Trump likes virus briefings, some advisers worry he likes them too much

US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in the James Brady Briefing Room April 10, 2020 at the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
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Updated 11 April 2020

Trump likes virus briefings, some advisers worry he likes them too much

  • Some advisers have quietly recommended he not spend so much time at the briefings to avoid being distracted from the challenge at hand and bickering with reporters
  • Trump is down against his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, in most recent national election polls

WASHINGTON: Cooped up in the White House, President Donald Trump sees the coronavirus briefings as his main outlet of the day, a reminder for Americans that he is in charge of managing the greatest crisis of a lifetime. Plus, the ratings are good.
Some advisers, however, would prefer a less-is-more approach. They have quietly recommended he not spend so much time at the briefings to avoid being distracted from the challenge at hand and bickering with reporters.
“It’s been suggested a few times, but he thinks it’s just great, and all these ratings,” said a source familiar with the situation.
After an initial bump, polls show approval ratings for Trump’s handling of the pandemic have leveled off, a departure from the usual surge of support Americans typically show their president during a national crisis, such as the high ratings George W. Bush received after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
In a further blow, Trump is down against his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, in most recent national election polls, even though Biden has been reduced to appearing on video from a room in his home, unable to hold campaign events because of the virus.
All of this has caused some alarm among the president’s advisers, in and out of the White House.
While Trump has boasted about the high numbers of Americans who tune in to the briefings, some of the advisers feel he would appear to be more in command if he came to the briefing room, delivered opening remarks and turned the proceedings over to the task force for the details.
“I don’t think it’s helping him,” a Republican close to the White House said of Trump’s lengthy appearances. “If you look at the polling, his job approval numbers are under water. And this is the high water mark part of this crisis. As time goes on, I think things get worse for him. He just hasn’t gotten a huge bounce out of the ‘rally around the president’ aspect of the crisis.”
The debate over the briefings is only part of how daily life has abruptly changed for Trump.
Campaign on pause
Six weeks ago, he was feeding off the energy of packed campaign rallies, watching the Democratic debates on television and critiquing each candidate’s performance, spending weekends at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and playing rounds of golf.
Now, he is fetched up in the Oval Office or sitting at the end of a dining table in the room directly adjacent, TV on in the background, and a phone almost permanently held to his ear.
He talks to governors, emergency management officials, business leaders, lawmakers, people with problems for him to solve, others with solutions to offer. He has always spent many hours on the phone, aides say, but now there is an extra intensity.
His re-election campaign is on pause with no rallies planned and fund-raising events behind held online.
Advisers say Trump privately frets about the state of the collapsing economy, the strength of which earlier this year he had considered a crown jewel of his presidency and the best case for his re-election in November.
The drop-by meetings of counselors and friends that he craves have been sharply curtailed. Anybody who comes close to the president has to be tested for the virus, delaying in-person meetings and limiting the number of them.
The daily briefings are now Trump’s main connection to the outside world. Aides said his participation every day was not initially intended. Vice President Mike Pence, head of the coronavirus task force, handled the first few on his own with members of his team. Trump then became more involved.
“He’s not able to get out of the house right now which is tough. I thinks he just craves people and TV time. He can’t go out and do any events,” said the source familiar with the situation.
Trump has a speechwriter prepare an opening statement, but after reading it aloud he will often preside over a briefing and question-and-answer session that can last more than two hours.
Proceedings can frequently veer off track. One argument he got into earlier this week over whether people should vote by mail — he was opposed — was seen inside Trump’s team as an example of why he should participate less in the briefings.
Others see a Trumpian strategy at play. Television networks have little choice but to air some or all of the briefings, which still receive high ratings as Americans marooned in their homes tune in for details on when the crisis might subside.
Cliff Sims, a former White House official for Trump, said the president is making good use of his appearances.
“They play to his strength as a communicator and make him an ubiquitous presence in people’s lives during a crisis,” he said.


Palestinians should support candidates ‘based on issues not ethnicity’

Updated 41 min 39 sec ago

Palestinians should support candidates ‘based on issues not ethnicity’

  • Newman came within 2,000 votes of unseating Dan Lipinski
  • The 3rd Congressional District has been held by a Democrat since 1975 and is overwhelmingly Democratic

CHICAGO: Most Arab-Americans in an Illinois congressional district race chose to support an American candidate who supported Arab and Palestinian rights over a Palestinian Arab-American candidate they said could not win the election, the spokesman for the winner said on Wednesday.

