Trump in the fight against the “invisible enemy”

Trump in the fight against the 'invisible enemy'

U.S. President donald trump ratchets up rhetorical heavy artillery in corona crisis. "America continues to wage an uncompromising war to defeat the virus," he said, for example, at his daily press conference at the white house on wednesday.

The virus is being attacked "on every front". "I believe that in this time of need, every american will fulfill his or her patriotic duty and help us achieve total victory." Even before that, trump had declared himself a "war president" and called for a fight "against an invisible enemy".


It’s an enemy trump long refused to acknowledge. Meanwhile, the weibe house estimates fear up to 240,000 covid-19 deaths in the u.S. – despite damming decreases. If we can limit that number to 100,000, "then we’ve all done a good job together," trump said.

Trump’s gloomy war rhetoric thus matches the dramatically rising infection and casualty rates in the U.S. But it can’t hide the fact that the president initially struck a very different tone. "Trump is trying to erase the memory of how he downplayed the coronavirus," criticizes U.S. Network CNN.


For weeks, trump struggled to minimize the threat, wasting valuable time in the crisis. Several times the president claimed that the situation was under control. Trump promised that the virus would just miraculously disappear. Not a month ago, he accused the "fake-news media" and the opposition democratic party on twitter of "fomenting the coronavirus situation".


So now trump has declared war on the "foreign virus". He is not the only leader to use brute battlefield rhetoric. "We are at war," for example, said france’s president emmanuel macron. "We are not fighting against armies or against any other nation. But the enemy is there, invisible – and he’s jerking forward.Italian president giuseppe conte said on tv: "we are all on the front lines". When just one outpost gives way, just one trench of protection collapses, the enemy spreads inside."


Behind the war comparisons is the intention to show the people the seriousness of the situation and prepare them for harsh cuts. But in trump’s case, there is another factor: he is in the midst of an election campaign and wants to be reelected in november. The republican now makes daily appearances at press conferences, most of which are broadcast live across the country – thursday night’s appearance (local time) lasted more than two and a quarter hours. By contrast, his potential challengers on the democratic side – ex-vice president joe biden and senator bernie sanders – have largely disappeared from the picture plane.


In times of war and crisis, people also tend to rally around a leader, and this effect can also be observed in the U.S. In a poll released last week by the washington post and ABC, trump’s approval ratings rose to the highest ever recorded by the two media outlets: 48 percent positive about how he’s handling his presidential duties, 46 percent negative.

Trump – otherwise a fierce critic of the "washington post" – promptly posted those stats on his twitter account, to which more than 75 million people subscribe. He also revealed the results of another question: 58 percent said he had not reacted quickly enough during the crisis.

Other "war presidents" before him had also gained far more popularity in polls. Here’s how then-U.S. President george W’s approval ratings rose. Bush after the terrorist attacks of 11. September 2001 to more than 80 percent. The same was true for his father, president george H. W. Bush, after the start of the iraq war in 1991.


In fact, the military in the U.S. Is already involved in the fight against the virus. Hospital ships have docked in new york and los angeles, field hospitals are being set up, all 50 states have activated parts of the national guard.

Trump’s war rhetoric also reflects cultural differences and a particular attitude toward the military in the U.S. For example, veterans are thanked for their service before baseball games, and they are among the first group to board flights. This shows the value americans place on their soldiers, who are willing to make the "ultimate sacrifice" for the nation if necessary – as health care workers are doing right now.

"Like militars going into battle"

Democratic governor of hard-hit new york state, andrew cuomo, called medics and nurses "soldiers" who put in hours on the "front lines" – cuomo is making his mark in the crisis right now as a kind of anti-trump. The president himself, referring to a hospital in new york city, said briefly: "I saw doctors and nurses who went into that hospital this morning. How militars who go to battle go to war. The bravery is incredible."


In an opinion piece in the washington post, journalist jennifer rubin argues that the war comparison is apt, given the deadliness of the virus and the logistics involved in fighting it. Her verdict on the "war president," however, is scathing: "this is a war we are losing because of an incompetent commander in chief," rubin wrote recently. "It is a gross tragedy that we have to wait until november to relieve him of his duties."

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