How Many Have Died Because of These Voices?

This reminds me of Kara Swisher’s recent piece.

And it doesn’t stop.  Here is Laura Ingraham, TODAY:

This is anti-intellectual populism 101. It is also very dangerous and utterly irresponsible. Please listen to public health experts.

By the way, here is Naval War College professor Tom Nichols. I recommend his important book:

 

Andrew Cuomo’s “Psychological Game” With Trump

andrew-cuomo-11

Those reading this blog and following my Twitter feed know that I have been a big fan of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of this pandemic. I am apparently not alone in my praise. Yesterday my daughters showed me Tik Toks of female college students swooning over the 62-year governor. I know Cuomo is a controversial figure in New York, but he shown us all what leadership looks like in a time of crisis. I wish he were president right now.

Over at Vanity Fair, Chris Smith suggests Cuomo is playing a “psychological game” with Donald Trump. Here is a taste:

The phone conversations themselves are usually unremarkable in tone. Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump talk about what medical supplies are urgently needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic in New York. The chat seems productive. They hang up. And then Trump tweets a potshot, saying Cuomo needs to “do more.” Or the president suggests that New York is somehow profiteering, sending hospital masks “out the back door.” Or he goes into the White House briefing room, as he did on Wednesday, and snipes that Cuomo “shouldn’t be complaining because we gave him a lot of ventilators…The problem is with some people, no matter what you give, it’s never enough. It’s never enough.”

Cuomo, who has a serious temper, hasn’t taken the bait. At times he has gotten publicly angry about the Trump administration’s failures; at times he has praised Trump for delivering, without descending into obsequious flattery. “One-on-one, it’s perfectly cordial with Trump,” a political veteran familiar with both men says. “Because the show isn’t on. Backstage, before the lights go on, he’s a different guy.” Crucially, though, Cuomo has let the personal stuff roll off his back, not allowing the Trump noise machine to interfere with the governor working the federal bureaucracy to, for instance, grant New York permission to send coronavirus tests to in-state labs instead of the Centers for Disease Control laboratory in Atlanta.

“The governor is a guy who knows when to pull, when to push, when to praise, and when to hit,” a New York and Washington political insider says. “You’ve seen it especially in his dance on ventilators. He’s walking the line of, ‘I’m not criticizing them yet, but I’m making the need clear. Trump can say I’m not using them—here’s why I’m not using them. I need these ventilators for the surge.’ And whether the top-level dealings with Trump have been successful or not, Cuomo has been very successful in dealing with the next level down, in the federal agencies.”

Read the rest here.

The Trump Administration is Reading American History

Trump and FDR

It looks the Trump administration now thinks American history might be important.  Here is Gabby Orr at Politico:

When the avian flu first spread to pockets of Southeast Asia in 2005, President George W. Bush reassured Americans he would be prepared if the viral infection reached the United States.

“I have thought through the scenarios of what an avian flu outbreak could mean,” Bush informed the public at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden that October, noting his recent dive into a book on pandemics.

It was John M. Barry’s “The Great Influenza,” a meticulous account of the Spanish flu, which claimed an estimated 675,000 American lives a century ago. Bush had read a copy while vacationing at his Prairie Chapel Ranch in Texas.

Now, as a new virus wreaks havoc on the United States — leaving hospitals overwhelmed, businesses shuttered and at least 10 million Americans suddenly unemployed in just two weeks — some Trump officials are replicating the former president’s approach. Desperate for insight into how to respond to a staggering death toll and deep recession, the White House machinery is digging through American history for answers, hoping that somewhere in 2½ centuries of war, economic volatility, resilience and patriotism they might find analogs to help rally the nation and protect their boss’ legacy.

Deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger finished a copy of Barry’s sobering narrative himself in early January, when the first cases of Covid-19 spread beyond mainland China.

A senior speechwriter for one Cabinet official read and then reread Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address — a powerful sermon on hope in the midst of the Great Depression, best known for Roosevelt’s declaration that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Read the entire piece here.

The books and documents Trump’s staff are reading were written and curated by historians who spend time conducting research to reconstruct the past. These scholars need support. I wonder if Trump will connect his staff’s reading of American history during this crisis with funding for the humanities. I’m not holding my breath. Trump has been trying to cut such funding since he got into office.

