This analysis was excerpted from the May 20 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.
US President Donald Trump can’t stop giving the finger to his own government.
Everyone should wear a mask in public, say US medical authorities hoping to control the coronavirus — but don’t expect the President to set an example. Instead, Trump hopes to ward off Covid-19 by dosing on hydroxychloroquine — an unproven drug that US regulators say is potentially dangerous.
It’s perfectly in character for the President to spectacularly spurn bureaucrats and government boffins. He has long been suspicious of science and chafes against rules. He’s also built a brand on being a disruptive outsider, so the fact that doctors doubt hydroxychloroquine could actually be a selling point among conspiracy theorists he attracts.
Trump also cares deeply about appearances, and believes that wearing a mask could undercut his message that it’s safe to open the economy, sources tell CNN. Literally breathing defiance, Trump and his entourage swept into the US Capitol for lunch bare-faced on Tuesday. He has been pictured sans face covering while his scientific advisers are masked in the background, and that’s the kind of photo op he wants — effete establishment eggheads wearing masks behind the warrior President.
No one can accuse Trump of going native in Washington. His example might be reckless, but he’s siding with those pro-Trump Americans who suspect the virus has become an excuse to snatch their freedoms. Still, something will have to give. Trump is due to visit a Ford factory in Michigan this week, where management has publicly told the White House that masks are mandatory.
Could bosses at a car plant in a vital swing state succeed in constraining Trump where the nation’s top scientists failed?