In the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons discusses U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While he praises Congress for coming together to pass a record-breaking stimulus bill, he says President Trump "bluntly ignores the advice of his most senior scientists and public health advisors." He also criticizes GOP colleagues for following the President's lead rather than listening to scientists. On whether Congress will be able to pass additional relief funding for Americans and small businesses, Coons says, "I do think we'll get another round of relief, if nothing else, because the headwinds for both Trump's reelection and Republicans retaining the majority in the Senate, and for the economy, are getting stronger and stronger."
Ian Bremmer shares his insights on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:
Number one, Trump vs Fauci. What's going on here?
Well, I mean, you know, it's a health leader who is quite popular across Dems and Republicans in the United States and an environment where President Trump is looking for folks to blame. And, you know, it's hard. China's been a big piece of this but hasn't been adequate in explaining why the red states are now doing so badly, for example. And why it continues to persist beyond Europe. And so, he's looking for others. And Fauci has been the most coherent, the most credible in the Trump administration, but has made mistakes. And certainly, also has been willing to come out and speak independently of the Trump administration, including criticizing the Trump administration in a way that Dr. Birx, for example, or the head of the CDC has not. And that's why you're starting to see anonymous opposition against Fauci. You're seeing some of the campaign proactively say they think Fauci has been a cold shower on the economy and has been Dr. Doom, Mr. No. It's funny, Larry Summers, my friend, was called Dr. Kevorkian by Obama when he was secretary there, because he was always providing the negative outlook. I can't imagine how Larry Summers would survive in the Trump administration right now.
But clearly, at the same time, Trump understands that getting rid of Fauci would be a huge mistake. So the question is, if the opposition gets significant, if it starts looking like they're taking serious shots at the guy, will he stay? And he's been around for a long time. He's worked under Republican and Democratic administrations. You go to Fauci's office, you see photos of him with all the presidents, and all the House speakers, and all the accolades he's gotten. He can handle it, right? So, I think he's willing to stay a lot longer than a lot of others would, and I don't see Trump forcing Fauci out the way Bolsonaro has basically forced out two health ministers that were both popular and scientifically credible the way that Fauci is.
So, first of all, the United States is handling this better than Brazil and, you know, thank goodness for small benefits. But also, it is showing that Trump understands that his popularity on handling the coronavirus is in the toilet. It's about 30 percent compared to 40 percent overall support. And he needs to show a better result, especially in terms of a core red states and purple states, some of which are where you're seeing the biggest explosion of cases right now. I mean, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, not California. That's on the blue side. But those others are all a lot of solid Trump supporters that are taking it on the chin now directly from coronavirus. That's not where he was even a month ago.
Why did the UK, United Kingdom, reverse course and ban Huawei and where does that leave China?
Well, the interesting thing is that the United Kingdom had decided to include Huawei in 5G. That was Boris Johnson. The Americans were very angry about it. You may remember that's when the Trump administration said, well, maybe we're not going to share Intel with you if you decide that you're going to work with China on 5G and on Huawei, their most important tech company. Now the UK has completely reversed their decision. And there's a few reasons for it. First, it's the United States. I mean, we've got new foreign product rules that not only will sanction those that work directly with Huawei, but also makes Huawei's own future much less certain. Are they going to be able to get the inputs, the semiconductors, the other critical pieces of their supply chain that would allow them to roll out 5G effectively? It's a much worse bet than it was even six months ago.
There's also the fact that the Chinese are not seen to be transparent around coronavirus. I've talked about this quite a bit before, the original cover up for the first month while this disease was exploding inside China. They weren't being in any way forthcoming about human to human transmission with their own people or internationally. That's angered not just the US, but a lot of allies, too. And, of course, China's actions in Hong Kong. So, there's been a lot of backlash against the Chinese and that is hurting them ultimately. And that's what's behind the UK decision. It's a big hit on China. They had major plans for the United Kingdom, including growing the connections between stock exchanges and London and Shanghai, crafting a new post-Brexit FTA (free trade agreement), invest heavily in UK infrastructure. Certainly, there's going to be retaliation of some kind from China. But this is one of the bigger strategic wins of the Trump administration and foreign policy since they've actually come into office.
Finally, with the US rejecting China's maritime claims in the South China Sea, how will this further escalate tensions?
