Election 2020

Trump Shoots Down #NeverTrump Coronavirus Ad Twisting Reagan's Message of Hope

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

On Monday, the #NeverTrump Lincoln Project released an ad twisting President Ronald Reagan’s hopeful message of “Morning in America” to unfairly demonize President Donald Trump during the coronavirus crisis. The president responded with his typical bluster, slamming them as “RINO Republicans” who are jealous that Trump won the presidency after they lost it twice.

“There’s mourning in America,” the ad begins, with images of dilapidated urban sprawl. “Today, more than 60,000 Americans have died from a deadly virus Donald Trump ignored. With the economy in shambles, more than 26 million Americans are out of work, the worst economy in decades. Trump bailed out Wall Street, but not Main Street.”

“This afternoon, millions of Americans will apply for unemployment. With their savings run out, many are giving up hope. Millions worry that a loved one won’t survive COVID-19,” the ad continues. “There’s mourning in America, and under the leadership of Donald Trump, our country’s weaker, and sicker, and poorer. And now, Americans are asking, if we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?”

While President Donald Trump has given conflicting messages about the coronavirus, he responded to it early. The Centers for Disease Control issued travel notices for Wuhan, China, in early January, and by January 20, the National Institutes of Health was already working on a vaccine. Trump launched a task force on January 29 and declared a public health emergency on January 31. Furthermore, some of the medical supply shortages during the crisis trace back to former President Barack Obama’s decision not to replenish the national stockpile of N-95 respirator masks after the H1N1 pandemic.

America under Trump does face a deadly virus, but the Lincoln Project has not come anywhere near close to showing or even suggesting how that would be Trump’s fault. Indeed, the ad suggests that Trump is responsible for making the country “weaker, and sicker, and poorer.” It accuses the president of having “bailed out Wall Street, but not Main Street.”

Yet the very bailout to “Wall Street,” the CARES Act, also included the Paycheck Protection Program, which aims to help small businesses weather the crisis. Congress and President Trump recently expanded the program after it ran out of funds.

America is unquestionably “weaker, and sicker, and poorer” during the coronavirus crisis, but that is hardly Trump’s fault. Before the crisis, the U.S. economy was booming. The coronavirus spread across the world in part thanks to the Chinese Communist Party’s lies and malfeasance, not because of Trump’s actions.

Yet Trump’s political opponents can’t seem to shake the idea that Trump is somehow responsible. On Monday, impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said that coronavirus deaths are “casualties” of the fact that the Senate failed to remove Trump during impeachment.

Like Schiff, it appears the Lincoln Project does not understand the difference between correlation and causation.

The president predictably responded to the attack with his characteristic bluster. Rather than responding to the ad’s ridiculous claims, he went after what he sees as the #NeverTrump faction’s motivations: bitterness.

“A group of RINO Republicans who failed badly 12 years ago, then again 8 years ago, and then got BADLY beaten by me, a political first timer, 4 years ago, have copied (no imagination) the concept of an ad from Ronald Reagan, ‘Morning in America’, doing everything possible to get even for all of their many failures,” Trump tweeted.

“You see, these loser types don’t care about 252 new Federal Judges, 2 great Supreme Court Justices, a rebuilt military, a protected 2nd Amendment, biggest EVER Tax & Regulation cuts, and much more. I didn’t use any of them because they don’t know how to win, and their so-called Lincoln Project is a disgrace to Honest Abe,” he added.

Trump attacked George Conway, John Weaver (an aide to Ohio Gov. John Kasich), and Rick Wilson (who advised Evan McMullin’s independent presidential bid in 2016). He went on to slam advisors for John McCain and Mitt Romney over their losses in 2008 and 2012. “They’re all LOSERS, but Abe Lincoln, Republican, is all smiles!”

Trump’s over-the-top response is only likely to further inflame the bitterness of the #NeverTrump faction, but his diagnosis of Rick Wilson, in particular, may not be far off the mark.

Speaking as a former #NeverTrumper myself, I will say that there are many reasons to find the president’s swagger and bluster objectionable. I opposed him for his apparent pride, his long history of philandering, and my conviction that he could not be trusted to keep his campaign promises. As it turns out, Trump has kept many if not most of his promises, has not had a sex scandal in the White House, and listens to advice far more than it appeared.

Trump’s successes for the conservative movement, along with Democrats’ relentless march to the far left on everything from climate to socialized medicine to unions and more, have convinced me and many reluctant Trump supporters like me. #NeverTrump activists like Rick Wilson refuse to admit that Trump has proven himself a champion for conservative causes. Wilson even opposes Libertarian Justin Amash because he actively wants radical Democrat Joe Biden to prevail over Trump in November.

Let that sink in: The Lincoln Project is twisting Reagan’s words in order to help a radical big-government Democrat prevail against the (albeit flawed) conservative champion in the White House, and its leaders have the nerve to call themselves conservative.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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