Category Archives: Truth to Power

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Ever So Important: A President’s Priorities

There came upon my iMac screen a Washington Post story that made it exceptionally clear how President Trump has failed to serve as the leader the American people have needed during the coronavirus pandemic.  It should illustrate for all future presidents how to get their priorities right: The people first and always.

The Post gave the piece an appropriate heading:  “The inside story of how Trump’s denial, mismanagement  and magical thinking led to the pandemic’s dark winter.”

Should we need reminding on what a president is elected to do, it’s to pick the right aims on behalf of the people and to lead in accomplishing them. As, for example, wearing face masks early on to help check the spread of the virus while seeking ways to counter it, principally vaccines. Donald Trump still is hardly ever seen with a face mask.

A president also establishes his staff’s priorities: “After their warnings had gone largely unheeded for months in the dormant West Wing, Deborah Birx, Anthony S. Fauci, Stephen Hahn and Robert Redfield together sounded new alarms, cautioning of a dark winter to come without dramatic action to slow community spread.

“White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, among the many Trump aides who were infected with the virus this fall, was taken aback, according to three senior administration officials with knowledge of the discussions. He told the doctors he did not believe their troubling data assessment. And he accused them of outlining problems without prescribing solutions.”

“The doctors explained that the solutions were simple and had long been clear – among them, to leverage the power of the presidential bully pulpit to persuade all Americans to wear masks, especially the legions of Trump supporters refusing to do so, and to dramatically expand testing.”

On and on the Post’s piece goes, along with the virus’ largely unchecked spread.

Donald Trump and Pandemic Reality

Fellow citizens, please take note: A President of the United States needs to be concerned not with circumstances as he or she would like them to be, but as they really are, and to lead the nation diligently through them.

President Donald Tump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, however, has been far different.

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Bob Woodward in February of 2020,  “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Mr. President, it’s not what you like,  but the realities of things as they are, like a coronavirus pandemic. Presidents are in office to lead, not to mislead or dissemble. They can get lots of help from government agencies as well as understanding from fellow Americans, akin to FDR’s New Deal.  Instead we have something akin to a charnel house.

Despite knowing that the virus was “deadly stuff”‘ and highly contagious, Trump often  said that it was under control and would go away.

That is so mistaken, the opposite of leadership. A stance like that, in fact, goes far to justify the subtitle of Mary Trump’s book on her Uncle Donald, “How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man”.

Dissembling is always dangerous. But when you are President of the United States, it can have far graver consequences.  Like coping with a pandemic that has so far killed over 200,000 Americans.

Here is a timeline of what Trump said of the virus from January when there was one case through September 23, when there were 7.26 million cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. and 207,000 deaths.

As the Virus Persists, ‘Hurry Up and Wait’

In a time, like the present, of challenge and peril, wishing will get you nowhere. Patience needs to prevail, and that can mean a grueling wait.

In the U.S., from the White House to countless other locales, impatience seems more the rule. We’ve got to ‘open up’, get back to normal, restore jobs, get on with living sustainably.

The problem is, though, the virus has its own timetable and it’s going to take longer for a vaccine to be available then we sometimes feel we can endure.  Witness, as The Washington Post reports,  the situation that exists in Beirut, Lebanon. 

“Lebanon on Tuesday became the latest country to reimpose restrictions after experiencing a surge of infections,” the Post reports, “almost exactly two weeks after it appeared to have contained the spread of the virus and began easing up. Authorities ordered a four-day, near-complete lockdown to allow officials time to assess the rise in numbers.”

“Authorities” everywhere need to be mindful that virus-based events are currently following their own calendar, and to go with the flow of whatever’s best for people in the short to longer-term. Patience and fortitude are today’s highest behavioral and, indeed, political, values.