On December 20, 2016 an *Atlantic* Writer Wondered How a Pandemic Might Play Out Under Trump

6684c-trump

Here is a taste of Ed Yong’s piece:

As Donald Trump prepares to become America’s 45th President in January 2017, the question isn’t whether he’ll face a deadly outbreak during his presidency, but when? And more importantly, how will he cope?

Outbreaks of disease are among the ultimate tests for any leader who wants to play on the global stage. They demand diplomacy, decisiveness, leadership, humility, and expertise—and they quickly unearth any lack of the same. “As far as I can tell, Trump has zero experience on this,” says Jack Chow from Carnegie Mellon University, who has worked at both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the State Department under Colin Powell. “If I asked him, ‘What is your stance on global health?,’ I don’t know what he’d say. I don’t think anyone really does.”

Bioethicist Art Caplan from the New York University School of Medicine envisages a quick slide towards isolation and authoritarianism. In a blog post that can only be described as pandemic fan-fiction, he imagines that a lethal mutant strain of H7N9 flu emerges in China and spreads to America. A hypothetical President Trump responds with a quick succession of moves: He seals the borders with Canada and Mexico; he quarantines sick Americans; he declares martial law, builds detention-style camps for quarantine-defiers, and uses epidemic conspiracies to launch a trade war with China.

Future years will reveal whether the story is prophetic or far-fetched. For now, we can only speculate, using the president-elect’s own words and actions to predict how he might fare in an outbreak.

We know that international diplomacy is essential during large-scale epidemics. During the Ebola outbreak, the U.S. had to coordinate its aid with the WHO, other donor countries, and hospitals and laboratories in the affected countries. “The rhetoric about building walls and reneging on NATO calls into question how willing the administration would be to work with other countries,” says Elizabeth Radin from Columbia University, who works to improve health in poor nations. “And the phone calls to Taiwan and Pakistan call into question how effective they would be.”

Accurate public communication is also vital. During the Ebola outbreak, misinformation circulated more widely than the virus itself. People repeatedly and wrongly heard that the virus could go airborne, that victims bleed dramatically from their eyes and ears, that foreign health workers brought the virus to West Africa, that folk remedies were effective, and so on. These were all myths, and they encouraged practices that helped the virus to spread in affected countries, while fomenting panic in unaffected ones. They resembled the pernicious and long-debunked claim that vaccines cause autism, which has led to a resurgence in mumps, measles, and other infectious diseases, and which Trump  has himself promoted.

If anything, this problem is likely to get worse, given America’s continuing struggle to deal with “fake news.” Inaccurate information can be easily seeded by foreign parties, and given weight and prominence by online algorithms. It’s arguable whether such misinformation made a difference between victory or defeat in the election, but inarguable that it could mean life or death in an outbreak.

The president-elect is hardly immune. Before, during, and since the election, Trump has had a strained relationship with facts, having repeatedly and reflexively lied about matters both large and small. He has reportedly failed to seek advice from the State Department before calling foreign leaders. He is avoiding most of his daily intelligence briefings, despite his lack of prior military or political experience—“I’m, like, a smart person,” he recently said. Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, who will be Trump’s chief counsel on national security, has shown a willingness to believe and push conspiracy theories.

These actions portray an incoming administration with a casual disregard for evidence, an unwillingness to tap into the expertise around them, and a reckless self-confidence. They suggest that, in an outbreak, Trump is more likely to heed his own counsel than that of the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) and other relevant experts. And he is likely to project that counsel to over 17 million followers.

Read the entire piece here.

*Boston Globe*: “The president has blood on his hands”

Trump corona speech

Here is a taste of the editorial:

The outbreak that began in China demanded a White House that could act swiftly and competently to protect public health, informed by science and guided by compassion and public service. It required an administration that could quickly deploy reliable tests around the nation to isolate cases and trace and contain the virus’s spread, as South Korea effectively did, as well as to manufacture and distribute scarce medical supplies around the country. It begged for a president of the United States to deliver clear, consistent, scientifically sound messages on the state of the epidemic and its solutions, to reassure the public amid their fear, and to provide steady guidance to cities and states. And it demanded a leader who would put the country’s well-being first, above near-term stock market returns and his own reelection prospects, and who would work with other nations to stem the tide of COVID-19 cases around the world.

