The Slatest

Just Keep Walking

The president stormed out of the Rose Garden to avoid tough questions about the coronavirus. He shouldn’t bother coming back.

Trump's back is seen in focus from between the blurry shapes of two individuals watching him leave.
Donald Trump walks away from the lectern after abruptly ending a press conference in the White House Rose Garden on Monday. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, Donald Trump became upset at a Chinese American reporter from CBS, Weijia Jiang, for asking him why he kept talking about the coronavirus pandemic as if it were a competition between countries (which the U.S. is, in Trump’s incorrect assessment, winning). He responded that she should “ask China,” which only made sense as a racist taunt, then got more upset when CNN’s Kaitlan Collins waited to ask a question so Jiang could follow up. Then PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor deferred her time back to Collins, which sent Trump completely over the edge—these woman reporters, giving him, the president, so much sass—so he ended the press conference and walked off.

He should keep walking, out of the White House and into his post-presidency career as a lawsuit defendant and unreliable marketing frontman for golf courses in the world’s most corrupt countries.

Remember resigning in shame? In the past, it was a popular alternative to continuing to embarrass oneself. Public figures lied and cheated to avoid having to do it, but at a certain point—like, say, if 75 percent of the American public, which is polarized on a partisan basis on nearly every other possible question, believed that their insistence on reopening businesses during a pandemic was reckless, and their insane suggestion that citizens inject themselves with disinfectant had become an international joke—they pulled the rip cord and floated into tasteful reclusion. Lyndon Johnson did it by choosing not to run for reelection; his successor, Richard Nixon, did it a few years later rather than face impeachment for his humiliatingly seedy and lawless conduct.

Now we have an even worse president, and a disaster that is numerically more deadly for Americans than the Vietnam War was, and yet there the president still is, in the White House, being useless. Four weeks ago, we suggested that Trump should be paid to resign, and the case for his removal has gotten much stronger since, as deaths and infections have continued and the country’s testing capacity remains far short of what epidemiologists say would be needed to safely carry out the workplace and retail reopenings the president is insisting on. The only work he really does is perform in his press conferences, and now he can’t even handle that. Every day he continues will bring more failure, disgrace, and actual death. He should quit so someone else can take his place and do better.

Many other people should resign in shame too, even if they haven’t reached Trump’s abysmal standard. Bill de Blasio is the mayor of New York City, which has had the deadliest known COVID-19 outbreak of any major city in the world. De Blasio made the disaster worse by insisting that the coronavirus wouldn’t be a big deal and that preemptive cancellations and shutdowns would be an overreaction. He was wrong. He should resign!

Jared Kushner led the federal effort to provide U.S. health care workers with protective equipment, an effort that barely even existed enough to say that it failed. He should quit, and then he should “pre-quit” whatever other high-stakes jobs he might be offered in the future.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt took a picture of himself at a restaurant in March to belittle the idea that anyone should try to stay safe by staying away from indoor public spaces. Two hundred and sixty of his constituents have since died of a disease that spreads most quickly in indoor public spaces. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t issue a stay-at-home order until April, which means that vacationing Americans from across the country flew in and out of his state all March as the disease began to spread. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds never issued a stay-at-home order at all; at least 1,600 meatpacking plant employees alone in her state have been diagnosed with COVID-19. White House adviser Larry Kudlow said in February that the coronavirus was “contained.” The lieutenant governor of Texas said on March 24 that businesses should start reopening as soon as possible because elderly people should be willing to risk their own deaths in order to keep the economy running. All these people should apologize for what they did, in their resignation statements!

Tesla CEO Elon Musk predicted there would be “close to zero” new coronavirus cases in the U.S. by the end of April. There were 4,982 new cases announced yesterday, on May 12. Musk does not have a government position to resign from, but he should stop telling real government officials that he knows more than they do about when it would be safe to reopen factories.

Other politicians, members of the press, and voters should participate in this healthy accountability process by asking political leaders who have self-evidently failed why they haven’t resigned yet. “Waiting until it blows over and something else comes up” should not be an acceptable way to avoid taking responsibility for bungling a situation—which other economically advanced nations have handled with relatively minimal disruption—so badly that the U.S. experiences its worst mass death event since Vietnam and worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, at the same time.

The president should resign, as his first and last act of leadership.

For more of Slate’s news coverage, listen to What Next.