14:21 GMT29 May 2020
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    Democrats have been criticising Donald Trump for what dominant party voices have perceived as a 'slow response' to the coronavirus.

    Republican Senator for Virginia, Richard Black, explains why the Democrats have seized on the pandemic as their weapon of choice against President Trump and why the steps that have been taken by the Trump administration will benefit the US economy in the long run.

    Sputnik: We are seeing that authorities in many states, such as Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, and New York, are postponing the presidential primaries to later dates due to the coronavirus outbreak. In your opinion, could the postponement of the primaries impact the course or outcome of the election? If so, how exactly?

    Richard Black: I don't know whether they’re delaying it for tactical reasons, but right now the Democrats are in chaos, they really don’t know what direction to take. I think they had hoped that if they really attacked Trump – you know, initially Trump said “let’s relax, let’s not get overexcited about this” – and so they attacked and they said “you’re not taking this seriously enough.” But Trump is a very difficult target; he can say something one day, and he’ll say something a little different the next day, and he just rolls from one to the other. He’s very hard. He’s not the kind of candidate where you say “you said this on this date” because he’s constantly moving with the times. He is an impossibly hard target. So, they attacked him for not taking things seriously enough, so he took them more seriously and he just rolled with the punches. And it has caused a great deal of confusion with the Democrats; they really don’t know what direction to take. They were getting ready to nominate Joe Biden at the Democratic National Convention. They have a problem because Joe Biden, I believe, has early-onset dementia. You know, I’m not somebody who criticizes a candidate who’s travelling all around the country and then he says “well, it’s great to be here in Wisconsin” and he’s really in Michigan. I get that, I understand that. It’s just that your mind is a blur and you can’t keep up with where you are from moment to moment. But some of the things that Joe Biden is doing – and it’s not like it’s just one thing, it’s like a multitude of things where he just simply gets lost in what he’s saying, or he spins it backwards. It’s not the kind of thing that happens just because you are tired; it’s the kind of thing that happens because your mind has a disconnect and you’re beginning to float away from reality. So, the Democrats sense this, they know they’ve got a very big problem; and I think there are some of them who think “if we could delay this, maybe we could somehow get another candidate.” Some people had talked about Mario Cuomo; who knows who would pop up next. I think there’re some of them who may be motivated by that to delay the primaries. But at the same time, it’s making things very difficult because the Democratic National Convention is set for July; the National Convention gives the Democrats or the Republicans a huge amount of publicity and they would like to have that publicity. But they are in a quandary because if they delay it too much, maybe they don’t get the Democratic National Convention and they don’t get this big boost. It’s very confused. If you look at the whole thing, I think it is extremely treacherous for the Democrats at this time; that’s where they are right now.

    Sputnik: What party could benefit, in your view?

    Richard Black: If the Democrats were able to insert a new candidate; if they were able to come up with somebody who didn’t have the problems with his mental state and with some of his background of corruption, then it could be beneficial. But it cuts both ways because the more they delay the more people become accustomed to seeing Trump as the one leader of the nation, the person who can always be relied on no matter how bad things get. And they will roll out some new candidate in their best scenario, and people will say “well, okay, do I take a chance on this new guy or do I rely on Trump who has pulled us through all this?” I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows for sure, but the risks are more substantial on the Democrat side than the Republican.

    Sputnik: The most successful Democratic candidates are continuing to go on television shows and voice their views on President Trump’s efforts to resolve the coronavirus crisis. Joe Biden, for example, spoke out about the authorities' slow response to the pandemic and the lack of action. Nancy Pelosi has said the same. In your opinion, what other steps will the Democrats take to make the current situation play out in their favour? 

