[guest post by Dana]
The subject of face masks has certainly proven to be a contentious one. Now that the White House has seen several confirmed cases of coronavirus, a directive was issued today which now requires employees to wear masks while in the West Wing:
New guidance released to Trump administration employees will require them to wear masks when inside the West Wing, according to an internal memo released on Monday and obtained by The New York Times.
“As an additional layer of protection, we are requiring everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or face covering,” read the memo, which was distributed to staff members through the White House management office.
The new guidance is an abrupt establishment of a policy after two aides working near the president — a military valet and Katie Miller, the vice president’s spokeswoman — tested positive for the virus last week.
For weeks, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have downplayed the need to wear masks, an attitude that had trickled down to staffers at lower ranks. The new rules are not expected to apply to Mr. Trump or Mr. Pence…
Trump has said that he won’t wear a mask because it would “send the wrong message”:
Trump has told advisers that he believes wearing one would “send the wrong message,” according to one administration and two campaign officials not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.
The president said doing so would make it seem like he is preoccupied with health instead of focused on reopening the nation’s economy — which his aides believe is the key to his reelection chances in November.
He also allegedly told those close to him that he does not want to wear a mask because of concerns that the image of him wearing one could be used in negative ads. But given that Democrats have been pushing for mask-wearing and the CDC recommends it, how would the president donning one be presented as a negative? I think Nancy Pelosi was onto something when she opined that Trump choosing not to wear a mask was a “vanity thing”. Perhaps he sees it as emasculating, which really wouldn’t be a stretch, given his tendency to relish the role of tough guy. But it may also be something else as well:
… presidents felt they had to project health and strength to be elected and to be respected once in office. And something similar may be motivating Trump. A masked president is not a good look for any number of reasons, and a president trapped in the White House does not communicate confidence. Communicating confidence is essential to the persona of this president.
Beyond that, Trump has apparently decided that the way out of the current crisis is to be bold about reopening as quickly as possible in as many places as possible. He concedes there will be consequences and some will be “affected badly” but insists the economic damage cannot be allowed to continue.
So we can expect to see the president out and about around the country, projecting confidence in the nation’s health and resilience. And that is what he is modeling by not wearing a mask.
Of course, depending on the number of Americans who actually are “affected badly,” Trump may regret his modeling strategy. (Not to mention those that have already been “affected badly”…_
Here are some polling numbers related to Americans wearing face masks:
While most other protective measures like social distancing get broad bipartisan support, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they’re wearing a mask when leaving home, 76% to 59%, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The split is clear across several demographics that lean Democratic. People with college degrees are more likely than those without to wear masks when leaving home, 78% to 63%. African Americans are more likely than either white people or Hispanic Americans to say they’re wearing masks outside the home, 83% to 64% and 67%, respectively.
The notable exception is among older people, a group particularly vulnerable to serious illness from the virus. Some 79% of those age 60 and over were doing so compared with 63% of those younger.
And apparently without any irony, there is this: “…Trump’s reelection campaign has ordered red Trump-branded masks and is considering giving them away at events or in return for donations. But some advisers are concerned the president will eventually sour on the idea.”
Because we’re talking masks, and it’s an old favorite. Who Was That Masked Man…