(Mar 13): The America First presidency collided with a global pandemic on the evening of March 11. The result did not appear to reassure skittish markets or a nervous nation. President Donald Trump relied on a familiar playbook as he spoke in a prime-time address from the Oval Office, announcing sweeping new restrictions on travel from Europe and scattered executive actions to help workers and businesses rocked by what he labelled a “foreign virus.”

He blamed allies for not adopting tough immigration measures that he said had prevented a wider outbreak in the US. But the combative approach and small-bore measures seemed only to highlight the president’s struggles to confront the most consequential moment of his presidency.

And even in a 10-minute address, Trump could not stick to the facts. He overstated the European travel restrictions, saying he was “suspending all travel” from the continent, and suggested they would also apply to trade. He tweeted later that trade would not be affected, and the Department of Homeland Security clarified that the restriction applies generally to foreigners who have been in Europe within 14 days.

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