Columnist explains how Trump's flawed thinking makes him unfit for a crisis: 'His prefrontal cortex ... is entirely offline'

Columnist explains how Trump's flawed thinking makes him unfit for a crisis: 'His prefrontal cortex ... is entirely offline'
President Donald J. Trump listens as White House Coronavirus Task Force Response Coordinator Deborah Birx delivers remarks during a coronavirus update briefing Saturday, April 4, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

President Donald Trump has never been able to look at the big picture where coronavirus is concerned. Back in January and February — when coronavirus was ravaging China — he failed to acknowledge that it could viciously attack the United States as well. And even though Trump now acknowledges how deadly coronavirus has become, he is concerned that too much social distancing will hurt the U.S. economy — not realizing that too little social distancing could hurt the U.S. economy a lot more. Journalist Jennifer Senior, in her New York Times column, discusses Trump’s short attention span and how it has affected his views on coronavirus — and a recurring theme in her piece is Trump’s inability to see the big picture.

“From the beginning,” Senior observes, “Donald J. Trump has taken a rather peculiar view of the new coronavirus: if he can’t see the damage it’s doing, it’s not doing any damage.”

According to Senior, that short attention span explains why Trump had no problem with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis being slow to issue a stay-at-home order in his state — as well as his desire to reopen the U.S. economy when tests for coronavirus “remain in short supply.” Trump, on April 10, asserted, “You don’t need testing where you have a state with a small number of cases.”

Senior writes, “The hole in this reasoning is not terribly difficult to spot. It’s like offering to use a condom after you’ve already gotten a woman pregnant. Horse-has-left-the-barnism as national policy. Yet this is now the logic for reopening the United States, zip code by zip code.”

Of course, the fact that a state has only a small number of coronavirus cases now doesn’t mean that it won’t have a lot more in the future. No one in the United States died from coronavirus until late February, but it has since killed more than 31,500 people in the U.S., according to researchers at John Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“Executive function is an essential requirement for executive office,” Senior asserts.

She added: "His prefrontal cortex — the very part of the brain that controls executive function, anticipating and regulating and decision-making — is entirely offline."

Senior asserts, however, that being a conservative Republican doesn’t automatically mean that one approaches coronavirus with a short attention span: she applauds right-wing Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for acting quickly in his state. During an interview, the 73-year-old DeWine told Senior, “I’ve spent over 40 years in public office. When I’ve made mistakes, it’s usually because I didn’t have enough information. I didn’t ask enough questions, I didn’t ask the right people, I didn’t drill down deep enough into the facts. That experience was helpful in regard to this.”

The Times journalist concludes her column by lamenting that Trump cannot case a “wide net” when it comes to coronavirus testing and reopening the U.S. economy.

“Now, he wants to reopen the country,” Senior writes. “It’s essential to our economic health, it’s true. But the president refuses to concede there’s a testing problem — and absent testing, it may be hard to get many people to go back outside.”


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