On Wednesday, a group of Never Trumpers is set to release an ad that compares Donald Trump to the coronavirus.
The Lincoln Project, a band of past and present Republicans who fervently oppose Trump (including George Conway, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, and Rick Wilson), produced the spot, which shows a series of photos related to the coronavirus: empty streets, a medical lab, a hospital hallway. A narrator intones, “There’s a virus in the world. For some people, the virus is easy to see. Others don’t see it all. Some say the virus isn’t that bad. Others say it’s malicious and dangerous. Since there are those who still can’t see it. Wouldn’t it be smart to tell the truth about the virus?”
The ad—bam!—then lands on a photo of Trump, and the narrator concludes, “Since there is a virus.”
This hit on Trump and his failure to tell the truth about the coronavirus is based on a classic political ad the Ronald Reagan campaign aired in 1984 called “The Bear.” It was a Cold War shot at liberals and Democrats who didn’t accept the hardline view that the Soviet Union was an immediate threat to the United States and Washington had to dramatically increase the military budget.
Historians can argue whether the “Bear” ad was on the mark or not. (The Soviet Union started collapsing a few years later.) But at the time the spot was considered wily and effective.
This time around, there is no question about the danger at hand—and that the threat has been compounded by weeks of Trump’s inaction, incompetence, and false or misleading statements. In essence, the Lincoln Project is saying that the United States has been infected by not one but two viruses. And it’s a lethal combination.