President Donald J Trump does not seem worried about the novel coronavirus.
He thinks it’s tweetable.
Indeed, the Offender-in-Chief was reportedly furious that his chief of the Atlanta-based Centre for Disease Control had warned Americans that it was no longer “if” but “when” Covid-19 would spread in the United States.
It wouldn’t do, reflected the Donald sternly, and wondered if sacking her would send the right signal to the American people. Gloom and doom could be a disaster for the stock market which, in turn, could torpedo the US economy which was now on steroids and just what the doctor ordered.
But the “idiot doctor” in charge of the CDC was arguing for drastic measures like quarantine and containment instead of agreeing with his calm and reasoned assessment that everything was “under control.” It was no wonder the stock markets were swooning.
The Donald felt like swooning too: more than anyone else, the stable genius that was the Leader of the Free World, had hung his re-election hat on his country’s buoyant economy and its record-setting stock market.
You could not fault the man’s instincts. Politics 101 demands that in an emergency, always find “someone else” to blame. The instinct even pre-dated his presidency. In 2014, for example, private citizen Trump assailed the then-President for not immediately cancelling flights to and from West Africa amid the Ebola scare. At the time, he labelled Obama a “psycho.”
The current presidential psycho now maintained that it was business as usual and even intimated that people could go to work as “many recover.” It was, in short, no big deal.
But it was a big deal in Malaysia where there was now political uncertainty added to the mix. Political parties were changing allies faster than you could say “general election.” It wasn’t even clear if the new premier would remain at the country’s helm or if he might also succumb to Putrajaya’s never-ending obsession with musical chairs. It was like a meeting of MPs with one going: “I think we should get rid of democracy. All those in favour, raise your hand!”
Or maybe it’s true, what Napoleon said; “In politics, stupidity isn’t a handicap.”
And if all that wasn’t enough, Covid-19 continues to loom over us like an ever-present reminder of man’s inability to foretell the future. Indeed, the speed with which it’s leaping around the globe would make anyone quail. In our case, one is reminded of the optimist who leapt off the top floor of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre declaring: “So far so good.”
I mean, no one’s dead yet so we should count our blessings.
We are still in uncharted-territory stage and the casualties are mounting. Airlines and hotels are being brutalised and the ringgit is beginning to resemble a latter-day rupee: it’s fallen by about five per cent year-to-date.
The stock market is in an eight-year funk and every investor worth his salt now professes to be a long term one. He has little choice in the matter. And haltingly, oh-so-cautiously, the R-word is finally being bandied about.
Where will it all pan out?
For that we will have to look at the word itself. The word “virus” is derived from Latin and is often used by doctors to mean: “your guess is as good as mine.”