Donald Trump’s European (or at least Schengen) travel ban seems like a curious reversal of his previous tone on coronavirus.
Until now the US president had been downplaying the deadliness of the disease, comparing it to the flu, something that fits into the general American partisan split on the issue.
This might seem a bit odd, since while Republicans are more likely to be rural, they’re also more likely to be older, and to come from parts of the country with some chronic health problems.
It’s also strange because the coronavirus in many parts highlights the very fears of globalisation that sent Trump to the White House: our dependence on global supply changes; the dangers of unlimited travel; the feeling that the global elite, jetting from airport to airport, are so complacent actually a danger to the rest of us. Most of all there is a feeling among paleoconservatives, who have from the start been the most pessimistic on coronavirus, that we’re ruled by unserious people.
That whereas serious countries like South Korea, Singapore, Israel or Poland do everything necessary to protect their citizens, the rulers of the US, Britain, France and Germany seem motivated by a mixture of economic calculation (how will it affect the economy?), an ideological commitment to globalism (free movement is who we are) and a sort of decadent resigned fatalism (70% of people will catch it so whatever).
Yet Trump, because of his enormous ego and terrible lack of vision, has instead taken the most basic, low-IQ Right-wing position possible, and so failing to act as the disease spread across his country.
And now, all of a sudden, he seems to take it seriously (whether his measures work or not is another question). Is it because his favourite TV host, Tucker Carlson, actually talks sense, and has been pointing out to his Republican-voting audience that coronavirus is up to 30 times more deadly than flu? Only a couple of days ago, a writer in The Week speculated on whether Tucker might change the president’s mind — and now, lo and behold!
Last year Tucker persuaded the president not to start a war with Iran, so because of him hundreds and maybe thousands of Iranians and Americans are alive who would otherwise be dead.
Now, if Trump actually acts over coronavirus, perhaps many more will be saved thanks to Tucker. America may have a Bad King, but at least it has a Good Counsellor. For God sake, whoever’s organising Trump’s schedule, make sure he’s not busy when Tucker Carlson Tonight is next on.