These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. – Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, December 1776
How will history remember how the United States and its government responded to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the first half of the year 2020? Will we – and the Administration of one Donald John Trump – be remembered as the Americans who faced a serious crisis with unity, determination, and courage? Or will we be consigned to the ash heap of history because we allowed – yes, allowed – ourselves to be so culturally, socially, and politically divided that one half of the nation hated the other half so much that it elected the most inept, unfit, and least effective candidate ever to run for President of the United States to the White House.
Seriously, we are where we are today – a nation of over 300 million men, and women, and children coping with an almost unprecedented public health crisis – as a result of a “perfect storm” that started late last fall in Wuhan, China, where a new strain of coronavirus emerged and made people sick. Like all authoritarian regimes, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) mishandled the situation in an effort to cover the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rear end. It arrested doctors that tried to get the word out about the new and deadly virus. It clamped down on data regarding confirmed cases. Once the cat was out of the bag, Beijing might have even deliberately underreported those confirmed cases and deaths to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the world at large.
Worse yet, the PRC was slow to impose both a travel ban and what we now call a policy of social distancing; as late as December of 2019 and January of 2020, Chinese citizens were still traveling to and from other countries, thus inadvertently helping to spread COVID-19 and turning what should have been a local or national public health incident into a global pandemic.
I do not blame Donald Trump for the existence of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus; he did not conjure it out of the ether or order its creation and release as a bio-weapon against China. But I do think his response to the pandemic has been inept, unenthusiastic, and marked by a lack of preparedness and political maladroitness. As I wrote some time ago in my Blogger blog A Certain Point of View:
See, folks, this is what happens when a large segment of Americans decides to put a preening, buffoonish, self-centered real estate “mogul” into the White House in order to turn back the clock and return the country back to the 1950s. Instead of having a President with leadership skills on par with Franklin D. Roosevelt, we are being pushed off the proverbial cliff by an intellectual midget who doesn’t understand how viruses spread, how hard it is to get a handle on a pandemic, and that you don’t tell a virus, “Hey, COVID-19, we beat you, bro! Now be gone by April 12 so we can get the country going again.”
Again, per the New York Times:
Sitting in the Rose Garden earlier in the day for a Fox News “virtual town hall” on the coronavirus, the president said he was ready to “have the country opened up” by Easter and to ease restrictions he said were responsible for harming a flourishing economy.
“You are going to lose a number of people to the flu, but you are going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression,” Mr. Trump said, misidentifying the virus. “You are going to have suicides by the thousands — you are going to have all sorts of things happen. You are going to have instability. You can’t just come in and say let’s close up the United States of America, the biggest, the most successful country in the world by far.”
See, this is why a responsible electorate does not (or rather, should not) allow someone as unprepared, corrupt, and inept as Donald John Trump to get elected as President of the United States of America. Trump, after all, is a businessman, one with a troublesome history of bankrupting businesses (Trump Airlines, several casinos in Atlantic City, Trump Vodka, Trump Steaks), shafting contractors, and defrauding people who enrolled in Trump University.
Because Trump is, in my opinion and that of many others, a consummate grifter whose only interest is to enrich himself and his brood, his main “achievement” as President was to be in office during a bull market on Wall Street. Until March 2020, the stock market and the overall economy were doing well, even though there were indications that a “bear market” was in the horizon. For Trump, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the low unemployment rate in the U.S. were the sine qua non proof that his policies (including the infamous Trump tax cut) had resulted in “the greatest economy in American history.”
What Trump and his besotted supporters never mention – because they don’t want to acknowledge this – is that the economy was healthy and robust when President Barack Obama left the White House on January 20, 2017. In their twisted narrative, Obama had handed “the best POTUS of all time” a nation supposedly in ruins, with an empty treasury and a national defense establishment with no ammunition for “a depleted military.” Only Trump, he said during his campaign in 2016, could fix everything.
All of this talk of Trump’s business-centric mentality and his claims that he inherited a nation (and an economy) in decline is relevant to the topic of COVID-19. His emphasis on “his” economy and his stewardship of same lie at the heart of his Administration’s lackluster and uneven response to the pandemic. His concern that calling for what amounts to a total shutdown of the nation to bring down the numbers of new COVID-19 cases and reduce the spread of the virus was based on the knowledge that his house-of-cards economy would collapse when it was implemented.
In other words, much of Trump’s COVID-19 decision-making wasn’t based on medical considerations or advice from experts such as Drs. Anthony Fauci and Dorothy Birx, but from his financial advisors and his fellow billionaires.
Add to this his total disinterest in taking responsibility for his bad decisions (such as closing the National Security Council’s pandemic unit at the behest of John Bolton) and his lack of good leadership, and we have the antithesis to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
I do not understand how and why Trump supporters insist, even now, that Donald Trump is the “BEST President EVER.” Until the COVID-19 pandemic, he basically shucked and jived through his term, surviving several political pitfalls solely because the Republican Party, especially its representatives and Senators in Congress, are not willing to let him fall from power lest they, too, fall down with him.
In my history buff’s mind, the pandemic is Trump’s first true test as the nation’s Chief Executive. It’s this Administration’s equivalent to the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941, at least in social impact. And as a taker of a big leagues leadership test, Donald J. Trump is failing, big time.
To borrow (and twist) a now-famous quote from Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX), “I know about Franklin D. Roosevelt. And you, sir, are no FDR.”
Many years ago, when I was helping a friend write a research paper about what makes a good leader for his Public Administration class at Florida International University, I learned that one of the most necessary skills that is needed is getting others to follow your lead, even if your ideas are not popular or easy to carry out.
As Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, said in his Masters of Scale podcast some time ago, “Every leader has to create a drumbeat for their company.”
This applies also to political leaders, especially on the head-of-state level. And I fear that Donald Trump is drumming us all into a path that leads to the edge of a seaside cliff.
Trump Wants U.S. ‘Opened Up’ by Easter, Despite Health Officials’ Warnings, by Annie Karni and Donald G. McNeil Jr., New York Times, March 25, 2020. Source:
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