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Monday, January 30, 2023

Trump in the fight against the “invisible enemy”

Washington – US President Donald Trump opens rhetorically heavy artillery in the Corona crisis. “America continues to wage an uncompromising war to defeat the virus,” he said at Wednesday night’s White House press conference.

The virus is being attacked “on every front”. “I know that in this time of need, every American will do his patriotic duty and help us achieve total victory.” Before that, Trump had declared himself “war president” and called for a fight “against an invisible enemy”.


It is an enemy that Trump has long refused to admit. According to projections, the White House has now feared up to 240,000 Covid-19 deaths in the USA – despite containment measures. If we can limit this number to 100,000, “then we have all done a good job together,” said Trump. US media compare the feared number of victims with those from wars that have fought in the United States.

Trump’s bleak rhetoric of war, therefore, fits the dramatically increasing number of infections and victims in the United States. However, it cannot hide the fact that the President initially used completely different tones. “Trump is trying to erase the memory of how he played down the coronavirus,” criticized the US broadcaster CNN.


For weeks, Trump struggled to reduce the danger – he was wasting valuable time in the crisis. The President repeatedly claimed that the situation was under control. Trump announced that the virus would simply miraculously disappear and that the number of infected people in the United States would decrease again (from 15 at the time) to “close to zero”. It was less than a month ago that he accused the “fake news media” and the opposition Democratic Party on Twitter of “aggravating the coronavirus situation”.


Now Trump has declared war on the «foreign virus». He is not the only country leader who uses brute battlefield rhetoric. “We are at war,” said French President Emmanuel Macron. “We don’t fight armies or any other nation. But the enemy is there, invisible – and he is advancing. » The Italian President Giuseppe Conte said on ARD about the situation in Europe: «We are all on the front lines. If only one outpost gives way, only one trench collapses, then the enemy will spread inside. »


The US magazine “The Atlantic” warns that the dubious comparison with war could have unintended consequences – by spreading fear and panic. “A look at the sparse supermarket shelves and the increase in firearms sales in the US indicate that these effects may have already occurred,” the paper writes. And the magazine points out that in this “war” most people are not called upon to mobilize, on the contrary: “They are asked to stay at home.”


Behind the respective war, comparisons are the intention to make the population aware of the seriousness of the situation and to prepare them for hard cuts. Trump also has another factor: he is in the middle of the election campaign and wants to be re-elected in November. The Republican now appears daily at press conferences, which are mostly broadcast live across the country – the performance on Thursday evening (local time) lasted more than two and a quarter hours. His potential Democratic challengers – ex-Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders – have largely disappeared from the scene.


In times of war and crisis, people mostly flock to a leader, and this effect can also be seen in the United States. In a poll published last week by the Washington Post and ABC broadcaster, Trump’s approval ratings rose to the highest level ever measured by these two media: 48 percent said he was positive about how he was doing his job as president, 46 percent negative.

Trump – otherwise a bitter critic of the Washington Post – promptly published these values ​​on his Twitter account, which more than 75 million people have subscribed to. He left the results of another question unpublished: 58 percent said he had not reacted quickly enough in the crisis. Other “war presidents” ahead of him also grew significantly more popular in surveys. The approval ratings of the then US President George W. Bush rose to more than 80 percent after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The same was true for his father, President George H. W. Bush, after the 1991 Iraq war.


In fact, the US military is already involved in the fight against the virus. Hospital ships have moored in New York and Los Angeles, field hospitals are being set up, and all 50 states have activated parts of the National Guard. Trump also activated a wartime law to force companies to produce ventilators, for example.

Trump’s war rhetoric is also due to cultural differences and a special attitude to the military in the United States. For example, veterans are thanked for their service before baseball games, and on flights, they belong to the first group that is allowed to board. This shows the Americans’ esteem for their soldiers, who are ready to make the “ultimate sacrifice” for the nation if need be – as healthcare workers are doing today.


The Democratic governor of the badly affected state of New York, Andrew Cuomo, called doctors and nurses “soldiers” who were at the “front” – Cuomo is currently profiling itself as a kind of anti-Trump in the crisis. The President himself recently said, looking at a hospital in New York City: “I saw doctors and nurses who went to this hospital this morning. Like soldiers going to war. The bravery is incredible. »


In a Washington Post statement, journalist Jennifer Rubin considers the war comparison to being correct given the deadly nature of the virus and the logistics required to combat it. However, she has already passed her verdict on the “war president” and it is devastating: “This is a war that we are losing because of an incompetent commander-in-chief,” wrote Rubin recently. “It is a great tragedy that we have to wait until November to release him from his duties.”

Kiranpreet Kaur
Kiranpreet Kaur
Staff writer at The Eastern Herald. Studied political science.

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