What we have instead is a president epically outmatched by a global pandemic. A president who in late January, when the first confirmed coronavirus case was announced in the United States, downplayed the risk and insisted all was under control. A president who, rather than aggressively test all those exposed to the virus, said he’d prefer not to bring ashore passengers on a contaminated cruise ship so as to keep national case numbers (artificially) low. A president who, consistent with his mistrust and undermining of scientific fact, has misled the public about unproven cures for COVID-19, and who baited-and-switched last week about whether the country ought to end social distancing to open up by Easter, and then, on Saturday, about whether he’d impose a quarantine on New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. A president who has pledged to oversee the doling out of the $500 billion in corporate bailout money in the latest stimulus package, some of which will go to the travel industry in which his family is invested. A president who spent a good chunk of a recent press conference complaining about how hard it is for a rich man to serve in the White House even as Americans had already begun to lose their jobs, their health care, and their lives. A president who has reinforced racial stigma by calling the contagion a “Chinese virus” and failed to collaborate adequately with other countries to contain their outbreaks and study the disease. A president who evades responsibility and refuses to acknowledge, let alone own, the bitter truth of National Institutes of Health scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci’s testimony: that the country’s testing rollout was “a failing.”

Timing is everything in pandemic response: It can make the difference between a contained local outbreak that endures a few weeks and an uncontrollable contagion that afflicts millions. The Trump administration has made critical errors over the past two months, choosing early on to develop its own diagnostic test, which failed, instead of adopting the World Health Organization’s test — a move that kneecapped the US coronavirus response and, by most public health experts’ estimation, will cost thousands if not hundreds of thousands of American lives. Rather than making the expected federal effort to mobilize rapidly to distribute needed gowns, masks, and ventilators to ill-equipped hospitals and to the doctors and nurses around the country who are left unprotected treating a burgeoning number of patients, the administration has instead been caught outbidding individual states (including Massachusetts) trying to purchase medical supplies. It has dragged its heels on invoking the Defense Production Act to get scarce, sorely needed ventilators and masks into production so that they can be distributed to hospitals nationwide as they hit their peaks in the cycle of the epidemic. It has left governors and mayors in the lurch, begging for help. The months the administration wasted with prevarication about the threat and its subsequent missteps will amount to exponentially more COVID-19 cases than were necessary. In other words, the president has blood on his hands.

Read the entire piece here.

Who is Tending to Trump’s Soul?

Trump rain

When Bill Clinton was going through his impeachment ordeal in the late 1990s, he turned to several spiritual advisers to help him get through it. In September 2019, I wrote a piece at The Washington Post on how Tony Campolo, Gordon McDonald, and Philip Wogaman tended to the president’s soul during his time of crisis.

I thought about Clinton, his ministers, and my Post piece when I heard Donald Trump answer a question during yesterday’s coronavirus press conference.

The reporter asked:

I’ve got a follow up on the mask, sir. But first you mentioned Franklin Graham, talking to him. As you know, his father, Billy Graham, was a trusted spiritual advisor and friend of many presidents, a lot of your predecessors in times of national emergency reached out to pastors and other spiritual counselors. Have you done that during this national [crisis].

This reporter wanted to know if Trump was drawing upon his religious faith in these troubling times.

Here was Trump’s response:

I never say that, but Franklin Graham is somebody that’s very special. I have many very special people and a very many special in the evangelical, evangelical Christian community. You could talk rabbis, you can talk a lot of … I have tremendous support from religious leaders and Franklin Graham, I just spoke to him today for an extended period of time. I told him what a fantastic job you’re doing, and he does this. He loves doing it. He loves helping people, and he loves Jesus. Then I can tell you. He loves Jesus. He’s a great gentleman. Go ahead.

Trump obviously did not understand the question. Frankly, I am not sure how capable he is of understanding it. His response was the same kind of response he would give at a rally when he talks about his evangelical supporters and how much they support him.

I hope I am reading this wrong. I hope that Trump is getting serious and regular soul care during these troubling days.

Leaders Need to Plan Around Trump

Trump corona speech

Juliette Kayyem, a former Department of Homeland Security official, is a very helpful voice in this coronavirus mess. Here is a taste of her latest piece at The Atlantic:

Fail-safes exist not to fix the underlying problem, but to limit losses. Amid all the disorganization and dysfunction, people are working purposefully to save lives. As Trump promised a quick treatment to solve our woes, a primary adviser—Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—immediately stepped in to quash the speculation and urge citizens to take shelter instead. As Trump floated an Easter deadline for the end of Americans’ isolation, governors extended social-distancing rules into May. “Yeah, no,” Charlie Baker, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, said Friday. “We’re not going to be up and running by Easter. No.” (Yesterday, Trump finally gave up that pretense.)

As Trump pretends he is a war president—but only belatedly invokes the Defense Production Act to get a single company, GM, to manufacture a single commodity in the months to come—the leaders of companies such as 3M and China’s Alibaba work through the logistics of getting supplies to those who need them. As Trump says that the states need to take the lead during a national catastrophe that hurts them all, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the military quietly move medical assets to prepositioned areas, based on long-standing emergency-management principles that require no presidential authorization.

As Trump touts dubious remedies, private laboratories are showing signs of tremendous progress in both high-volume testing capacity and future treatments. As Trump leads press conferences whose apparent purpose is to draw attention to himself, a nation turns its focus to Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, whose daily situational-awareness reports highlight the urgency of the effort and offer the public a reminder of what hands-on leadership looks like.

Trump is now the distraction in chief. The individuals and agencies who are tuning him out and going on with their jobs aren’t quite a “deep state”—the supposedly nefarious national-security bureaucrats whom Trump believes are out to get him—but their efforts do have the feel of an apparatus rushing into a vacuum. This alternative to national leadership is not ideal, and if Trump were suddenly to step up, great. But he won’t, so a hodgepodge of federal bureaucrats, state and local leaders, private companies, and average citizens will keep on planning around his deficiencies.

Read the entire piece here.

Churches Will Not Be Open on Easter. But What If They Were?

Trump and Easter bunny

Donald Trump is hoping to celebrate three resurrections on April 12, 2020.  Here they are in order of how I believe the president has prioritized them:

  1. His own political future
  2. The American economy
  3. The resurrection of Jesus

Trump knows that he needs evangelicals to beat Joe Biden in November. By saying that he wants the country “opened up” and “churches packed” on Easter Sunday he is linking his profane political fortunes to the most sacred day on the Christian calendar. Trump wants Easter worshipers to think about him on the morning of April 12, 2020.  Some churches may even mention his name and give him credit for such an “opening.” It is a brilliant political strategy.

If the nation is indeed “open” (to be honest I am not sure what this actually means) on Easter Sunday, there is a danger of replacing the true meaning of this day–the resurrection of the son of God–with a celebration of capitalism.  This is not a new thing. Easter and the success of the American economy have been closely connected for a long time. This sacred day has always been associated with parades, chocolate, sugar, fashion, and flowers. (See Leigh Eric Schmidt’s Consumer Rites on this front).

It is certainly appropriate to give thanks to God for improved economic conditions.  Easter baskets filled with jelly beans and chocolate bunnies are fun. When this pandemic is over, I hope the churches will be places where we can express both gratitude and lamentation. But all these things–a better economy, sugary treats, and pandemics– ultimately distract us from the true meaning of the day. Easter services should not be about the recovery of the economy.  A Christian’s hope is rooted in the belief that “if Christ has not been raised” our “faith is futile” and we are “still in our sins.” On April 12, we will celebrate that belief. We should not celebrate the fact we can go to Walmart again.

Moreover, Easter is not about our common life as citizens of a democracy. In the Christian tradition, the resurrection inaugurates the Kingdom of God. Citizenship in this Kingdom–a Kingdom defined by love, compassion, justice, mercy, etc.–is not the same thing as citizenship in the United States. Trump wants to turn Easter into a patriotic celebration of the American spirit in the face of adversity.  It is not.

In the end, however, it is unlikely Trump is going to get his Easter celebration. Christians are going to have to celebrate the resurrection in different ways this year.

Conservative Website to George Bush and Barack Obama: HELP US!

OBama and Bush

A.B. Stoddard is an Associate Editor at Real Clear Politics. She is also a regular commentator on Fox News. Real Clear Politics, according to its Wikipedia page, is a “conservative news site and polling data aggregator.”

