Trump has called himself a wartime president. Of course not all wartime presidents are good at being leaders. What should a good wartime leader be doing during a war?
- A good leader tells the truth and gets the country ready for the realistic sacrifices that need to be made.
- A good leader has empathy for those who are on the front lines engaged in heroic acts to fight the enemy.
- A good leader expresses empathy for people suffering losses.
- A good leader does whatever it takes to get the front line troops the equipment they have to have to fight the war and stay safe.
How do you think Trump is doing given these measures for leadership in a time of crisis?
First, the Facts: Why This Virus is Ten Times More Deadly Than the Flu
The US has now surpassed all other countries in numbers of people with coronavirus. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html If Trump does not do a better job our country is on track to have 2.2 million deaths from this epidemic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/how-will-coronavirus-end/608719/
Covid 19 is a new virus that our species has never encountered before and for which we have no immunity. This virus is far more lethal compared to the flu because a certain percentage of people who get Covid 19 can develop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. Some people with this illness will not just have trouble breathing, but will develop extensive inflammation in their lungs which can get progressively worse. There may be permanent damage to the lungs even if the patient survives.
A certain percentage of patients of all ages do not survive. People with underlying conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, respiratory illness, or high blood pressure, are more likely to need critical care in the form of respiratory support or face death from Covid 19. This is why we see so many people lying on the floors of hospital hallways in Spain and Italy, coughing, unable to breathe, and dying alone because there are not enough respirators, ventilators, or hospital staff to deal with the overwhelming numbers of people who require them. The hospital staff is faced with the terrible decision of choosing who will live and who will die mainly because of the shortage of equipment – respirators and ventilators, and a severe shortage of hospital staff because without clean protective gear they will become sick too. Young people are not immune. They are also ending up in intensive care units after contracting Covid 19. As of March 25th there were 1800 young people in the ICU in Lombardy, Italy.
The Defense Production Act Should be Implemented!
Yes, this is a war. To fight this war our hospitals must have ventilators, masks, respirators, swabs, test kits and reagents that are needed for testing. The Defense Production Act would give Trump the power of a wartime president to tell businesses to shift to manufacturing supplies our hospitals desperately need right now. Hospitals and laboratories are begging for equipment to fight Covid 19. They need ventilators, respirators, gloves, gowns, reagents for testing, more test kits, more stations set up to do testing, and they need these supplies immediately.
If Trump were a good wartime president wouldn’t he be invoking the wartime powers that he could use to help the health care staffs on the front line of this pandemic? Instead he says he is using the DPA as a “threat” to businesses to get them to do the right thing. But many companies say they have not been contacted or directed by the government and therefore, they do not know what they should be doing to help. Trump has also been tweeting at General Motors CEO, Mary Barra. GM had stepped up to produce ventilators but Trump is now attacking Mary Barra with nasty tweets. How is that helpful? And where is the coordination?
Governors Are Asking for Help to Get Equipment and Not Getting It
Governor Cuomo is in the eye of the storm in New York City. NYC has become the global epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. “Where are the ventilators?” Cuomo asked. “What am I gonna do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000? You pick the 26,000 who are gonna die because you only sent 400 ventilators.” Trump should order ventilators to be designated for appropriation and delivery to the hospitals under seige. Has he done that? No, he has not. He has said “the federal government is not a shipping clerk”.
Instead of doing what he can to help, Trump is fighting and arguing with governors Cuomo (NY), Jay Inslee (Washington State) and Gretchen Whitmer (Michigan) for begging him to get them the equipment they need in this crisis. Trump said in a Fox interview that he doubts that so many ventilators are really necessary. All he has to do is talk with the front line doctors and nurses to know that more ventilators are desperately needed. One out of every 8 people who contracts this virus in New York alone has required critical care (ventilators, respirators). Do you blame governors for wanting help from the federal government to get ventilators and other supplies to their hospitals? This is what federal governments are for.
Governors are asking Trump for immediate help to do something only the federal government can do. Unless and until the federal government steps in to manage the flow of equipment as a wartime general would do, governors are forced to compete with each other on eBay trying to get ventilators and bidding against other states and even against the federal government itself, FEMA. This is no way to have an orderly response to a wartime enemy. Can you imagine a general saying to his battlefront leaders – “you guys figure out where to get the guns you need, the flak jackets, the helmets- try getting them on eBay. See you later.” If Trump implemented his wartime power, that nonsense would stop. The federal government could take charge of the items and direct the distribution of these materials. Trump is failing to lead.
Aggressive Testing is Essential But Not Being Done
What else would a good wartime president do? Other countries like South Korea, Iceland, Singapore, Hong Kong, and China have proven that testing aggressively followed by contact tracking and then isolating people who have been exposed to this virus is the key to containment. Trump keeps promising that testing will be ramping up soon, but so far it is NOT happening on a large scale. Without that testing we are “flying blind” according to the doctors and epidemiologists. Why is it that we don’t we have adequate testing? Early in this epidemic Trump was offered test kits by the World Health Organization because they had an ample supply of them at the beginning of this pandemic. Trump refused them. Instead our own CDC put together test kits but it turns out they were defective and had to be pulled back. At that point Trump could have opted for the WHO test kits. Did he do that? No. He still refused them.
Every single country on earth was warned about this coming pandemic in January. Trump had two full months’ time of warning about the coming pandemic in which to act to protect our country and prepare for this battle but instead Trump spent two months saying this pandemic was a Democratic hoax, was going to go away like magic, would be gone quickly, and was nothing to worry about.
