President Donald Trump's response to the global pandemic that's caused a national health crisis in the United States—killing thousands and unemploying millions more—has been widely panned.
With his initial dismissals of the virus's threat, his administration's bungled testing rollout, and his erratic press briefings, over half of Americans disapprove of Trump's response and 54% find his press briefings frustrating.
This would be enough to make most stable leaders alter their course, but the Trump administration seems determined to double down, with Trump refusing to take the slightest responsibility for any of the response's flaws.
That's likely why the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) circulated a 57 page memo from Republican strategist Brett O'Donnell to GOP senators, advising them not to defend Trump's bungled response to the virus.
It reads in part:
"Note - don't defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban -- attack China"
While it cautions against defending Trump's response, it does say to echo the praise Trump has heaped upon himself for traverl restrictions he imposed on China.
The memo doesn't explicitly fault Trump's response, but for Trump and his campaign, only unconditional, unquestioning loyalty will do.
Trump political advisor Justin Clark said of the memo:
"Candidates will listen to the bad advice in this memo at their own peril. President Trump enjoys unprecedented support among Republican voters and everyone on the ballot in November will want to tap into that enthusiasm. The president's campaign, the RNC, and the NRSC are firmly on the same page here."
In the Trump campaign's fury at the contents of the memo, forced the NRSC to do exactly what the memo warned against: defend Trump's response.
NRSC spokesperson Kevin McLaughlin scrambled to promise there were no concerns that Trump's response was a hazard to down ballot Republicans.
"There is no daylight between the NRSC and President Trump. Senate Republicans have worked hand in glove with the Trump administration to ensure a highly effective federal response to [the virus]."
The incongruence generated ridicule from Democrats.
how bad has Trump's handling of coronavirus response been? NRSC + GOP consultants are telling Republican incumbent… https://t.co/bkZpYvC7Ht— Stewart Boss (@Stewart Boss)1587767445.0
NRSC Exec Director McLaughlin "clarified that the committee wasn’t advising candidates to not defend Trump over his… https://t.co/G8slzNnZVo— Lisa Borden (@Lisa Borden)1588048582.0
Don't you dare contradict great orange leader!!!! https://t.co/sxrxMTGKS0— Curto (@Curto)1588086864.0
Seems like a lot of pages to say "He is a terrible person/leader". Hell, I did it in 26 characters https://t.co/HgiiOjZBcK— John S Morrison (@John S Morrison)1588087844.0
This is laughable. As if @GOP Trump sycophants in House & Senate can distance themselves from #PresidentPineSol in… https://t.co/a1nAwuK6zj— Peace (@Peace)1588085959.0
As for potential efforts by Republicans to distance themselves from Trump's response, many say that it's too late.
It's way too late for the republicans to escape now. They can blame Trump, but they really need to blame McConnell… https://t.co/BYPhP2IloV— Larry Middleton (@Larry Middleton)1588096885.0
To Republican candidates: too little and far too late. You are d-e-d. Never forgive. Never forget. https://t.co/zpdXW41pne— Kay Davis (@Kay Davis)1588095071.0
@NatashaBertrand @Yamiche Cracks in the sycophant foundation are showing. Unfortunately for the gop it’s too little… https://t.co/zl9WbJwj8s— John Snow (@John Snow)1588090997.0
For a deeper look into Trump's ineptitude, check out A Very Stable Genius, available here.