Here is a taste of her letter to Bush and Obama.  It is published at the conservative website, The Bulwark:

Dear President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama,

The moment you have sought to avoid for nearly four years is here. We are witnessing one of the worst crises to ever confront the United States and one of the worst government failures in the history of the country you served and love.

Together, you have a collective 16 years as president, during which you dealt with a number of crises: the September 11 attacks, two wars, the collapse of the financial system, and the Ebola and H1N1 outbreaks. Faced with these events, you marshaled the vast forces of our government, trusted our best experts, told hard truths, led capable teams on complex missions to tackle these emergencies, and called upon our citizens to unite in patriotic spirit to ride out the storm together. Neither of you were perfect presidents—you both would be the first to admit that—and you each have your detractors.

But both of you knew what the job of the president is in times of crisis and how to manage the basic blocking and tackling of government responses.

President Donald Trump has now proven what many of us long suspected: He has not done any of this, because he cannot do it. He lacks the most basic capabilities required of a president in this moment.

America doesn’t just deserve better. We need better.

And you can help.

This is the time for you to join forces and publicly demand that the government create a plan to manage the COVID-19 outbreak.

The United States is now a worldwide epicenter for the virus. We have outpaced the rest of the world even though we had a long lead time to prepare for it and were one of the last large countries to be struck by it.

But the scariest part is that we are leading the world in total number of cases and the wave has still not crested here: The pace of infections is still accelerating.

These are not political talking points. They are facts. Because COVID-19 doesn’t care where you live in or what party you vote for. In a pandemic, there are no red or blue states—only infected states.

These facts have developed for one reason and one reason only: They are the catastrophic consequences of President Trump’s leadership. He denied the threat the virus posed for weeks. He ignored months—years—worth of warnings and calls to action to move faster on testing capacity and to stockpile essential medical supplies.

And even now, with the evidence of his failure everywhere around us, President Trump continues to push for an arbitrary, dangerous end to the suppression measures which have been enacted by state and local authorities.

You both know that Trump’s response has failed and that continued failure could result in damage which will extend not for years, but decades, to come.

So it is time for you to step forward publicly, rally Americans of both parties to heed the recommendations of public health officials, and demand that the current executive leadership do better.

I know you are both loathe to do this and believe that former presidents should not criticize sitting presidents. Under nearly every other circumstance, that impulse is a wise one. But in this particular situation there is an ongoing disaster where a course-change by the current leadership could effect a material change in America’s outcome. And the only two men in America with enough moral and political leverage to make a difference are the two of you.

Please do not wait another day.

Read the rest here.

Michigan Governor: Medical vendors are “being told not to send stuff to Michigan”

Whitmer

If Whitmer is right, and I have no reason to believe that she is not right, this is immoral.

Here is WWJ News (Detroit):

After President Donald Trump issued scathing comments about Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, saying she’s “not stepping up,” and “doesn’t know what’s going on,” she told WWJ 950 the state is having trouble getting the equipment they need to fight the novel coronavirus.

“What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts — They’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan,” Whitmer said live on air. “It’s really concerning, I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on.”

The other stuff was Trump speaking with Sean Hannity on FOX News about Whitmer, a Democrat who has said very pointed things about the federal government’s lack of coordinated response to the coronavirus crisis. Trump said of Whitmer, “She is a new governor, and it’s not been pleasant … “We’ve had a big problem with the young — a woman governor. You know who I’m talking about — from Michigan. We don’t like to see the complaints.” 

Michigan’s request for disaster assistance has not yet been approved by the White House, and Trump told Hannity he’s still weighing it.

“She doesn’t get it done, and we send her a lot. Now, she wants a declaration of emergency, and, you know, we’ll have to make a decision on that. But Michigan is a very important state. I love the people of Michigan.”

In her public addresses closing schools, bars and restaurants, and issuing a shelter in place order, Whitmer has complained about the federal’s government lack of organization and state assistance, but she told WWJ she has never personally attacked the president.

“It’s very distressing,” she said about Trump’s attack, noting that she was only one of several governors who noted “the federal preparation was concerning.”

But she apparently struck a nerve with the president. And now the question is whether the leader of the free world could possibly take it out on medical professionals, patients and communities who desperately need help.

