Over the past several weeks, each time Donald Trump has “addressed the nation” on the matter of the deadly coronavirus, the result has been that “the nation” has been left significantly more terrified than it was before he opened his mouth. That likely has to do with the fact that the content of the president’s remarks have somehow made it clear that he is even more incompetent than previously thought and that telling people things like “Mike ‘HIV outbreak’ Pence is now in charge of the government’s virus response” is not actually comforting at all. So when Trump tweeted yesterday that he would be once again addressing the country, this time from the Oval Office, the odds were baked in that, at best, he probably wasn’t going to say anything very heartening or announce any measures that would give the impression he finally had this thing under control. And in reality, the whole thing was so much worse than anyone could have imagined! How much worse? Markets-almost-immediately-imploding-in-response worse.
Literally minutes after Trump concluded his address, U.S. stock index futures cratered, nearly hitting their maximum down limit. When U.S. markets opened the morning, stocks were in free fall, with the S&P 500 dropping 7% for the second time this week and triggering a circuit breaker that paused trading for 15 minutes. Shortly after 11 a.m. eastern time, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down almost 2,000 points. Rather than soothe investors, i.e. Trump’s chief concern in all this, announcing a ban on all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days left people panicking that after everything that’s happened, the president still has no earthly idea how to handle this situation. (“There’s little value to European travel restrictions,” Tom Bossert, Trump’s former Homeland Security adviser tweeted. “Poor use of time & energy. Earlier, yes. Now, travel restrictions/screening are less useful. We have nearly as much disease here in the US as the countries in Europe.”) Also deeply concerning was the lack of information re: the actual public health crisis, or what the government plans to do to about the lack of of testing. “The U.S. has done little testing. Community spread is happening already,” Andy Wong, a multi-asset senior investment manager at Pictet Asset Management told Reuters. “Proper leadership has been sorely lacking, and focus should be on appropriate measures and planning for the worst, rather than focusing on optics.” At best, MUFG’s Cliff Tan says, it appears that the government is still at the drawing board as the virus surges all over the world. “The market was looking for something much better designed,” he said. “What they have seen in the last three days is looking increasingly more like brainstorming…the market sees this as too haphazard, too little, too late.”
Also likely worrisome? The fact that the president’s speech, reportedly drafted by public health experts Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller, contained multiple errors that later had to be frantically corrected by the administration:
Or that, even now, Trump appears singularly focused on how all this could affect his bottom line: