With Americans across the country celebrating yet another holiday amid the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump held a Labor Day press conference to pitch his reelection talking points and declare that things aren’t, in his view, all that bad.
“We have a lot to be thankful for, including this really beautiful day,” said Trump, speaking from the steps of the White House’s north portico. The president claimed to have talked earlier on Monday with unnamed Americans who are “very happy with the way things are going.”
From the outset, Trump’s remarks were blatantly political and meandered as wildly and conspiratorially as his Twitter feed. He was at various times uselessly vague, sharply vindictive and absurdly self-aggrandizing. He called former vice president and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden “stupid.”
On the question of when a coronavirus vaccine may be developed and distributed, Trump said Americans “could have a very big surprise coming up.” When a reporter began to ask if the president’s recent suggestions that a vaccine might ready in October are politically motivated, Trump interrupted to say the vaccine would arrive “very soon.” He added, “Maybe even before a very special date. You know what date I’m talking about.”
Biden running mate Kamala Harris said on Sunday that she would not take a vaccine Trump recommended without public health officials confirming it was safe. Earlier this month, a chief scientific adviser to the Trump administration’s vaccine effort said that having one ready to distribute by the end of October is “possible but very unlikely.” While some health officials are hopeful that a vaccine could be developed by the end of the year, they’ve warned that distributing that vaccine will likely take many months.
In response to public concern that Trump could pressure pharmaceutical companies to seek federal approval to distribute a vaccine before it’s proven safe and effective, several companies in the vaccine race are planning a joint statement promising not to seek approval prematurely.
“With me, it’s the faster the better,” Trump said Monday.
His Labor Day remarks also included his usual laundry list of swipes at his political opponents, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). When a reporter asked if his comments mocking McCain’s service supported recent reports that Trump speaks negatively of fallen veterans, the president restated his dislike for a man who was widely considered a war hero.
Trump, who demanded that the reporter asking the question remove his mask first, said, “I was never a fan of John McCain. You know that.”
With Democrats and Republicans currently deadlocked over the size of another coronavirus relief package, one reporter asked Trump why he hasn’t “taken the high road” and met with Democratic leaders, including Pelosi, to come to terms on an agreement for the sake of the country.
“I’m taking the high road by not seeing them,” Trump replied.
“These are people that I don’t have a lot of respect [for],” he said, adding that his refusal to meet with them is because he doesn’t want to “bail out all of their Democrat-run cities.”
“We’re not gonna pay that kind of price,” Trump said.
The president’s comments, delivered at a time when polls show him trailing in critical swing states, seemed aimed at moving the needle or, at least, diverting attention from the troubles gripping the nation. He touted his support for Confederate monuments multiple times and even brought up his push for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
At the end of the press conference, he offered a view far removed from the reality of nearly 200,000 Americans dead from COVID-19.
“We’re having tremendous success,” Trump said, “whether it’s on the vaccines or on the pandemic.”
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