Trump suggested Monday that "many people say" that wearing a mask to prevent the spread of the disease is patriotic, in a tweet using ambiguous language that hinted at his discomfort over the reversal. The grudging move followed weeks of the President politicizing and undermining government advice on face coverings. Once he shared a tweet mocking his Democratic rival Joe Biden for wearing one.
Trump also promised he'd return to front briefings on the government's response to the crisis on television as early as Tuesday, after weeks of trying to distract from fast climbing infection rates and attacking the science-based advice of government officials.
Five months into the worst domestic crisis since World War II, and after his disastrous call to open up states that had not yet purged the disease sparked a surge of infections, the President may finally be understanding that his performance during the pandemic will be decisive in November's election. But his recent comments and the actions of his government also indicate a mostly cosmetic public relations attempt to convince the public he's in charge rather than a complete rethink of strategy as the virus rages out of control.
Briefings will offer Trump a return to the television screens that he craves and likely not coincidentally will resume after he told supporters at the weekend that the worsening pandemic will keep him off the campaign trail for now.
His reversal on masks could be positive if it convinces conservatives who see covering up as an infringement of their freedoms to take a step that could slow the spread. But his delay in acting may have irrevocably damaged public trust in government health recommendations and contributed to the wildfire spread of the disease, especially in western and southern states.
The President is hardly leading here -- he's following the example of many Republican governors who broke with him on masks as the virus pulverized their states. There's also no guarantee that Trump's higher profile on the disease will reverse his political slide since the last round of the Trump Covid show ended after his testy, meandering appearances degenerated into open musing of whether ingesting disinfectant could cure the virus — making him look absurdly ill-suited to handle the situation.
Several sources told CNN on Monday that aides, after seeing Trump's polling slide ahead of November's election, have spent considerable energy trying to convince him he needs to show leadership on the accelerating pandemic and to get ahead of the story.
Trump's new briefings will be watched for signs that he is committed to leveling with the American people about the true nature of the challenge and that he's learned from and acknowledged his mistakes and offers true leadership.
But he made clear Monday that his greatest concern was not rampant figures on new infections or a death toll of more than 140,000 Americans.
When he unveiled the comeback of his briefings in the Oval Office alongside Republican co