    Richard Black: It’s very hard because they thought they had President Trump trapped. He had said “let’s not overreact, let’s be calm.” And, you know, we have a lot of deaths from the common flu; over the last 10 years, the common flu has ranged from twelve thousand dead up to 61 thousand dead. Now we’re somewhere around 3 thousand dead, so it’s a long ways from 61 thousand. So, that was the President’s approach, it was very reasonable; and the Democrats just attacked him viciously, saying “you’re not taking it seriously, you’re out of touch.” They said the same thing that he was saying, but they wanted to go on with the attack. Trump is the slipperiest person in the world – I don’t mean that in a bad term, I mean that in a political term – he is so hard to pin down; he’ll say one thing today, he’ll say the opposite thing tomorrow, he’ll say a third thing the next day. But he floats with the news; he constantly floats with the news. If the news says one thing, he floats with it. If it says something different, he floats with it. And so, where he is now is he is taking it more seriously than many of the Democrats. And the Democrats are scrambling to keep up with him and to treat it as seriously as he is. Part of the reason that the entire globe is, I think, dealing with mass hysteria is because of the American presidential race where the President said “relax” the Democrats said “you’re not taking it seriously;” the President said “I’m taking it seriously,” the Democrats said “we’re taking it more seriously than you,” up, up, up, up. And before long it’s almost to the point of saying anybody who breathes is spreading the coronavirus, you have to stop breathing. I mean, it’s got to stop somewhere, it’s getting so insane. But the thing about the President is he will ratchet up until he stops; and when he stops it will be because he sensed that the American people have gotten fed up, they need to get back to work, they're going broke, they’re worried about how to pay the rent or put food on the table. And he will pick that time – and I think he will do it rather well – and then he'll begin to ramp down. And the Democrats will be in a position where they’re trying to catch up with Trump again. It’s a very interesting political dynamic that’s taking place in this country.

    President Donald Trump pauses during a briefing about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in Washington
    © AP Photo / Alex Brandon
    President Donald Trump pauses during a briefing about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in Washington

    Sputnik: But what else would you expect from the Democrats? They are going to different TV shows, saying bad things about the President to damage his image, to decrease his ratings – but they are enormously high for this moment. What else could they do?

    Richard Black: It’s very hard. You know, I’ve run 13 hotly-contested political races including one that took National prominence because it involved Andrew McCabe who is the top FBI official whose wife ran against me; it really involved presidential politics and I was in the midst of it. I’ve won 12 out of 13 elections, and this is a district that kind of swings back and forth. You’ve got to be very quick, and you’ve got to be very imaginative when you run these kinds of races because they are very dicey. At this point, I don’t think the Democrats know what to do. They have certain themes. And here’s what’s happened: with the virus the scope of things that can be dealt with has narrowed, and narrowed, and narrowed; and now the only thing that really counts is the coronavirus. That’s the only thing. They wanted to deal with climate change, the Green New Deal, gun control, socialism. With some of the things, they’re probably better off that they don’t have to deal with them because they’re so bizarre. But they don’t have an array of issues where they could say “okay, this one is polling well, let’s focus on that.” Gun control; it’s gone, nobody cares. The only people interested in guns are the people who want them because they’re worried about some sort of violence breaking out in the cities. So, it has really trapped the Democrat Party. Now, the thing about the virus is that it’s so unpredictable what will happen; and I think the one hope for the Democrats is that the overreaction will crash the economy, seriously crash the economy. And it will become so desperate for people that they will say “we just got to have a change; it doesn’t matter who it is or what it is we have to have a change.” I think that’s the biggest hope for the Democrats. And I’m not saying they’re trying to destroy the economy; I think it’s almost a natural outcome of the reaction of these two. Think about what China has done, and I’m speculating a little bit but China had a massive crackdown in Wuhan where the thing broke out. And then they said “okay, we’re fine, we’re getting back to work.” I don’t think they’re fine, I think they still are having coronavirus; but I believe that the decision was made that “look, we can’t shut down the economy, we can’t just have people starve; so we have to be practical, and we have to how to say that life goes on even if you have a serious virus like this, and even if it’s going to kill people, you’ve got to go on.” I think that’s going on in China. I think they’ve done some things, the social distancing; there are a lot of things that you can do that are very practical. But the US is doing things that are so severe that they’re very destructive to the economy and there’s going to be some permanent destruction. The best hope for the Democrats is that that destruction will get out of hand and that it will give them an opportunity to put forth a candidate - whether or not it’s Joe Biden. Even if it gets bad enough, people may say “we don’t care whether Joe Biden has his mental faculties or not; we want somebody new just because we have to do something.” And this happens sometimes.

