It’s clear that public perception about Trump was baked in from the start, and nothing was going to shake it. Someone as polarizing as Trump made sure of that—his defenders were never going to abandon him, his detractors (us!) were never going to accept him. Just look at his favorability ratings during his presidency:
After Election Day 2016, his numbers floated between net-unfavorable rating of minus-10 to minus-14. That’s a mere four-point max swing through four years of presidenting. In other words, people were locked in. Even now, during his continued efforts to subvert democracy, he’s just at -15 net unfavorable, a single point off his presidential tenure.
What’s notable about those numbers is that Trump’s incompetence literally cost us half a million dead, and yet his numbers never budged beyond that slight float, which could be explained as simple statistical noise. Trump’s deadly pandemic mismanagement confirmed the worst fears of critics like us, so we continued to view him unfavorably. But for those already supporting him? Nothing would ever budge them. Not even hundreds of thousands of dead Americans.
So back to Lindsey Graham, who is claiming: “If Trump was right about the lab leak, it would change the image the public had of President Trump regarding the Coronavirus.”
Trump’s public’s image of him never wavered, before or after the pandemic. The MAGA idiots still see him as blameless for our nation’s mass-death experience, and everyone else realizes that the guy who claimed, on a daily basis, that COVID-19 would disappear within days and wanted us to inject Clorox and shove a UV light up our butts … well, that guy was nothing but a menace. By Trump’s own low standards, he was a disaster. Remember when he said “if we could hold [deaths] down, as we’re saying, to 100,000 – it’s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100 [thousand] and 200,000 – we altogether have done a very good job”?
But Trump supporters don’t hold Trump to his own standards. Neither does Trump. He assumes everyone will forget the stupid shit he says and move on, and he’s not wrong. It’s exactly what happens.
But there’s another subtext to Graham’s quote that is even more ridiculous: that if the Chinese did, in fact, release that virus (whether on purpose or accidentally), then Trump is absolved of all blame! How perfect and convenient would that be?
Except, how does that work?
Do they really think that Trump could be blamed for his pandemic response if it was an unforeseen natural disaster, but he gets a pass if it was the result of another nation’s actions? How does that logic work?
If China was at fault for the pandemic, then Trump failed his No. 1 job as president: to keep this nation safe from foreign adversaries. All he had to do to counter the threat (no matter its source) was to wear a goddam mask, and he couldn’t even manage that!
No matter the source of the virus, American public opinion about Donald Trump is baked in and immovable. No one’s minds will change, because no one’s minds have changed.
But if it was truly China’s fault, the Trump failed his most basic responsibility to protect our nation from external threats.