President John F. Kennedy famously observed during a gathering of Nobel Prize winners: “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
And so it is again with President Trump’s daily assemblies at the White House featuring some of the world’s leading public health experts, epidemiologists, business leaders and economists.
Clearly, Mr. Trump listens carefully to his panels of experts. And — clearly — these experts often clash.
One of the funniest — and most ridiculous — displays of media idiocy during this whole Wuhan pandemic came over the weekend when one Beltway-revered blog breathlessly reported that there was a major disagreement in the Situation Room down in the bowels of the White House between government doctor Anthony Fauci and Trump economist Peter Navarro over the effectiveness of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in combating COVID-19.
You mean the very same disagreement over hydroxychloroquine that plays out in plain view every single day among Mr. Trump’s team out in the Rose Garden and in the press briefing room and in the press?
News flash! Breaking News! Hold the presses! Situation Room! Anonymous sources! Administration official! Background!
Never in the history of the world has such a serious global threat been met by such a ridiculously unserious press. I guess we should just be glad that it wasn’t yet another breathless breaking newsflash about how some racist Trump administration official anonymously told reporters that the Wuhan virus originated in China.
Luckily, Mr. Trump has the great wisdom to float above the nonsense — except when he impishly delves into the media fracas to tune up some idiot reporter just for the giggles. Strictly speaking, these displays are rarely constructive. But, boy, they sure are entertaining.
Instead, Mr. Trump mostly sticks to his assembly of experts.
But he should do so with extreme caution.
Because while his assembly of expert advisers may be the most extraordinary collection of talent and human knowledge since Thomas Jefferson dined alone in the White House, none of them — Jefferson included — has the finely honed political instincts of Mr. Trump alone.
Despite all the caterwauling and hysteria, Mr. Trump is absolutely right to be questioning his medical experts on the wisdom of shutting down the American economy to fight this pandemic.
It doesn’t make Mr. Trump — or anyone else — a “Nazi” or evil for weighing the costs and benefits of every federal action and edict during these unprecedented times.
In fact, the very instincts that got Mr. Trump elected in the first place are precisely the instincts he should fall back on for dealing with this crisis.
First, there is an Evil Empire in this world. And, just as Mr. Trump identified during his campaign, it is China.
The communist country lies about everything, disappears political opponents and has a long-term strategy for destroying America. Every decision Mr. Trump makes going forward should be about curtailing China’s influence in the world and delivering America from reliance on the country.
Second, free trade in the world is great and all. But there are limits. Selling America’s soul for cheapest goods possible from China is one thing when we are talking crappy plastic trinkets.
It is an entirely different matter when we are talking about American security, such as the manufacture of drugs, face masks and medical gear. President Trump should immediately establish long-term contracts with American companies to manufacture anything deemed vital to national security.
Finally, borders matter. They always have mattered. But, unbelievably, both U.S. political parties have been in competition to see who can abandon America’s borders the fastest. If we have learned nothing from the Wuhan virus, it is that our borders must be enforced.
Exactly as Mr. Trump promised when he got elected.
• Charles Hurt can be reached at [email protected] or @charleshurt on Twitter.