatism.
“I haven’t backed down one inch and we are not going to back down,” Mr. DeSantis said at a political summit he hosted at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
That same night, Mr. Trump gave a speech to young conservatives in Tampa, Fla., and again teased a return, claiming falsely—to wild applause—that he had already won two presidential elections. “And now we may just have to do it again,” he said.
TikTok Fears China Connection
Right near the top of the list? “Downplay the parent company ByteDance, downplay the China association, downplay AI.” All three bullet points are the second, third and fourth lines of the document, second only to “Emphasise TikTok as a brand/platform.” Further down, the company advises its employees to stress that, though young people love TikTok, “the app is only for users aged 13 and over.”
The documents are influential even beyond TikTok’s responses to everyday news stories: Language similar to what’s in them appeared in a TikTok executive’s testimony before the United Kingdom’s parliament and in the company’s letters to United States senators. TikTok declined to answer questions about the leaked materials.
The Chinese link is a known issue for TikTok PR—an FCC commissioner asked Apple and Google to remove it from their app stores over the connection in late June—and it comes up frequently across both documents. In the 15-page TikTok Key Messages document, which was created in February 2021, TikTok’s public relations people are given soundbites to address any questions about “China/Bytedance Ownership”.
The soundbites include:
“There’s a lot of misinformation about TikTok right now. The reality is that the TikTok app isn’t even available in China.” TikTok used this talking point when responding to the BBC.
“We have not and will not share user data with the Chinese government, and would not do so if asked.” TikTok used this one in response to BuzzFeed News.
“We have a number of measures in place to significantly reduce access to user data, and we continue to build those out.” TikTok published this talking point on its own blog.
The document goes on to provide “proof points” for TikTok PRs to take, including:
“TikTok is a global company”
“The TikTok app doesn’t even operate in China.”
“TikTok is highly localized in its experience and operations, which means <> has a lot of independence in the day-to-day operations of the platform.”
In the Master Messaging document, staff are given potential questions they may face from journalists and stock answers to them. Among the questions TikTok PR expects to face: “What is the relationship between Bytedance and its individual products such as TikTok and Toutiao?”, to which the PR is given the response: “Bytedance is the holding company of TikTok. TikTok employees cannot comment on ByteDance. We will refer to ByteDance itself.” Later, under the heading “DO NOT USE,” the document gives staff a high-level briefing of ByteDance’s background.
The longer document also echoes the concern that there’s “a lot of information about TikTok being spread. These are the facts.” The document advises PRs to say, “TikTok has an American CEO, a head of security with decades of experience in the U.S. military and law enforcement, and a U.S. team that works diligently and responsibly on the consistent development of the security infrastructure. Four of the five seats on the Supervisory Board of our parent company are filled by some of the world’s most respected global investors.”
Further down in the document, the company guides its PR staff to shy away from highlighting the age of its users, who are reputed to be younger (and cooler) than those on any other social network. “The app is only for users aged 13 and over, according to our terms and conditions,” the guidance recommends. “Therefore, in relation to our users, we may speak of young people, but not of children.”
Trump Returns To DC
Former President Donald Trump returned to Washington, DC for the first time since leaving office on Tuesday, and the business mogul did not like what he saw. During his keynote address at the America First Agenda Summit held at the Marriott Marquis, Trump derided the filthy homeless encampments that have popped up throughout the city and called for a return to “law and order.”
These tent cities, Trump said, are “all over some of, I think, the most beautiful public spaces in the world.” Indeed, if you drive through downtown DC or catch a train out of Union Station, you will encounter the haphazard tents and the mostly drug-addicted and mentally unwell who roam within. Trump’s solution? Set up a nicer, federally run tent city on the outskirts of town where the homeless can get access to health professionals and prepare themselves to return to normal society.
The former president revealed that much of his speech would focus on rising crime in America’s cities, including calling out the “defund the police” movement and the left’s desire to “reimagine public safety” — particularly the refusal to prosecute criminals and instead punish victims.
“Their vision is sick,” Trump said bluntly.
He cited the uptick in the aforementioned tent cities, rampant drug abuse, smash and grabs, and random acts of violence as evidence that the country has gotten too soft on crime. His focus, though, was somewhat ironic given that he was introduced by Brooke Rollins, president and CEO of the America First Policy Institute and the former White House staffer who pushed for the First Step Act amid the 2020 riots. The First Step Act was arguably Trump’s biggest miss — it let hundreds of dangerous criminals out of prison in the name of criminal justice reform. Trump didn’t mention it during his speech on Tuesday; does he regret allowing his staff to talk him into championing that piece of legislation?
“I don’t see any bills being passed that want to give the police strength,” he said in reference to the current Democrat-led Congress, but it could have just as easily applied to his final year in office. In 2016, Trump’s winning issue was immigration. Perhaps if he returns to the campaign trail, crime and public safety will be his golden ticket to the White House in 2024.
Items of Interest
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— Lionel Shriver