The worst outcome

The travel ban is an act of panic. Financial futures began crashing even as Trump was talking, perhaps shocked by his lack of an economic plan, perhaps aghast at his latest attack on world trade. (The speech seemed to suggest an embargo on European-sourced cargo as well, but that looks more like a mental lapse of Trump’s than a real policy announcement. The ban on cargo was retracted by a post-speech tweet, although the ban remains in the posted transcript of the speech.) Among other things, the ban represents one more refutation by Trump of any idea of collective security against collective threats. While China offers medical assistance to Italy, he wants to sever ties to former friends—isolating America and abandoning the world.

This crisis is not of Trump’s making. What he is responsible for is his failure to respond promptly, and then his perverse and counterproductive choice of how to respond when action could be avoided no longer. Trump, in his speech, pleaded for an end to finger-pointing. It’s a strange thing for this president of all presidents to say. No American president, and precious few American politicians, have ever pointed so many fingers or hurled so much abuse as Donald Trump. What he means, of course, is: Don’t hold me to account for the things I did.

But he did do them, and he owns responsibility for those things. He cannot escape it, and he will not escape it.