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Opinion Opinions | What Trump doesn’t get: Americans want to hear hard truths

20:30  13 april  2020
20:30  13 april  2020 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: President Trump and Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, presented projections Tuesday of the toll the coronavirus could impose on the United States. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) © Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post President Trump and Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, presented projections Tuesday of the toll the coronavirus could impose on the United States. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

It was less than two weeks ago that the (now former) secretary of the Navy fired Capt. Brett Crozier from his post commanding the USS Theodore Roosevelt, after Crozier distributed a memo pleading with his superiors to remove most of the sailors from the ship so they could be tested for coronavirus.

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Now we learn that one sailor from the Roosevelt has died, 585 have tested positive as of Sunday (about one in eight of the ship’s crew), and most of the crew has been taken off the ship, precisely the evacuation Crozier had been requesting.

The official bringing the bad news is the one who turned out to be right.

The government — or any other organization, for that matter — being afraid of the public release of bad news is hardly a new story. But this pandemic is demonstrating that there are times when the normal rules of perception management suddenly don’t apply. Strange as it may seem, right now the public actually wants to hear bad news, not only so we know that within the government the proper steps are being taken to address it, but also so we can be assured that we’re being told the truth.

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After all, if a representative of the government tells you that things are awful and are going to get worse, you can be pretty sure they aren’t lying to you. If they tell you the opposite, it might be true and it might not.

Our tolerance for being spun has dropped precipitously — and this is something President Trump doesn’t seem to understand. Ordinarily, we accept that spin is just part of politics. That means that the administration, whether it’s Democratic or Republican, will always say their decisions are righteous and wise, and the conditions of the moment are as good as they could be under the circumstances.

Trump, of course, has taken that particular form of spin — the “We’re doing a great job and everything is terrific” message, distinct from everything else he lies about — to an almost comical level of absurdity. But until now, Trump saying this is the greatest economy in history, or no president has accomplished what I have, was at least tolerated. He’s a salesman, after all, telling you that the condo he wants you to buy is the most luxurious in New York, even if you both know that isn’t true.

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But in this unprecedented moment, the people delivering bad news — state governors imposing lockdowns, scientists telling us things will get worse before they get better — have become the most admired and trusted public officials.

Trump seems to be getting ready to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, since Fauci has gotten a little too much media attention (always dangerous for anyone working for Trump) and because he has been too forthright about the public health situation. Consider that while Trump himself has gotten no boost in approval, unlike previous presidents presiding over crises, the public is positively in love with Fauci. In this recent Quinnipiac poll, Fauci’s approval was 78 percent, with only 7 percent rating him negatively. People say they approve of their governor’s performance by 74-24. Trump’s approval was 44 percent positive and 46 percent negative.

On Fox News they may proclaim that anyone sharing bad news, like Crozier or Fauci, must be part of a Deep State conspiracy to undermine Trump. But the public doesn’t believe it. Not only are we seeing the evidence in daily death tolls, but we want to know that the sacrifices we’re all making and the economic pain the country is enduring are worthwhile.

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Just as Trump was slow to accept that the pandemic was real and required action, he was — and remains — unwilling or unable to adapt to a new reality in which the public wants to hear the bad news. At first he insisted that the virus was totally under control and would soon disappear. Eventually he shifted to arguing that though it was real, his administration was doing a spectacular job managing it, better than anyone had any right to expect, and we’ll all be able to resume normal life very soon.

It isn’t just that his characterization of his own performance is laughable. Our tolerance for his particular brand of boosterism has disappeared.

And more than ever, Trump is convincing us that he must be doing even worse than usual at a time when we need competence more than ever. With so much bad news around, when the president comes out every evening to say how great it’s all going, it’s more jarring than ever. He’s even at a point where he’s presenting the fact that all 50 states are under states of emergency as some kind of personal triumph.

The public always has an incomplete view of what is being done behind the scenes, but with Trump so focused on punishing those who deliver bad news and telling us what a great job he’s doing, it’s only logical to assume that he’s lying. His relentless optimism is having the opposite effect from the one he intends.

Eventually, this crisis will recede and there actually will be good news to report. But at the moment, we want to know how bad it is, and we’re going to trust the officials who level with us. It’s too bad the president won’t ever be among them.

AP-NORC poll: Few Americans support easing virus protections .
WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite pockets of attention-grabbing protests, a new survey finds Americans remain overwhelmingly in favor of stay-at-home orders and other efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. A majority say it won’t be safe to lift such restrictions anytime soon, even as a handful of governors announce plans to ease within days the public health efforts that have upended daily life and roiled the global economy. The survey from ThePeople take part in a "reopen" Pennsylvania demonstration on April 20, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

usr: 1
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