    Sputnik: In an interview with Fox News, President Trump noted that his ratings are now higher than ever. According to a recent survey by Realclearpolitics.com, Trump is rated positively by 47.3% of Americans. If the president continues to take the right steps, then his ratings could grow even higher. Is a scenario possible in which, in view of the suspended election campaigning, the Democrats would ask for a postponement of the presidential election in order to increase their ratings and gain votes?

    Richard Black: I think the Democrats would probably like to delay the election. The problem is that I don’t know whether they have the power to do it. These are federal elections and to delay the election, I think, you would have to have a federal law that would grant that authority, which means they would have to get through the United States Senate, which is controlled by the Republican. So I think that’s remote; I think it’s going to be very difficult. And honestly, by the time we reach November, the coronavirus will have picked; and we’re coming into the spring season, the flu season is tapering off. The longest it lasts is into early May, and that’s very attenuated. Typically, February is sort of the peak and then May is sort of…There are times when it can spike that light, but when you talk about November you’re almost talking about getting into the next virus season. So I think what will happen is probably somewhere, perhaps, by late April early May you’re going to see the coronavirus start to diminish. You can’t keep up this level of intensity indefinitely. At a certain point, people say “you know what, I have to get out of the house, take a walk,” and the whole thing will break down at some point. Also, people have to eat. You have to eat, all of the things of life – you can’t just stop living. You can suspend things for a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months. But if you look at what’s happening in India, Prime Minister Modi tried to do a lockdown; and there’re thousands of people rioting in desperation, all crowded together. There’s only so much time that we can keep this up, and then it’s going to start to level up. People talk about this is not a linear progression, it’s a geometric progression. What they never say is that this geometric progression is the same that the flu; the flu has a geometric progression. But then they top off. That always happens. Even the Spanish Flu of 1918 topped off; I don’t mean this is just like the Spanish Flu. It is nothing. This is trivial nothing compared to the Spanish Flu. But they all top off; and when they top off then people are going to say “hey, it’s time; we got to get back to work; I’m going broke.”

    Sputnik: So, you don't believe in this step that Democrats ask to postpone the election.

    Richard Black: Some of them might like to; I think there is an interest, but I don’t think they’re going to be able to pull it off. I just don’t think that it will work. Right now the Democrats are in a very difficult spot. That doesn’t mean it won’t change; there's a lot of time between now and November, and it’s all very unpredictable. If the economy really crashed, that could be a problem for Trump. But he’s pumped $2 million into the economy; he may pump as much as 6 million. Just to put it in perspective, the amount of money the United States has spent on all the wars in the Middle East, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, all of these is about $6 trillion. What he has spent in this reaction to the virus is about the same amount as we have spent over the last couple of decades in the Middle East, which was an obscene amount of money; and he’s jammed it into the economy right now. It's hard to imagine that that’s not going to have a real boost to the economy. So, from his purely political standpoint, he has justified boosting the economy in a way he never could have done without the virus. And that works against the Democrats; it just hurts them because all of a sudden all this money is out there, with money comes influence, you can get good remarks from people who dislike you if they’re getting $30 or $50 billion because of something that you’ve done. So it’s very difficult for the Democrats right now.

    Sputnik: What other actions regarding the current situation do you personally expect from the president? What may help to increase his ratings? 

