The Corner

National Security & Defense

Deter Our Adversaries, Now More Than Ever

President Trump delivers remarks to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Wilmington, N.C., September 2, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

President Trump’s positive coronavirus test in the run up to November has sparked a lot of talk about the state of the race, in addition to consideration of a number of grim hypotheticals. Another angle to consider is the resulting threat to national security.

With the spotlight now on the scramble to test potentially infected White House staffers and members of Congress, U.S. adversaries might view an opening to take advantage of the chaos. In recent months, Beijing has stepped up belligerent activity pressuring Taiwan, as high-ranking members of the Trump administration have made visits there. Recent Iran-backed militia rocket attacks targeting the U.S. embassy in Baghdad have led Mike Pompeo to threaten to shutter the facility. And, as always, Russia’s meddling in Eastern Europe remains another hotspot to watch. Then there’s the issue of foreign election interference — this crisis could embolden the usual suspects. And, clearly, this is a non-exhaustive list of the world’s simmering crises.

The U.S. government will continue to function as this storm rages. But it’s crucial that this be made clear to the rest of the world, lest there be any doubt.

Marco Rubio has the right idea. He posted a warning to Twitter this afternoon: “Any adversary who views news of @POTUS testing positive as an opportunity to test the United States would be making a grave mistake.”

The president is working from the White House residence now and, thankfully, has only shown mild symptoms so far. It’s crucial that he broadcast his continued attention to the ongoing threats facing the country. This means, at the bare minimum, tweeting something to that effect. Hosting a video conference call with his top defense and national-security officials would be even better than that. (And they should also participate in a coordinated messaging push.) But for the purposes of projecting strength right now, a national address would go a long way toward providing assurance that the president remains at the wheel, prepared to deter any challenges to U.S. national security.