These are becoming the most uncertain times I have ever experienced. The immediate aftermath of 9/11 was uncertain, but after about a week it seemed unlikely that there would be another large scale terrorist attack against the homeland.
There was great uncertainty when the economy and the stock market tanked in 2008, but no health scare to go along with the economic woes.
At present, we have a pandemic, an economic disaster, and, perhaps worst of all, no clear idea of how bad things will get or when they will improve.
In circumstances like this, the credibility of our leaders matters greatly. If they say there is no need to shop for a month’s worth of food and supplies, this will not prevent panic buying unless we believe them.
A large segment of our population thinks President Trump is a liar. This is partly Trump’s fault and partly the media’s. Trump is prone to exaggeration and misstatement. The media has exaggerated the extent of this problem, purporting to find lies where they don’t exist.
In this particular crisis, Trump squandered some credibility by insisting at the beginning of March that anyone who wants a test for the coronavirus can get one. This was not the case, as the administration later acknowledged, and the lack of testing capability is seen as a “failing” that has made the crisis worse.
Mike Pence, by contrast, has earned good reviews for his public presentations on the crisis. Indeed, Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei call this “Pence’s presidential moment.”
As one example of the praise Pence has received from unlikely sources, Allen and VandeHei cite Jack Schafer, Politico’s media columnist. Schafer describes one of Pence’s press conference performances as “calm, direct, and polite in face of shouted, competing questions.” The description is accurate.
Most importantly, Pence seems on the level. The more Americans see of him, the more likely they are to believe what the administration says about this crisis, provided that Pence’s statements about the pandemic hold up over time.