One of Trump's favorite claims about coronavirus is that he instituted travel restrictions that have thus far contained its spread, and that he did so despite critics telling him not to... Except Trump seems to have largely imagined this blowback against his travel restrictions.
"Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd made an important point in his interview with Vice President Pence on Sunday. When Pence alluded to Democrats politicizing and engaging in irresponsible rhetoric on coronavirus, Todd pressed him for specifics. "Who? Who is this? Name some names, sir," Todd said. "Because this is just -- it just feels like gaslighting. Please name some names."
Pence could muster just one name: a New York Times columnist who authored a piece called "Let's Call It Trumpvirus." He then quickly moved on to boilerplate about the administration's response.
The exchange highlighted Trump's overcooked grievance when it comes to coronavirus. He and his allies have been questioned about their preparedness and honesty about the situation and cast it as politically motivated attacks -- the kind Trump once lobbed with gusto, it bears emphasizing, at President Barack Obama during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
But it's important to emphasize just how overcooked that grievance is. And that's especially the case when it comes to another grievance Trump aired on Monday.
One of Trump's favorite claims about coronavirus is that he instituted travel restrictions that have thus far contained its spread, and that he did so despite critics telling him not to.
"I was criticized by the Democrats when I closed the Country down to China many weeks ahead of what almost everyone recommended," Trump claimed Monday morning. "Saved many lives.
"In the early stages of the foreign outbreak, I ordered sweeping travel restrictions to prevent uncontrolled spread of this disease," Trump said Saturday. "I took a lot of heat, because I did it very early."
Trump also tweeted last week about Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.: "He didn't like my early travel closings. I was right. He is incompetent!"
Except Trump seems to have largely imagined this blowback against his travel restrictions.
The claim about Schumer seems to have emanated from incorrect reports that the New York senator tweeted and then deleted a criticism of the travel restrictions. The conservative blog Powerline promoted the allegedly deleted tweet but later acknowledged it had been duped. So did the American Thinker. Schumer doesn't appear to have criticized the restrictions, even as he has criticized the administration's broader response.
And neither really has his party. When the Trump administration made the announcement Jan. 31, there was little in the way of a political disagreement about it. I've scoured reports from around the time and come up almost completely empty.
Some Democrats, in fact, seemed to praise the decision. Reps. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., and Rosa L. DeLauro, D-Conn., on Feb. 4 commended Health and U.S. Human Services Secretary Alex Azar for the administration's initial attempts to contain the virus, including mentioning quarantines and the "significant travel restrictions."
"We strongly support your recent decision to declare a public health emergency in response to the ongoing outbreak of the 2019 novel Coronavirus," they wrote.
Similarly, 2020 Democratic presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the time criticized Trump for dismantling a White House office that dealt with pandemics, but they made no mention of opposing travel restrictions.
Around the time the travel restrictions were put into effect, Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a Democrat, did criticize the Trump administration's rush to implement them. "We will be prepared. We are spending 24/7 on this to make sure that whatever steps necessary be taken to keep our people safe," Green said. "We do, but we never like a rushed job and that's kind of what the federal government did to us by just announcing this on Friday." Green, though, didn't actually take issue with the concept of travel restrictions.
About the closest Democrats have come to criticizing the substance of the restrictions was a Feb. 5 subcommittee hearing featuring experts on responding to such situations. One of the experts, Johns Hopkins University's Jennifer Nuzzo, said travel bans could be counterproductive in a situation like this.
"I am concerned by our singling out China for travel bans we are effectively penalizing it for reporting cases," Nuzzo told lawmakers. "This may diminish its willingness to further share data and chill other nations' willingness to be transparent about their own outbreaks." She also suggested it wouldn't do much to contain the spread.
Other experts on the panel also expressed concerns about how the restrictions were being implemented. But even in that hearing, the Democrats on the committee asked probing questions but didn't decry the travel restrictions.
The subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., asked Nuzzo: "How effective is this travel ban? You touched on it, that it actually may worsen things right now and concentrate this." Bera later asked another witness what impact the restrictions would have on the global supply chain. He added at another point that "there are discussions taking place backwards and forwards as to whether that actually will help us get a handle on this or if the travel ban will actually potentially make things worse."
At another point, Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., asked, "Not only does travel ban or restrictions or monitoring impact the economy, doesn't it also make it more difficult to share information so that we can address the outbreak -- outbreaks quickly -- or get international cooperation from others addressing the problem?"
Again, these are skeptical questions, but they are not Trump getting "heat" for making the decision. It instead looks a lot like those Democrats probing a witness who is skeptical of the policy for details about her position. It's what you should hope takes place in such hearings.
And in that way, it's emblematic of Trump's grievance-airing. He seems to regard really any questioning of his and his administration's actions as politically motivated, no matter how substantive. He has constructed a vast conspiracy against himself based upon very little actual criticism of - and some outright false information about - one particular decision.
This is about all I could find in the way of travel-restrictions criticism. In fact, the most strenuous criticism of Trump's travel restrictions has come not from Democrats, but from China's foreign ministry. It decried them as an overreaction to the situation.
Trump in his public comments has yet to spotlight that criticism. Instead, he has gone out of his way to praise China for its coronavirus response.
Aaron Blake is a senior political reporter for The Washington Post, who writes for The Fix blog.