Pence: On second thought, "I should have worn a mask"

A rare concession to critics from this administration, and especially rare with Donald Trump sitting next to him … in a social-distance context, anyway. Fox News held a unique town-hall event at the Lincoln Memorial with both Mike Pence and Donald Trump last night, and Bret Baier brought up Pence’s much-criticized maskless visit to Mayo Clinic last week, even though Mayo had signs posted requiring all visitors to mask up. Pence admitted that going maskless was an error on his part, but offered an explanation first.

“You wear a mask to prevent you from conveying the coronavirus to other people,” Pence said, but conceded, “I should have worn a mask at the Mayo Clinic.” If you’re explaining, you’re losing, right? Perhaps you’re just learning:

Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that he should have worn a mask during his visit to the Mayo Clinic last week when he toured the renowned medical facility without one despite their policy requiring it.

Citing how often he’s been tested for the virus, Pence said during a Fox News town hall, “I didn’t think it was necessary but I should have worn the mask at the Mayo Clinic.”

The concession comes after a mask-less Pence thanked workers, conferred with hospital administrators and spoke with a Mayo Clinic employee who was donating plasma at the facility.

The clinic had briefed Pence’s team in the days leading up to his trip about their policy requiring face masks, a person involved in planning the visit previously told CNN. The briefing came after the White House reached out last week about a potential visit. The person said when the clinic told the White House about the policy, it wasn’t clear whether Pence would wear a mask.

Technically, Pence is correct about the primary usefulness of the mask, which is to protect others, but there is still a secondary mitigation of risk to one’s self, too. Besides, it demonstrates respect and concern to everyone else in the room, which is why it’s irritating to see people in closed spaces without masks when you yourself are wearing one, required or not.   Pence was visiting a clinic that has worked hard to catch up to this disease and had imposed a mask requirement on everyone else, so Pence’s maskless visit was a sign of disrespect in two different ways.

Pence is a smart enough politician to know when he’s made a mistake and how to correct it. Pence has since worn a mask for other visits, which itself was a tacit admission of error. This more explicit confession is still curious coming in a joint interview with a president who has been very successful in business and politics with a no-apologies, no-concessions philosophy. Trump didn’t object, but then again, Baier never threw the question to him, either.

Trump made his own news last night in the town hall, as one might expect. After trying to lowball expectations on COVID-19 deaths, Trump picked a six-figure number last night as the new expectation, while still pressing states to allow a broader range of economic activity:

President Trump predicted on Sunday night that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country may reach as high as 100,000 in the United States, far worse than he had forecast just weeks ago, even as he pressed states to reopen the shuttered economy.

Mr. Trump, who last month forecast that fatalities from the outbreak could be kept “substantially below the 100,000” mark and probably around 60,000, acknowledged that the virus has proved more devastating than expected. But nonetheless, he said that parks, beaches and some businesses should begin reopening now and that schools should resume classes in person by this fall.

“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people,” the president said in a virtual “town hall” meeting at the Lincoln Memorial hosted by Fox News. “That’s a horrible thing. We shouldn’t lose one person over this.” But he credited himself with preventing the toll from being worse. “If we didn’t do it, the minimum we would have lost was a million two, a million four, a million five, that’s the minimum. We would have lost probably higher, it’s possible higher than 2.2” million. …

“At some point we have to open our country,” the president said. “And people are going to be safe. We’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned about the tremendous contagion. But we have no choice. We can’t stay closed as a country. We’re not going to have a country left.”

To get the reopening rolling, Trump says he will work with Congress on a Phase 4 relief bill. He wants very specific targets for that relief included in the bill, Trump warned:

Trump said during a Fox News virtual town hall that he would like to see a sizable infrastructure bill pass to help revive the economy, which has cratered amid the coronavirus pandemic. But he indicated his long-desired payroll tax cut would have to be part of any talks.

“I want to see a payroll tax cut on both sides, a very strong one, because that’s going to really put people to work,” Trump said. “But infrastructure is so important. Our country, our roads are — excuse me — they’re going to hell.”

“But we will be doing infrastructure,” Trump said, seated next to Vice President Pence and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “And I told Steve just today, we’re not doing anything unless we get a payroll tax cut. That is so important to the success of our country.”

A tax cut will likely be a no-go with House Democrats, but they’re already on the back foot over their refusal to return to Congress. Mitch McConnell has the Senate working starting today, and has made arrangements for enhanced testing to help protect members and staff. If they want to deliver relief to states, Democrats had better prepare to allow more relief to taxpayers along with it.

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David Strom 10:00 AM | May 29, 2024