In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway. It unfolds as Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to public policy and the electoral process.
America locked down this spring during the worst pandemic in a century, inside the Trump White House there was the usual defiance.
The tight quarters of the West Wing were packed and busy. Almost no one wore masks. The rare officials who did, like Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, were ridiculed by colleagues as alarmist.
President Trump at times told staff wearing masks in meetings to “get that thing off,” an administration official said. Everyone knew that Mr. Trump viewed masks as a sign of weakness, officials said, and that his message was clear. “You were looked down upon when you would walk by with a mask,” said Olivia Troye, a top aide on the coronavirus task force who resigned in August and has endorsed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
In public, some of the president’s favorite targets were mask-wearing White House correspondents. “Would you take it off, I can hardly hear you,” Mr. Trump told Jeff Mason of Reuters in May, then mocked Mr. Mason for wanting “to be politically correct” when he refused.
To recap: Meadows went on the record with Reuters to contradict what he told other reporters on the condition of anonymity earlier in the day—comments that contradicted what the president’s own doctor had broadcasted to the public after 18 hours without official word on the president’s medical condition.
Chris Wallace: (07:27) I want to ask you both about one last subject because your different approaches has even affected the way that you have campaigned. President Trump, you’re holding large rallies with crowds packed together, thousands of people.
President Donald J. Trump: (07:38) Outside.
Chris Wallace: (07:39) Outside. Yes, sir. Agreed. Vice President Biden, you are holding much smaller events with-
President Donald J. Trump: (07:46) Because nobody will show up.
Chris Wallace: (07:47)… people with masks.
President Donald J. Trump: (07:47)Well, it’s true. Nobody shows up to his rallies.
Chris Wallace: (07:50) All right. In any case, why you holding the big rallies? Why you not? You go first, sir.
President Donald J. Trump: (07:56) Because people want to hear what I have to say. I mean-
Chris Wallace: (07:59) But are not worried about us spreading disease?
President Donald J. Trump: (08:01) … I’m doing my job as a president, and I’ll have 25, 35,000 people show up at airports. We use airports and hangers and we have a lot of people-
Chris Wallace: (08:06) Are you not worried about the disease issues, sir?
President Donald J. Trump: (08:08) Well, so far we have had no problem whatsoever. It’s outside. That’s a big difference according to the experts. We do them outside, we have tremendous crowds, as you see, and literally on 24 hours notice. And Joe does the circles and has three people someplace.
Vice President Joe Biden: (08:26) By the way, did you see one of the last big rallies he had? A reporter came up to him to ask him a question, he said, “No, no, no. Stand back, put on your mask, put on a mask. Have you been tested? I’m way far away from those other people.” That’s what he said, “I’m going to be okay.” He’s not worried about you. He’s not worried about the people out there [crosstalk 00:08:48].
President Donald J. Trump: (08:48) We’ve had no negative effect.
Vice President Joe Biden: (08:49) No negative effect. Come on.
President Donald J. Trump: (08:51) We’ve had no negative effect, and we’ve had 35, 40,000 people at these rallies.
Chris Wallace: (08:55) All right. Do you want to just quickly finish up? Because I want to move on to our next-
Vice President Joe Biden: (08:57) Yes, I would. He’s been totally irresponsible the way in which he has handled the social distancing and people wearing masks, basically encouraged them not to. He’s a fool on this.
President Donald J. Trump: (09:08) If you could get the crowds, you would have done the same thing. But you can’t. Nobody cares.