He failed to get testing established that would help us know where the coronavirus is cresting and gaining exponentially in this war. This is like a weather man knowing there is a huge hurricane coming that is heading straight for the United States but instead of tracking it he downplays the coming disaster, says it will not be a serious problem and doesn’t activate radar tracking devices leaving everyone guessing about how and when and how dangerous the event will be. Good luck everyone. Is that really how a good wartime president acts?
As of today, Thursday, March 25, 2020, the United States has the most number of coronavirus cases of any country in the world- over 100,000. We KNOW from our scientists who have assembled predictive charts showing this pandemic doubling every day, that if left unchecked, this pandemic could result in over 2 million American deaths. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/how-will-coronavirus-end/608719/
That would mean more Americans dying from this epidemic than died in both world wars. Trump’s overly rosy optimistic idea that we could re-open our churches on Easter and that the economy will come roaring back goes against what every single epidemiologist is telling us. We need aggressive testing to know where the battlefronts are so that we can mobilize our resources at the front line. Trump is failing to lead.
A Good Leader Would Help Americans Accept Reality
At this point we have only one effective weapon we know of to stave off the pandemic: physical distancing. 9 out of 10 Americans are doing that, which is good. We must stay home and flatten the curve if we hope to contain and control the spread. A good war time president would make that clear to the people in our country and help them come to terms with that reality. Churchill did that in World War II. A good leader would say we have to sacrifice but it is for the good of everyone including ourselves. Instead, Trump has been overly optimistic and unrealistic in his predictions about how soon this epidemic would be over. As a result, many Americans have been too slow to practice physical distancing and we are all going to pay the price because too many people listened to the president and not our scientists. Trump has been failing to lead.
Many States Will Pay the Price for Failing to Act Quickly or For Trying to Lift Physical Distancing Too Soon
Louisiana, for example, is a state that is becoming the most hard hit by Covid 19 because the governor allowed Mardi Gras to go on instead of enacting physical distancing. This virus is very “sticky” and it can live on surfaces, like doorknobs, for a period of time as well as be conveyed to others in the air, which is why people need to stay 6 feet apart even when they are outside and not fling beads into the crowds from Mardi Gras floats.
Florida is another state that should have been enforcing these measures but didn’t. Gen Z Spring Breakers were allowed to continue to party on the beaches despite warnings about how this virus spreads. Florida has many older people who are very vulnerable to the ravages of this pandemic. The governor, Ron Di Santis (R), failed to clamp down early enough in his state and even now has not closed all the beaches.
Trump has been talking about churches packed with parishioners on Easter, a resurrection on Easter for the good of the GDP but this will not happen because our Governors, not Trump, are in charge of declaring whether their states are open or shut down.
As for the suggestion that some older people might need to go back to work and expose themselves to this lethal virus for the good of the GDP, that is like a commander in chief saying to some of his most vulnerable troops, “You are just going to have to march into battle without any weapons or protection and let yourselves get shot and maybe die because that might help our economy do a bit better.” Think about that. Is that what a good leader would advocate? As Bill Gates put it, you can’t open up the economy in the middle of a pandemic with the numbers rising astronomically and simply ignore the dead bodies in the corner.
But even if a squadron of old people limped back into action to try to get the economy going again, it will not come roaring back right now because two of the hardest hit areas in the country are large cities on the west coast and east coast which generate most of the GDP for this country. New York is currently on track to become the world epicenter of the coronavirus. Los Angeles and San Francisco may be close behind along with Louisiana and Alabama climbing rapidly. These places are seeing their hospitals reaching peak capacity and they have not yet hit the crest of the wave. And I got news for the president, most people are not willing to risk death for the possibility of a slightly improved GDP to help him get re-elected.
Trump’s Failure of Leadership So Far is Clear
Trump is not responsible for the pandemic but he is definitely responsible for his administration’s chaotic and incompetent response to it and the unconscionable waste of two months that could have been used to prepare for the war we are now far behind in waging.
He is also absolutely responsible for eliminating the pandemic task force that he inherited from the Obama administration that would have been our front line defense team. They conducted a “table top” drill with the incoming Trump team where they talked through what to do using a pretend pandemic threat that was remarkably similar to the real pandemic we are now battling. Many of the people who were on that task force team were let go by Trump. The pandemic task force also left a guidebook behind as well. The Trump administration has failed to follow the guidelines provided by the pandemic team guidebook. How is that good leadership?
Trump Could Still Do Better But Time is Running Out
For all of you readers who love and adore Trump and think he can do no wrong, you and your families are personally at risk because he is failing to lead well whether you believe that or not. Many of you are older Americans living in areas that do not have good hospitals or health care. Many of you have underlying conditions that make you more vulnerable to Covid-19. Instead of blindly cheering Trump’s every move, know that you and your family as well as the rest of us in this country are at risk if Trump continues to fail as a leader.
Trump still could be that wartime president he aspires to be by no longer politicizing this battle we are in and by using all his presidential powers to provide what the front-line workers in hospitals desperately need right now: an all government coordinated effort following science and fact-based practices to mobilize immediately. We are running out of time.
Hot off the presses: Trump seems to have invoked the DPA to get GM to build the ventilators that are needed! Great news! Keep it up! There is much more you could do to get a better grade.