Instead of weighing the human costs alongside the economic ones, Trump seems to be thinking about something else: himself
In times of national tragedy, the US president has, going back at least to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, filled the unique role of consoler-in-chief.
As Roosevelt did during his Great Depression-era fireside chats, the president has given voice to personal suffering and made victims of hardship feel recognized.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump was widely viewed as a weak consoler-in-chief. Sometimes he blamed local leaders for natural disasters, as when California was struck by wildfires in 2018. Sometimes his shows of empathy rang hollow, as when local leaders and victims families shunned him on his visit to Pittsburgh following a 2018 synagogue shooting.
But Trump has especially fallen short as consoler-in-chief during the coronavirus crisis, analysts say, failing day after day to muster expressions of sympathy for victims and their families as the death toll in America increased into the tens of thousands.
And in the current crisis, Trumps failure to grasp the scale of the American tragedy on a human level could do more than fuel emotional turmoil it could cost more lives, according to historians, public affairs experts and political analysts interviewed by the Guardian.
Instead of weighing the human costs attached to decisions about whether to reopen the economy or rush medical equipment to certain states, analysts said, Trump seems to be thinking about something else: his own political future and his need for the economy to rebound quickly if he is to be re-elected in November.
Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said Trumps emotional blindspots during the coronavirus crisis could hinder his policymaking.
If hes not sharing the feelings and demonstrating the capacity to understand whats going on in the hospitals, whats going on in quarantined bedrooms and homes, and why people are not just frightened but devastated if hes not able to have real empathy for someone who had someone die and was not be able to see them, then hes not going to be sensitive to why scientists are saying, Dont open up too quickly, Zelizer said.