I Heard Two Presidential Speeches Today — Trump Gave Neither of Them

Biden, Bernie nail their coronavirus addresses.

Steve Jones
Mar 13, 2020 · 4 min read
Trump strains to read a teleprompter during his coronavirus speech, March 11. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

On March 11, Donald Trump ushered cameras into the Oval Office so he could address the public on the coronavirus pandemic.

It was one of the few times Trump has used the Oval Office for such an address. Rallies and driveway press gaggles are more his thing. But the pandemic called for something “presidential.”

The only things “presidential” in the speech, however, were the gold “Nixon-esque” drapes behind Trump.

Trump used a teleprompter, which he always has trouble reading. He mumbled through some portions of the speech, but worse, he flubbed essential bits of policy.

He said trade from Europe was going to stop. He seemed to say that Americans stranded in Europe could not come home. And, of course, he said that there are plenty of coronavirus testing kits and the federal government would pay for people to get them.

Trump and his people spent March 12 walking back those bungles — while the stock market tumbled again, tripping SEC circuit breakers for the second time in a week.

Biden looking calm and trustworthy in his coronavirus speech, March 12. (Photo courtesy Reuters)

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden gave a coronavirus speech from Wilmington, Delaware.

He did everything he needed to do.

He was calm. He spoke clearly. He told listeners exactly what was at stake.

Biden didn’t bash Trump. He didn’t need to. But he did say Trump’s anti-globalism has hurt the United States’ ability to lead in a crisis of any sort.

Read the full text of Biden’s speech here.

Sanders putting humanity in his coronavirus speech. (Photo courtesy Charles Krupa/AP)

A couple of hours later, Bernie Sanders gave his presidential coronavirus speech from Burlington, Vermont.

Bernie speaks differently than Biden. He gestures more; his voice is gravelly.

But he tells you exactly what he thinks. And he hit the same leadership notes that Biden hit. He told listeners what was at stake and we have to work together.

Sanders told everyone the obvious. We need new leadership.

Read Bernie’s whole speech here.

Both men looked and sounded presidential. They were giving campaign speeches, to be sure, and their solutions to the coronavirus pandemic are part of those campaigns.

Both men hit the essential points that a leadership-in-time-of-crisis speech should hit.

  • Tell the truth. Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t shade it to fit your agenda.
  • Don’t garble your message.
  • Explain your plans and how you are implementing them.
  • Acknowledge that, “we’re all in this together.”
  • Let the public have ownership of the solutions.

I’ve explained before that true leadership emerges during crises.

Poor leadership also shows up during crises.

In the last two days, we’ve seen examples of both.

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Steve Jones

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We’ve got to do better than this, folks.

Politically Speaking

We all view the world through a unique lens. Politics is in literally everything from our churches to our social organizations to news events and crime to our governments. This is the place to share your view, regardless of your political leanings: all are welcome.

Steve Jones

Written by

We’ve got to do better than this, folks.

Politically Speaking

We all view the world through a unique lens. Politics is in literally everything from our churches to our social organizations to news events and crime to our governments. This is the place to share your view, regardless of your political leanings: all are welcome.

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