“I’ve been uniquely singled out,” Whitmer said. “I don’t go into personal attacks, I don’t have time for that, I don’t have energy for that, frankly. All of our focus has to be on COVID-19.”

Read the rest here.

Robert Jeffress suggests that Tim Keller is a “wimpy Christian” who has “cloaked” his “cowardice in theology”

Jeffress SWBTS

Listen to this recent conversation with Eric Metaxas and Robert Jeffress, two leading court evangelicals.

Jeffress is pushing his new book Courageous: 10 Strategies for Thriving in a Hostile World.  After listening to this interview, it is unclear whether Jeffress’s book is about showing courage in the midst of warfare against sin and evil or showing courage in the culture war against the Democratic Party and the opponents of Donald Trump. I have not read the book, but I don’t think Jeffress sees any difference between these two kinds of “courageous” spiritual warfare. Metaxas, however, uses the interview to push Jeffress in a culture war direction. The host chastises evangelical Christians who are “not bold in encounters with other people.” Metaxas wants a fight. Jeffress quickly enlists on his side.

It is in this spirit that Metaxas brings up Timothy Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and a leading evangelical thinker. (Keller has co-authored a forthcoming book with Washington University law professor John Inazu titled Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference. The book focuses on showing respect to those with whom we differ and cultivating a robust pluralism in our nation). Metaxas says, “I was sorry to read that my friend Tim Keller talked about how Christians shouldn’t get in bed with any political party as though the two political parties were equal.” I am assuming Metaxas is referring to this New York Times opinion piece.

Jeffress then offers his take on Keller and others (he does not mention Keller by name) who are not willing to engage in “courageous” culture war politics:

What [people like Keller] have done  is they have cloaked their cowardice in theology.  They have found a theology that will excuse their unwillingness to take a stand. They don’t want to take unpopular stands in their church. They can’t stand any kind of criticism. They are wimpy Christians. And I think it’s increasingly hard to be a wimpy Christian in this culture.  There’s no mushy middle. You’re either on the side of righteousness or unrighteousness.

Metaxas then asks Jeffress about his role as a surrogate for Donald Trump in the upcoming election. Jeffress responds:

I am a well-known supporter of president Trump…Because of my role as a Fox News contributor there are limits to what I am able to do in organized ways but I don’t intend to back off at all in my vocal support for the president.

This is not surprising.  But notice what Jeffress said.  The reason he doesn’t organize for Trump is because he is a Fox News contributor, not because he is a minister of the Gospel.

Jeffress then talks about his evangelical critics:

I think there is an attempt to shame evangelicals like you and me for our support of president Trump and they think if they can try to tie us to everything he’s ever said or done in his life maybe we will disassociate ourselves from the president and not support him any longer.

On one hand, Jeffress says that the church should be involved in politics. But he only wants the church involved in matters related to his political views, which he believes are the only political views based on the Bible.

But a truly engaged church should call out corruption and immorality in our leaders with the same kind of zeal that it praises particular politicians. When Trump acts in ways that are blatantly immoral, people like Jeffress and Metaxas say nothing. The silence is deafening.

On this point, Metaxas says that he doesn’t like everything Trump does, but he won’t say anything about it publicly because he does not want to join the “drumbeat” of criticism. Silence in the face of evil is not a Christian response. It is people like Jeffress and Metaxas who lack courage. They seem to be the evangelicals who have cloaked their “cowardice” in theology. The call of the church, to quote theologian N.T. Wright, is to “denounce what needs denouncing.”

Wehner: “Trump is utterly unsuited to deal with this crisis, either intellectually or temperamentally”

Trump corona speech

Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has been an honest and consistent critic of Donald Trump. His recent piece at The Atlantic is titled “Trump is utterly unsuited to deal with this crisis, either intellectually or temperamentally.”

Here is a taste:

As one person who consults with the Trump White House on the coronavirus response put it to me, “He has chosen to imagine the worst is behind us when the worst is clearly ahead of us.”