Well, a little bit. I mean, it's not a military move. It's a diplomatic move. This is more symbolic. It's United States officially aligning itself with the 2016 ruling in The Hague instead of supporting it abstractly, which is what the Obama administration did. The alignment means the United States is formally denying specific claims, most importantly, this nine-dash-line that says that China basically has sovereignty over everything in the water going right down to the borders of South East Asian littoral states. Which is, you know, kind of crazy. Anyone looks at the map and sees what China is laying claim to, it's ludicrous. And it's only because China has such outsized power militarily in the region and of course, economically, that they can kind of get away with it. But again, it's not military escalation. The Pentagon could follow up with more aggressive exercises in the region, and that's certainly possible, especially as we get closer to election, and Trump wants to show his anti-China bona fides, the risk of accident is going up. But for now, this is a diplomatic move, not a military one. That's what I'd focus on.
Ian Bremmer 's Quick Take:
We're still in the middle of a plague. A major pandemic. You know, no locusts, no frogs, not in the United States anywhere. Lots of locusts in sub-Saharan Africa. But coronavirus is still very much with us.
I was so happy to see that in New York City, we finally had a day, the first day since the pandemic broke out here, with no deaths, just yesterday. And obviously a lot of hard work on the part of health workers at low wages and at great personal cost. A lot of patience on the part of all the citizens of New York City and a lot of frustration. And finally, getting to the point where slowly, slowly, slowly the economy is reopening.
I wish I could say that was true for the rest of the country. When New York City has zero deaths, Florida with deaths increasing. Still, I mean, you know, only had a couple of days with over 100 but 15,000 cases. Young people right now, that's the largest number of cases any state has had since this whole thing started. And would put Florida as, if it were a country, is number four in the world after the US, Brazil and India in terms of numbers of cases that day, which is really quite something. Governor DeSantis, a lot of people said he was doing a great job a couple months ago, people are not saying that anymore.
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:
Got through the Fourth of July. Pretty rough one for 2020 here in the United States. Still in the thick of it as we see caseload exploding in the United States. But really, the virus is all about developing markets right now. Poor countries around the world very soon, with the exception of the US and the UK, all of the top 10 countries around the world in terms of coronavirus caseload will be poorer countries. Let's keep in mind, these are countries that test a lot less, which means the actual numbers, in the United States the experts are saying probable likelihood of total cases is about 10x what we've actually seen in the US, in emerging markets and most of them, it's more like between 20 and 100. In other words, this is really where the virus now is.
Those countries have nowhere near the money to be able to ensure that people can stay locked down and out of work and safe for a long period of time as we have been able to in the United States and Europe and Japan. They aren't going to get enough aid to make up the difference internationally. And, you know, populations are younger. Life is cheaper in these countries. A lot more people die from, they have lower life expectancy, they have worse health care, and so the willingness to, you know, tie yourself in knots over the latest dangerous disease is much less than in a country where every additional person that dies drives political outrage. And it should not be that way. But it is that way. So, you're seeing different policies as a consequence.
That means de facto herd immunity strategy. Doesn't mean de facto herd immunity, because we still don't know that herd immunity is something that you'll be able to get to. We don't know how long antibodies last. Your first studies now, with just a few months, this disease has been with us as humanity for six months, so we have no idea if herd immunity would apply and if so, to how many people, do you have to have symptoms that are hard or can it can asymptomatic people also have herd immunity? We hope we're going to get to a vaccine. I worry that the Chinese and the Indians are rolling out vaccines before they have adequate human trials, which means that the quality of the vaccines that lots and lots of people get may be considerably substandard and have second-order health effects that are negative. And it also means much more of a fight internationally. The biggest tragedy of coronavirus globally is the fact that the world is so uncoordinated, is so not working together either to ensure that people have treatment, that we have adequate medical supplies, that we have adequate economic response, or that we eventually have adequate vaccine. That is going to continue to make this much worse as a crisis than it otherwise would have been.
Now, here in the United States, of course, it is certainly good to see that the Trump administration, however late, is now tilting towards telling everyone you should wear a mask. If it was up to me, I would make mask wearing mandatory and I would enforce it and I would have significant fines if you don't. And I would also be looser in opening up economies. So that people could get jobs back, we could go back. I mean restaurants would be a challenge. Bars probably still no go because you can't keep masks on when you're doing that. But certainly stores, office places, all of that, places where people can come and get the economy moving. I want them to do it. But everyone has to wear a mask. And if not, it's really going to cost you. And yeah, you're going to lose some personal liberties, but you're going to maintain your job, your well-being. The economy will do better. And soon enough, we won't have to do it anymore because we'd then be able to get low enough numbers of new cases that we could do the contact tracing that we don't have the people for right now. We could do the quarantining, that we don't have the tests and the people for right now. You've got far fewer cases before the number of tests and contact tracing that America presently has is adequate to actually get to a "we've defeated this virus."