Shadin Maali, whose family originates from Beitunia, Palestine near Ramallah, said she agreed to become the spokesperson for Marie Newman over the candidacy of Palestinian American videographer Rashad “Rush” Darwish because Darwish could not win and Newman could.

Maali, who serves as Newman’s campaign chairwoman and spokesperson, said Newman sought Arab-American support, embracing many of the community’s political concerns. Newman, she said, listened to the community and included them in her campaign. That support, she said, helped to unseat Congressman Dan Lipinski, an entrenched eight-term conservative Democrat who had marginalized Arab-American issues and supported many anti-Palestinian congressional bills.

“A representative, if they are going to represent our district, he needs to align with our values. If he wants our support, he needs to align with our values, which are not radical values,” Maali said during an appearance on “The Ray Hanania Show” on Detroit’s WNZK AM 690 and US Arab Radio network, which is sponsored by Arab News newspaper every Wednesday morning.

“We support human rights. To support civil rights. To support justice. The fact that he (Lipinski) didn’t care and denied and declined meeting with us was a slap in the face.”

Newman came within 2,000 votes of unseating Lipinski, losing in March 2018. But with Arab-American support, she easily defeated Lipinski in the March 2020 Democratic Primary by more than 2,816 votes.

Newman won with 52,384 votes while Lipinski lost with 49,568. The Palestinian-Arab candidate who tried to appeal to Arab-American candidates, Rush Darwish, spent nearly $800,000 on the election but only won 6,351 votes, or 5.7 percent of the 110,852 votes cast.

Maali said that she unsuccessfully appealed to Darwish to exit the race and support Newman, who backs many of the issues that Arabs and Palestinian Americans support.

Newman “had the strongest path to victory,” Maali said, while Rush Darwish, a first-time candidate with little experience, did not. She called it a “tough choice,” but added that in the end the best interests of the district’s constituents, including Arab Americans, was the priority.

“So, when she asked me to be her campaign chairwoman, it was a hard decision for me to make because we did have an Arab-American, a Palestinian-American running,” she said.

“That was the reason why I supported her because she represented us on our issues. She gave us a platform . . . and she could win.”

The 3rd Congressional District has been held by a Democrat since 1975 and is overwhelmingly Democratic. It was ranked as having the eighth largest Arab-American population of 50 American congressional districts by The New York Times. It also has the largest concentration of Palestinian-American voters, Maali said.

Maali said that to be successful in winning support for Palestine, Arab-American voters also needed to support the mainstream American population on issues that were important to them.

“Palestine is not the only issue,” she said.

“We care about health care. We care about education. We care about incentives for small businesses. We care about the refugees and immigration reform. We care about all of those issues. We are here as Americans. We care about making sure human rights are not violated anywhere in the world.”

Maali said that Newman supported the right of Arab-Americans to express their opposition to the policies of foreign countries such as Israel, noting that boycotts were an expression of free speech.

Acknowledging that Americans boycotting the racism of the government of South Africa helped to force the end of apartheid there, Maali said Americans also supported boycotting Israel’s government policies, which discriminated against civilians.

“We wanted to make sure we would always be able to practice our right to boycott because it is a fundamental civil right,” Maali said.

Lipinski, she said, supported the passage of legislation that punished Americans who supported boycotting Israeli government policies in the Occupied West Bank.

During the second segment of the radio show, conservative political consultant, Jeff Davis, of Victory Media, said that the public should not rely on news media polling that showed former Vice President Joe Biden as having a significant edge over President Donald Trump.

Davis said that voters should concentrate on several key battleground states including Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Michigan.

An analysis of the Arab-American population shows that four battleground states — Michigan, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania — have significant Arab-American voters who could help to drive the election results.

But Davis said that with the new system of mail-in ballots, some state elections might not be fully tabulated for as long as 10 days after the Nov. 3, 2020 election.

“The question really is, how soon will we know? The difference is vote-by-mail applications because of COVID-19 are through the roof. What that means is you are going to have a certain amount of percentage that is going to be outstanding on election day,” Davis said.

 “We might not know for nine days (after the election),” Davis said.

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“The Ray Hanania Show” is broadcast every Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. EST in Detroit and simulcast on the Arab News newspaper Facebook page. For more information, visit Arab News online at www.arabnews.com/us2020election.