After listening to the president’s nearly-two-hour briefing on Monday—in which, among other things, Trump declared, “If it were up to the doctors, they may say … ‘Let’s shut down the entire world.’ … This could create a much bigger problem than the problem that you start off with”—a former White House adviser who has worked on past pandemics told me, “This fool will bring the death of thousands needlessly. We have mobilized as a country to shut things down for a time, despite the difficulty. We can work our way back to a semblance of normality if we hold out and let the health system make it through the worst of it.” He added, “But now our own president is undoing all that work and preaching recklessness. Rather than lead us in taking on a difficult challenge, he is dragging us toward failure and suffering. Beyond belief.”

Yes and no. The thing to understand about Donald Trump is that putting others before self is not something he can do, even temporarily. His attempts to convey facts that don’t serve his perceived self-interest or to express empathy are forced, scripted, and always short-lived, since such reactions are alien to him.

This president does not have the capacity to listen to, synthesize, and internalize information that does not immediately serve his greatest needs: praise, fealty, adoration. “He finds it intolerable when those things are missing,” a clinical psychologist told me. “Praise, applause, and accolades seem to calm him and boost his confidence. There’s no room for that now, and so he’s growing irritable and needing to create some way to get some positive attention.”

She added that the pandemic and its economic fallout “overwhelm Trump’s capacity to understand, are outside of his ability to internalize and process, and [are] beyond his frustration tolerance. He is neither curious nor interested; facts are tossed aside when inconvenient or [when they] contradict his parallel reality, and people are disposable unless they serve him in some way.”

Read the entire piece here.

Trump Administration Begs Other Countries for Medical Supplies

South Korea

Trump and South Korean president Moon Jae-in in happier times

In one way or another, Donald Trump has alienated or angered virtually every other nation in the world.  Now he needs their help.

How does this all related to “America First?” Trump is learning that international cooperation can be a good thing.

Here is CNN:

The Trump administration is appealing to countries around the world to give or sell the US items as basic as hand sanitizer and as complex as respirators to combat the surging coronavirus pandemic.

In a list obtained by CNN, the State Department lays out 25 items, telling diplomats to ask their host countries for these supplies with a clear priority on items available “today” and a secondary focus on equipment and items available in weeks.

The requests come as President Donald Trump touts his domestic response and declines to deploy the full power of the federal government’s Defense Production Act to produce and funnel crucial supplies to struggling states and hospitals. It’s not clear how many countries the US has appealed to.

The list spans the gamut of equipment that overburdened American hospitals are seeking. The simpler items include biohazard bags, N-95 masks, gloves, gowns, surgical caps, shoe covers, sharps containers, protective eyewear, hand sanitizer and Tyvek suits.

And this:

The South Korean government said that Trump personally made at least one of the appeals, calling President Moon Jae-in Tuesday to ask if Seoul could provide the US with medical equipment.

The administration is making these private appeals as Trump is striking a starkly different note in public. At Tuesday’s daily coronavirus briefing from the White House, not long after he had called the South Korean leader, the President veered into campaign-style rhetoric, declaring that, “America will never be a supplicant nation.”

“We should never be reliant on a foreign country for the means of our own survival,” Trump said. “Marshaling our economic strength is a key feature of defeating the virus, producing the material, supplies and equipment that we need. And they’re doing a really fantastic job,” Trump said, appearing to praise private sector companies.

Read the entire piece here.

What This Crisis Reveals About the United States: A British View

Gun lines

Read Nick Bryant’s scathing, but fair, observations about the current state of our country. Here is a taste of his piece at BBC News:

Donald Trump’s response has been so predictable. He has not changed. He has not grown. He has not admitted errors. He has shown little humility.

Instead, all the hallmarks of his presidency have been on agitated display. The ridiculous boasts – he has awarded himself a 10 out of 10 for his handling of the crisis. The politicisation of what should be the apolitical – he toured the Centers for Disease Control wearing a campaign cap emblazoned with the slogan “Keep America Great”.

The mind-bending truth-twisting – he now claims to have fully appreciated the scale of the pandemic early on, despite dismissing and downplaying the threat for weeks. The attacks on the “fake news” media, including a particularly vicious assault on a White House reporter who asked what was his message to frightened Americans: “I tell them you are a terrible reporter.” His pettiness and peevishness – mocking Senator Mitt Romney, the only Republican who voted at the end of the impeachment trial for his removal from office, for going into isolation.

