A president who has been virtually ubiquitous on television for four years appears to have gone into hiding, contenting himself with communicating with the outside world only through Twitter.
The Trump who emerged in the rose garden was, by his standards, visibly subdued.
Trump hasn’t spoken about the election at all, except for a time when he appeared to be on the verge of recognizing a new Biden administration. But he surprised himself at the last moment, saying only, “Whatever happens in the future, who knows what administration it will be from. I guess time will tell.”
Such a fatalistic tone is not what you would expect from someone who genuinely believed the election was stolen from them, or who believed they had a real chance to reverse the outcome.
Trump, who loves ad-libbing, has largely stuck to his script on developing a vaccine for the coronavirus. He left without answering journalists’ questions, a departure for a man who likes to argue with members of the “fake news”.
The reason for holding the press conference appears to be twofold. First, to show the public that Trump is still performing his presidential duties. And second, claim credit for the eventual deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine.
This claim is somewhat complicated by the fact that Pfizer, which announced positive results from its COVID-19 vaccine trials earlier this week, has not taken money from the US government to research or develop its vaccine. He signed an agreement to sell the vaccine to the government in bulk if it is found to be effective.
Trump has taken photos against Pfizer for disassociating himself from his administration and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for criticizing his vaccine strategy. But it was rather shy.
Even in the most optimistic timeframe, it will be a Biden administration that oversees the mass distribution of a vaccine early next year. Trump wants to be the one to receive the kudos for the vaccine and any subsequent economic recovery, a boast that would come in handy if he decides to run for president again in 2024.
When it came to the election just over, Trump didn’t concede defeat on Saturday but didn’t fight either. Rather than someone playing to win, he seemed to go through the motions – and run down the clock.
Trump Biden 2020
Understand the outcome of the election and its consequences thanks to the expert analysis of the American correspondent Matthew Knott. Sign up for the Sydney Morning Herald newsletter here, The Age’s here, Brisbane Times’ here and WAtoday is here.
Matthew Knott is the North American correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
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