Short of that, I'm glad that the Trump administration is saying "wear a mask." That's Ivanka. That's Kevin McCarthy. Even Trump in his soon to be rallies, they're handing out masks to everyone and they're going to tell people that you should be wearing them. That's a good thing. And I wish it was happening three or six months ago, but better now than three months from now, especially for an administration that thinks they're losing on coronavirus and doesn't want to talk about it very much. I mean, you saw the Mount Rushmore speech, and this was a pretty significant electoral rally speech and coronavirus was really not even mentioned. And that's in large part because they recognize that it's not a winner for them. They're doing badly on it. So, given all of that, the fact that they are now pivoting towards "wear a mask and get everyone to do it," does show that they want to have more of a handle on this or they fear losing in November. And for the good of the American population and the global economy or the largest economy in the world, I'm really glad for that.
You know, even Dr. Fauci, who's someone I like quite a bit personally, but remember when at the beginning he was saying, "don't wear a mask, we're not sure does anything." And the reason he was saying that is not that he thought that was true. He knew it wasn't true. But America didn't have adequate numbers of masks. They were concerned people were going to have a run on them and there wouldn't be enough for people in hospitals. That's unacceptable in a country like the United States. A couple of months after we knew that there was a pandemic in place in China. And I mean yes, we lost a month because the Chinese covered it up. But we need to know better. We need to do better than that. So, deeply frustrating from my perspective. Plenty of blame to go around.
People asking me why I don't focus on the states, it's because mostly I focus on the national level and around the world. But certainly if you focus on the states big mistakes made here in my own New York in terms of getting people out of the hospitals and forcing those with coronavirus to be taken back in elderly homes, assisted living facilities led to vastly more people getting killed than otherwise would have happened. We've seen big mistakes and opening too fast in a lot of states like Texas and Florida, despite Centers for Disease Control guidelines, they were being ignored. And as a consequence, much more spread than we otherwise would have seen. These are horrible things and they're leading to the United States right now, leading the developed world in terms of numbers of cases and also having considerably more deaths per capita than in Japan, than in South Korea, than in Canada, than in Germany. And then in Europe as a whole, though there are European countries that have more per capita deaths than the United States does. But we should be leading.
We should be doing much better than Europe. Remember, the pandemic only hit the US in scale 10 days after it hit Europe. Therefore, we should have learned from them. Two weeks matters, an immense amount in a pandemic. Our numbers should be better. They're not. And why not? Because at every level of government, we've done a bad job. And the media and social media are also helping people not know what to believe, not know if this is something they should really worry about or if it's fake news. And when you're not leading with science, when the country is immensely divided, then you politicize coronavirus, too. And that ends up killing and enfeebling a lot of people.
Final thing I would say, it is certainly true that our death toll in the United States looks a lot better right now than our caseload. There are two things you really should focus on: First is that death is by definition a lagging indicator. And especially when mostly young people are getting the disease right now. But the next order people, when they come home, they have the disease. They don't know they have the disease because they're asymptomatic. And we don't test enough. 10 times more people have the disease than we know about in cases that older people will get it. So, then you'll actually have fatality rates go up. And also, let's keep in mind, we do not know what the long-term implications for health and for the economy of people that have this disease and don't die from it. And certainly, we've seen lots of people, including young people, continue to have significant challenges with their own personal health, with their breathing, with their sense of smell, with their energy levels, with heart, other issues for months. And we've only had six months and only three months in the United States with large numbers.So, I don't feel really good about the fact that we've got, you know, a few million cases in the United States and maybe 10 times that in actual numbers of people who got the disease. We have no idea what that's going to do to their health in 10 and 20 years time. Their life expectancy. Their ability to work. Their ability to live functional, happy, productive lives. So, none of this makes me particularly happy right now. But at least top down, you get a feeling like they're taking it more seriously now than they were two weeks ago. I think that's true with the governors. I think that's true with the president and the administration. That's better than the alternative.