In South Korea, The Post adds,  President Moon Jae-in is warning the country to “‘brace for the pandemic’s second wave,’ calling the battle against COVID-19 a ‘prolonged’ fight.” And, alas, in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where it all began,  “authorities on Tuesday ordered the testing of all 11 million inhabitants after a cluster of six new infections emerged, five weeks after the city had apparently rid itself of the disease.”

It’s much the same in Germany, “which is widely regarded as the model in Europe of a balanced coronavirus response.” 

Reality these days takes patience, lots of it. In Lebanon, where we began, “authorities have imposed a new four-day lockdown.” Four days only?

 

Downplaying the Corona Virus

The presumptive President of the United States, Donald Trump, says the Democrats are “politicizing” the coronavirus, that it’s “their new hoax” – that’s what he was saying at a rally yesterday in South Carolina. Of course, Trump isn’t our “presumptive” president at all, he’s for real in the role – and that could mean woe is us.

The President, of course, has placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of coordinating the federal response to the virus threat. From Trump’s tone yesterday, Pence shouldn’t have much to do, and we know that’s not the case at all.  The first death from the virus has just been reported in Washington State, And the virus appears to be spreading up and down the West Coast and heading inland.

Scoffing can be taken too far. Defenders of the President say he didn’t call the virus itself a hoax.  But if there were ever a time for choosing one’s words carefully, this is it and Trump spoke rather spitefully.

There are times when Trump’s handling of his nation-leading job seems as much prompted by whimsy as reality, and this is one of them.  We should be expecting more of the President – caution in the face of a health hazard that threatens us all. Yet the corona virus is “the Democrats’ new hoax”. We couldn’t let that one pass by. That wouldn’t be fair to a nation whose apprehension is growing  over the prospect of the virus spreading from coast to coast.

Let’s hope it doesn’t, but let’s not downplay the possibility either.

The Meaning of Fairness

So, just what is “fairness,” what does the term mean? We’re prompted to discuss that because we’ve come upon a website, The Patriot Post, that claims “the word ‘fair’ has become an all-purpose statement of moral superiority tinged with victimhood.”

That’s just not so. To us, fairness means equity, one of the terms The Patriot Post rules out. The term needs to be viewed in whatever context fairness is being considered – even-handed and due regard are synonyms. Fairness isn’t a child’s term of spite.

It’s important that we know our terms, that we have basic agreement on what we’re discussing. Fairness is a kind of moral gauge, L. Sun writes in his 2013 book, The Fairness Instinct. Even-handed treatment is instinctive in young people, until they get to feeling that they’re being crossed up by older people.

We view fairness as the hallmark of civility, a starting place for discussion,  listening and learning. “Maybe there is something to that” ought to be our reaction when we encounter a new point of view, one that merits closer listening, not a spiteful retreat. It’s a word requiring awareness, not hunkering down.

Fairness is thus a term worth burnishing (as in building a website around it). You don’t have to be Robin Hood, not at all, to be mindful of practicing it. “Stop, look and listen,” is how it begins, and it leads to justice and compassion.

Bloomberg’s Tarnished Candidacy

America is a special place and has to be recognized as such on a life-long basis, starting in grade school. Somebody who doesn’t live by that tenet, day by day and year by year, ought not to aspire to be President of the United States of America. Somebody like Michael Bloomberg.

We have now, unfortunately, the example of the booklet “Bloomberg’s friends and admiring colleagues compiled of his ‘wit and wisdom’ nearly 30 years ago.” It opens with the one-liner “Make the customer think he’s getting laid when he’s getting [expletive].” As soon as Bloomberg, the executive, learned of that tripe, he should have stopped it. Now, however, it’s surfaced to haunt his presidential campaigning.

“Language that might have flowed during the machismo-fueled 1990’s on Wall Street strikes a different chord during a nationwide political bid in the era of #MeToo.”

In any era, such tripe should have been squelched by an executive  worthy of being a leader. If Bloomberg couldn’t do that then, he needs to be viewed as a fatally tarnished presidential candidate now.

It simply isn’t funny.  Here’s the booklet itself.