    Richard Black: What we’re seeing right now is that different Democratic Governors have been imposing almost what amounts to martial law. They don’t allow people to leave their homes; and if they do, they can send them to jail and they can fine them. In Virginia, the governor has just said that people will be on lockdown in their homes until 10 June. That’s phenomenal; this has never happened in history. It didn’t happen during the Spanish Flu. The Spanish Flu was at least a thousand times more serious than what this is. It was huge. In Baltimore, just one city of Baltimore, the Spanish Flu killed over 5,000 people. In the entire country, the coronavirus is up to just about 3,000 people today. So, we haven’t even reached the death toll of Baltimore City. So, it’s a situation where, I think, it’s going to taper off. It’s interesting because the Democrats have been ratcheting up; my guess is that the President will get a jump on them as he is ratcheting down. And he’ll be saying “hey, we need to get back to work, we need to be realistic.” And he’ll do it at a time, I think, when the Democrats have not started to say that, and yet the public is going to be ready for it. And he’ll say “yeah, let’s get back to work, let’s get the kids back to school.” Many mothers have difficulty dealing with the children 7 days a week when the children can’t go out, they can’t go anywhere.

    Workers load deceased person into truck trailer outside Brooklyn Hospital Center during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York
    © REUTERS / Stefan Jeremiah
    Workers load deceased person into truck trailer outside Brooklyn Hospital Center during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York

    Sputnik: The worst situation is if they don’t have money to feed them.

    Richard Black: Yes. People have to eat, people have to travel; they have to live. It comes to the point where you say “okay, it’s terrible that old people, that our grandparents are going to have to die.” I agree with it, that’s a general thing. But at some point, you say “we have to live.” And it means some risk to some people, particularly the elderly. We just have to take that risk and let the elderly confine themselves if they can. Maybe we can try to help them to continue to confine; maybe we come up with some medication. But people have to get back to living. One difference between the coronavirus and the Spanish Flu is that the Spanish Flu killed people who were at the most productive age, people who should be out on a machine, mining in the coal mines, harvesting timber. It wasn’t the flu that targeted elderly people. So, it was very serious. This one just targets elderly people; and as sad as it is to say elderly people are not the backbone of the economy. It’s younger people, people your age, you are the backbone of the economy; you can't stop working. So, it’s a risk in terms of tragedy and heartache, what could be worse. I have a granddaughter who, I think, just really adores her grandfather; and her grandfather adores her. I think if something happened to her grandfather, she would never get over it; she would be devastated. But she is 6 years old, she’s a beautiful girl; I sometimes wish she could be on television. But the thing is if something happened to her grandfather, she would always tuck him away in her memory and she would go on; and she would marry and she’d have lots of children, I hope. And she would be very productive, and her children would be often making things and running computers, and running machines and businesses and things. And life would go on. Life doesn’t stop because older people stop. They say that of the people who are dying, about two-thirds of them would have died within 3 to 6 months anyway, think of that. So, with the US death toll, 3,000 people have died of the coronavirus. If you could completely stop the coronavirus, 2,000 people would die instead of 3,000. That’s statistically insignificant; it doesn’t make a difference in terms of society, culture, economy. Life goes on. And at some point, as sad as it is to say, we’re going to have to say “life is going on, we’re going to continue to live.” And I think Donald Trump understands it. It is clear to me that he totally understands it; he has a total grasp of that. He wants to get us out of this; he was talking about doing it at Easter time, now he’s extended it to 30 April. But he’s getting close. And when he does the Democrats better hope that that they aren’t caught flat-footed and that the American people don’t jump up and say “hooray for Trump, he’s getting us back to work.” And the Democrats are seeming like old fogies who can’t keep up with the times, who are stuck in the past; and they want to keep young people from going out and having some fun. Right now I would much rather be representing Donald Trump in his campaign, than representing Joe Biden.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    Republican Party (United States), US Democratic Party, COVID-19, Donald Trump, United States
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