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How Donald Trump and Joe Biden plan to address COVID-19 downturn

Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer, HuffPost Washington Bureau Chief Amanda Terkel, Yahoo News Editor-in-Chief Dan Klaidman, and Yahoo News National Correspondent Alexander Nazaryan discuss the economic damaged caused by COVID-19, and how Donald Trump and Joe Biden plan to address it.

Video Transcript

- Alexander, you recently wrote about the Trump administration being in a fiasco vortex. Tell us what that means.

- Fiasco vortex is a term that the sort of well-known crisis manager Eric Dezenhall, who works here in Washington DC, came up with. And it indicates a point when the narrative basically slips away from the subject of that narrative, in this case, of course, Trump. And at that point, there's not much a crisis manager, or anyone else, can do. So, essentially, Trump has the narrative, in this case, the narrative that coronavirus has slipped the bounds of Trump's ability to control it. And we've seen that quite acutely in the last two weeks. I think we've actually seen it in many ways since April. But now it has really gone off the rails with his own diagnosis, and everything that has followed. And, of course, that's been evident in the handling of a second stimulus package. Or I should say the lack of handling, really.

- So, Alexander, you know, you have been covering coronavirus since the pandemic started. And it's been front and center in this campaign. I can't remember a presidential campaign when one issue has loomed as large as this one has. Joe Biden has been much stricter, you know, in terms of policy prescriptions. Sort of, mitigation standards. And he's talked about a national mask mandate. He's talked about keeping the economy much more locked down going forward, as long as this virus continues to spread and doesn't abate. How does he explain how he would deal with the economic toll of that? I mean, you have, just the other day, a top official at the WHO saying that it's time to end these lockdowns. And Biden seems to be going in the opposite direction. So how is he going to, sort of, explain that?

- Right. Well, first of all, a mask mandate could actually be even more effective than lockdowns in stopping the spread of the coronavirus. But if we were to do something resembling a lockdown, and you are correct, there is increasingly evidence that lockdowns are not our best measure of halting viral spread. But were we to do something approaching a lockdown, if we were forced to do it, the only way we could is if we had a stimulus. Right? We can't both lock down the economy and then starve businesses and individuals of any sort of aid. There will be-- We're sort of drowning and strangling the economy at the same time. And it's just an utterly nonsensical approach. And I know there are good people on both sides of the aisle trying to sort of resolve that impasse. But as long as the man in the Oval Office continues to send contradictory and confusing messages, I don't see that impasse being resolved.

- So, speaking of contradictory and confusing messages, obviously Trump had tweeted that he was ordering his representatives to stop all negotiations on the stimulus bill. Now they're negotiating again. Can you talk about, you know, from your reporting, what you heard about, what sort of backlash did Trump get to that? From either within the White House, his administration, and within his own party.

- Good question, Amanda. I think you'll agree with me that it's basically an open secret at this point that congressional Republicans are exasperated with Trump. I would argue that they have been for a long time. But, at this point, he's actually frustrating Mitch McConnell's attempts to get anything done. Yeah know, McConnell has put together this $500 billion proposal. Which isn't great. And Pelosi doesn't love it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, his adversary in many ways. But, still, whatever prospects exist, Trump seems determined to frustrate them. Including when it's Steven Mnuchin, his Treasury Secretary, putting forth ideas. I guess, frankly, it's dismaying to see talks in this state of chaos and confusion. And I can only imagine what it's like. Not that we have too much sympathy for the good folks on Capitol Hill. But I just cannot imagine trying to do anything approaching legislation in this environment, where the White House may issue new directives. Or, not the White House, Trump. Every single day, something new, something that scuttles whatever work has already been done by Democrats and Republicans alike.

- Alexander, you talk about promises and statements coming out of the White House, or, more specifically, President Trump. That goes for fighting the coronavirus, specifically when it comes to therapies and drugs. Let's listen to what President Trump had to say on that score.

- We're producing powerful therapies and drugs. And we're healing the sick. And we're going to recover. And the vaccine is coming out very, very quickly. In record time, as you know. It's coming out very, very soon. We have great, great companies doing it. And they'll be distributing it. And we will, through our military, very, very rapidly. Through the power of the spirit, I think, more than anything else. Science, medicine will eradicate the China virus once and for all. We'll get rid of it.

- Well, some people have taken to calling the China virus the White House virus. But that's another point. What about this fact, or the question, I guess, I should say, of how much the American public blames President Trump for where we are with COVID-19? In terms of the election. I mean, is this just a huge negative for the President? Or, maybe, some people say, it's China's fault, and he's doing the best he can. What do you think?

- Look. No doubt, Chinese biosecurity was lax. May still be lax. That's not why we have more than 7 million people sick and nearly a quarter of a million dead. Right? That's on us. You know, whatever happened in Wuhan in December, let the WHO adjudicate that. I don't see, in fact, I have never understood what electoral gain Trump's sees by just continually blaming China. Leave aside the fact that it's plainly xenophobic. I just don't see the political benefit for him in doing so. Nor in continuing to promise things that will clearly not come to pass. Right? Johnson & Johnson had a troubling result in its vaccine trial yesterday. A volunteer had some sort of unexplained illness. Well, that may be nothing, of course. And the trial may well continue apace. But the incident highlights the fact that we don't know yet that these vaccines will work for sure. And for Trump to keep saying that is dangerous. And I think a lot of public health professionals are concerned about this, and what it does to public trust. What remains of public trust, I should say.

- So, Alexander, if we don't get any sort of additional stimulus bill now, say Trump loses. Do you think there's any chance something would go through in the lame duck?

- No. I don't. Do you, Amanda?

- (LAUGHING) Not really. But I thought maybe you would think something different.

- No. Because, look, do I think, if we locked McConnell and Pelosi in a room, which I know sounds like a terrible reality show, that both would come up with something? Maybe Mnuchin and Meadows in there, too. I think they could. I think Trump scuttles almost everything himself, personally. And this should have been done in, you know, July, once we saw that a second round was needed, or another round was needed. We should be on the next round after that. And, look, I'm not endorsing wanton spending. But we've recovered 42% of our jobs, I believe, since the pandemic began. Our unemployment rate is 7.9%. These are very troubling numbers. We are in critical care here as an economy. And I'm not concerned about the politics of this. I'm concerned about the people who aren't able to find work. And, no, Amanda. I'm quite pessimistic about the lame duck. Really the only prospect here is, you know, January 21. And, you know, I know that's a sort of-- Again, I'm sorry for being a pessimist. But, as Danny pointed out, this is what I watch all day. And, if I had something brighter to report, I would. But I don't.

- All right. One thing's for sure. We're about to find out over the next month or so. Alexander Nazaryan, Yahoo! News national correspondent. Thank you so much for joining us.

- THANK you for having me, guys. I wish I could be the bearer of better news here from the nation's capital.

- Maybe you're wrong. We'll see. We'll find out.

- I very much hope I am.