His continued attacks on government institutions in the forefront of confronting the crisis – “the Deep State Department” is how he described the State Department from his presidential podium the morning after it issued its most extreme travel advisory urging Americans to refrain from all international travel. His obsession with ratings, or in this instance, confirmed case numbers – he stopped a cruise ship docking on the West Coast, noting: “I like the numbers where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.” His compulsion for hype – declaring the combination of hydroxycholoroquine and azithromycin “one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine,” even as medical officials warn against offering false hope.

His lack of empathy. Rather than soothing words for relatives of those who have died, or words of encouragement and appreciation for those in the medical trenches, Trump’s daily White House briefings commonly start with a shower of self-congratulation. After Trump has spoken, Mike Pence, his loyal deputy, usually delivers a paean of praise to the president in that Pyongyang-on-the-Potomac style he has perfected over the past three years. Trump’s narcissistic hunger for adoration seems impossible to sate. Instead of a wartime president, he has sounded at times like a sun king.

Then there is the xenophobia that has always been the sine qua non of his political business model – repeatedly he describes the disease as the “Chinese virus”. Just as he scapegoated China and Mexican immigrants for decimating America’s industrial heartland ahead of the 2016 presidential election, he is blaming Beijing for the coronavirus outbreak in an attempt to win re-election.

And this:

As for the American exceptionalism on display, much of it has been of the negative kind that makes it hard not to put head in hands. The lines outside gun stores. The spike in online sales of firearms – Ammo.com has seen a 70% increase in sales. The panic buying of AR-15s. Some Christian fundamentalists have rejected the epidemiology of this pandemic. To prove there was no virus, a pastor in Arkansas boasted his parishioners were prepared to lick the floor of his church.

Once again, those who live in developed nations have been left to ponder why the world’s richest country does not have a system of universal healthcare. Ten years after the passage of Obamacare, more than 26 million Americans do not have health insurance.

Rather than a coming together, the crisis has demonstrated how for decades Americans have conducted a political version of social distancing: the herd-like clustering of conservatives and liberals into like-minded communities caused by the allergic reaction to compatriots holding opposing political views. Once again, we have seen the familiar two Americas divide, the usual knee-jerk tribalism. Republicans have been twice as likely as Democrats to view coronavirus coverage as exaggerated. Three-quarters of Republicans say they trust the information coming from the president, whereas the figure among Democrats is just 8%.

Read the entire piece. This one is really worth your time.

Rich: “We’re Relying on Trump to Care About Our Lives”

Corona

Last week, New York governor Andrew Cuomo asked mental health professionals to volunteer their services during this coronavirus crisis. In today’s press conference, the governor announced that 6000 mental health professionals have signed-up to offer free services to those in need.  Every state in the country should be doing this.

Perhaps I missed it, but I have yet to hear Donald Trump address the question of mental health. As Frank Rich recently argued in his column at The New York Times, Trump seems incapable of this kind of empathy. Here is a taste of his piece “We’re Relying on Trump to Care About Our Lives.” A taste:

During Sunday evening’s briefing, when he was supposed to be comforting Americans on the precipice of financial ruin, he instead lamented the billions of dollars he had supposedly forgone to be president. Our self-glorifying “wartime president” morphed into a self-pitying Daddy Warbucks.

“I think it’s very hard for rich people to run for office,” he said. “It’s far more costly. It’s a very tough thing. Now, with all of that being said, I’m so glad I’ve done it. Because, you know, there are a lot rich people around. I’ve got a lot of rich friends, but they can’t help and they can’t do what I’ve done, in terms of helping this country.” I’m glad he’s glad. Scratch that. I’m dumbfounded.

It has been observed, accurately, that he’s exactly the wrong leader for this crisis because he has thinned the ranks of responsible professionals in government, because he has hollowed out relevant departments and agencies, because he devalues science, because he degrades information and because he parted ways with credibility years ago.

But it’s worse than that. He’s facing judgment calls that require an emotional depth and a moral finesse that simply don’t exist in him. America is relying on him, of all presidents, to care as much about vital signs as about dollar signs.

He did that when he asked the nation to stand still for 15 days, but can he continue to do it? I’d have doubts if the economy were merely the biggest of many bragging points for him, if it were just a major part of his political profile.

Read the entire piece here.