On Thursday morning, just hours after one of the most mind-bending evenings in recent political memory, Wall Street abruptly stopped trading as stocks took a swan dive and the market chugged headfirst into its first bear territory in more than a decade, amidst the White House's floundering response to the coronavirus pandemic.
As Lawrence Summers, the treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama's National Economic Council director, succinctly put it:
Despite these giant warning lights — ones that to at least some analysts seem not dissimilar to the pre-2008 recession era — President Trump on Thursday insisted that everything was not only hunky-dory but, in fact, better than ever.
"You have to remember the stock market is still much higher than when I got here," Trump told reporters during an Oval Office photoshoot with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. "It is taking a big hit, but it is going to bounce back, and it is going to bounce back very big at the right time."
In fact, while Trump is technically correct that the market is marginally higher than when he took office, the truth is that his disastrous handling of the coronavirus crisis has contributed to enough of a Wall Street panic to essentially erase many of the gains Trump inherited and enjoyed during his administration. And for a president who has made a habit of personalizing the market's trajectory, Trump seems incapable of thinking of the pandemic in anything other than economic terms — specifically, those that make him look good.
"With gasoline prices coming down, that's like a tax cut," Trump insisted, as the market tanked earlier this week after Saudi Arabia slashed oil prices. He added elsewhere during his remarks that "we want to lose as few people as possible" to coronavirus, before asking the press pool for the exact number of American coronavirus fatalities — a statistic that, despite his professed concern for human life, he didn't seem to have off the top of his head.