Week In Politics: How President Trump Is Responding To The Surge In COVID-19 Cases
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Coronavirus has come roaring back this week. States in the South and West which had begun to reopen find many hospitals overwhelmed. President Trump sounds like he's moved on.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're making a lot of progress with the whole situation that came in from a place called China, as you probably know, you probably see. But we have a little work to do. And we'll get it done.
SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Good morning, Ron.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: The president canceled a trip to his golf resort in New Jersey but not because of the sharp increase in coronavirus infections but because of what he called law and order. How do you read this?
ELVING: Well, we're back to full panic mode, Scott. And it's kind of going on and getting worse in this pandemic, even though we'd been told the pandemic was going away. State after state, as you say, across the South and the Midwest, far West, we're reporting record high numbers of new cases, including mega states like Texas and Florida, where there had been a lot of push for rapid reopening. Now you see Florida with 9,000 new cases in a day, Texas with 17,000 over the past three days and a record high in people going to the hospital. Even a state as rather less populated, as Alabama, has been adding over 950 new cases three days in a row. And this is changing more than a few minds among Republican officeholders. You see governors rethinking their rapid reopening and their opposition to masks. And as you say, the president changed his mind about heading for one of his resorts this weekend, saying he was staying to maintain law and order in the capital. And also noteworthy that the White House pandemic task force had its first news conference in many weeks on Friday, laying out the increases and issuing new warnings but also noting that the fatality rate was falling.
SIMON: New poll from NPR, PBS and Marist shows the president's poll numbers almost in freefall. How would you describe them?
ELVING: We see a lot of headlines about plunging numbers and plummeting approval ratings. And we're really only talking about changes in single digits. So perhaps those are written mostly to catch your eye. But what's really happening is that the president's standing is eroding, worn down by the combined effects of pandemic and recession and racial unrest. And the gap between his hypothetical vote and Joe Biden's in November keeps widening. It's only eight points in our poll, but that's relatively modest on the scale right now because The New York Times last week had it at 14. Our poll, though, did show disapproval of the president at its highest point. And what's especially notable - strongly disapprove is now virtually half the country, Scott.
SIMON: The pandemic response has not palpably impressed or reassured a lot of Americans. And this week, I feel, Ron, that two Chicagoans simply can't go without noting that the U.S. government sent a lot of stimulus checks to deceased Americans.
ELVING: It's our birthright, Scott, as Chicagoans to comment on such things.
ELVING: Being as how - to explain, some of our fellow citizens were known to remain active in politics even from the cemetery. But these errant checks were not just a Chicago thing. The administration apparently was unable to stop these checks from going out around the country to recipients who were deceased. And, you know, there's only so much you can ask a stimulus check to do.
SIMON: (Laughter) All right, forgive me. Congress - Democrats made a decision to go ahead with their - and pass their police reform bill in the House. They did not negotiate with Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. Why?
ELVING: Well, the Democrats passed their bill in the House with their Democratic majority there. Tim Scott of South Carolina is a pivotal figure, as you suggest. But he's over in the Senate, where he is the only Black Republican. And his bill addressing police abuses was stonewalled by the Senate Democrats, who said it was just too weak, not even worth debating because it was beyond repair, beyond redemption. So in the days ahead, we expect the Senate Republicans will also ignore the Democrats' bill when that comes over from the House. And we will have gridlock again because neither side is willing to compromise and risk the wrath of activists within their respective camps.
SIMON: Quick last question - D.C. statehood look more serious this week?
ELVING: Surely. The House approved the bill with 51 votes to spare, an interesting number given D.C. would be the 51st state. And, Scott, if the Democrats hold the House in November and if the Democrats defeat the president this fall, win the majority in the Senate, in that case, only the filibuster would stand between them and making D.C. a state.
SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving. thanks so much.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott.
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