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Trump’s First 2020 Town Hall Highlights Coronavirus Response, Biden

Trump defended his administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and spoke about the Democratic primary at his first town hall of the 2020 election.

President Donald Trump held his first town hall of the 2020 election with Fox News in Scranton, Pa., Thursday. He fielded questions ranging from the Democratic primaries to his impeachment, but the main topic was the Wuhan coronavirus, Covid-19.

The president has frequently used his position to opine on the global outbreak, which has seen his administration critiqued for its handling of the affair. Trump defended the White House’s response to the virus and even suggested that there might be a silver lining amidst the global health crisis.

No Strategy for Covid-19

“I have to say, people are now staying in the United States, spending their money in the US — and I like that,” Trump said in a response to the potential economic impact of Covid-19. “You know, I have been after that for a long time. You know that. I have been saying, ‘let’s stay in the US, spend your money here’ — and they are doing that. They’re sort of enforced doing that.”

When asked how the administration is preparing for the long-term effect, Trump heaped praise on Washington’s handling of it. 

“We’ve [been given] I think really given tremendous marks — you look at Gallup poll and other polls — for the way we’ve handled it,” Trump said, according to Aaron Ruper reporting for Vox. “And one of the things I did is I closed the borders to China and to other areas that are badly affected and really having a lot of troubles … so we were really given tremendous marks for having made the decision — that was a decision I made — to close down the border.”

The problem, however, is two-fold. First, the polls Trump cited were conducted in February, before the infection spread to the US and long before the first American death. Secondly, while closing the border may have been one part of the solution, it is not a panacea for the preventing its spread now that is in the States.

Coronavirus test kits are in incredibly short supply and the initial batch was even flawed. Obtaining a test is also problematic, even for people reporting symptoms. One Twitter user chronicled her journey of attempting to be tested. The Centers for Disease Control informed her that only “those who have been out of the country in the last 14 days, and those who have had contact with one of the few people who have been tested and come up positive” qualify for testing. 

The CDC has since expanded its testing effort, but Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump put in charge of managing the crisis, said “We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward,” according to CNN.

No Plan for Healthcare

On the topic of healthcare, Trump took credit for “managing it (Obamacare) fantastically.”

“We got rid of the bad part, but the remaining portion, really well,” Trump said. “And you know, before I got involved, you know what’s happening with the rates on Obamacare? They were going up at levels that nobody has ever seen before. We are managing it.”

Insurance rates, however, have continued to climb under Trump’s administration. Employer-sponsored insurance broke the $20,000 barrier for the first time last year, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. 

Even though Republicans held Congress and the White House from 2017 through 2018, they failed to produce legislation to entirely repeal the Affordable Care Act, managing only to dismantle the individual mandate provision.

The administration is also fighting a Supreme Court battle to remove the preexisting condition component of ACA, but Trump denied involvement in the case and said he actually supports it.

Prepared for Sanders, but Surprise!

On the Democratic primaries, Trump appeared to express amazement that Democratic candidate Joe Biden made a comeback, according to USA Today. 

“It looks like he’s going to be a candidate,” Trump said. “How did that happen?” The president said he would capitalize on Biden’s gaffes and the unproven allegations of misconduct in the Burisma affair as campaign talking points.

Biden is directly tied to Trump’s impeachment; the president made the request for Ukraine to investigate Biden’s role in the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor during which he threatened to withhold US foreign aid. 

“So it was a fake impeachment,” Trump said, responding to the suggestion that the impeachment was a result of him trying to damage Biden’s presidential hopes. “I made a phone call. It was a perfect phone call. There was nothing wrong with it. And then they said, ‘Let’s impeach.’”

Trump went on to call the whistleblower “a total phony.” 

Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders would make for a tougher challenge Trump said, because of his base, which Trump still contended is still smaller than his own. 

Trump’s campaign efforts until Super Tuesday were predominantly centered on facing Sanders, he said. 

“But I was all set — I was all set.  And, you know, when I focus — and we all focus, sometimes you do well and some people choke.  I watched Mini Mike (Bloomberg) choke,” Trump said. “When Mini Mike was hit by a very mean woman, he said, ‘Get me off this stage.  Just get me off.’  And that wasn’t a pretty sight to be — but I was all set to take on Bernie. I was ready.  And then all of a sudden, they say, ‘Guess what…’” 

Trump’s Fox News town hall gave a preview of how the president will conduct his reelection campaign. While there were no surprises, Trump carried himself in the manner he always does, his comments revealed a lack of strategy countering the Covid-19 virus. 

The event also suggested the administration has no strategy for revamping healthcare or even undoing Obamacare, aside from a Supreme Court battle, even as it is a focus of Sanders’ campaign.

Daniel Davis

Daniel Davis is Managing Editor for The Osage County Herald-Chronicle in Kansas and also covers International news for Inside Over, a Milan-based global affairs publication. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Outside of writing, he enjoys photography and one day hopes to return to video production. Learn more about him at his website danieldavis.la.

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