Sid Mishkin: In a time of crisis, where is our leader?

Sid MishkinPresident Trump on March 19 rejected with disdain the idea that he should take charge of delivering to the states ventilators, personal protection equipment, masks and all other items needed to win the war against COVID-19. “We are not a shipping clerk,” he said.

He had previously said on March 13 that he had no responsibility for his administration’s woefully inadequate response to the need for massive testing and the abolition of the Pandemic Office. It was President Obama’s fault, of course.

The president has also said on numerous occasions (and surely will continue to do so until the election) that no one could have foreseen the magnitude of the coronavirus and that “the world was blindsided.”

Thanks to a report in The New York Times on March 19, however, we know that the president knew or should have known these statements were false. The Times reported that President Trump’s administration in 2019 did an extensive planning exercise (codenamed “Crimson Contagion”) to determine our preparedness for a major crisis of this type. The report of the exercise, per story, confirmed we were totally unprepared.

The Times article also states that, after President Trump’s 2016 election, an Obama Homeland Security advisor convened 30 soon-to-be-installed Trump administration officials. The group included Rex Tillerson, John F. Kelly and Rick Perry. They participated in a mock viral emergency exercise that demonstrated what had to be done in such an emergency.

The Washington Post on March 21 reported that our intelligence agencies in January and February of this year informed the president and congressional intelligence committees of the extreme seriousness of the coronavirus threat.

Politico on March 25 reported the president failed to follow his administration’s pandemic playbook which stated action to obtain needed items should have begun in January.

The president ignored these warnings, inaccurately downplayed the threat in numerous assurances to the American people and is trying to give the impression of leadership and bold action when he is not leading and is guilty of dissembling and inaction. Several examples follow.

On March 18, the president announced he was activating the Defense Production Act, but he didn’t immediately put the order into effect. He said industry was “working around the clock” to meet our needs and entering the order was tantamount to “socialism.” The shortages worsened.

The president also announced on March 18 that he was deploying two Navy hospital ships. We learned on March 30 he was refusing to allow the ships to be used for treatment of coronavirus patients.

Dr. Deborah Birx said on March 29 that 100,000-200,000 Americans will die if we handle the virus “almost perfectly.” The president said he will have done “a very good job” if we lose that many.

The governor of Montana on March 30 begged the president for testing equipment and medical supplies. The president replied he “hadn’t heard anything about testing in weeks”.

State and local officials are solely responsible for the “shelter-in place” orders. The president falsely claims “he shut down the country.”

The president’s promotion of unproven drug cures is more of the same. It sounds good, but is totally lacking in substance and creates false hopes.

It is fair to ask whether the president’s primary goal is to provide the leadership we need in this crisis or to do a reality television show each evening that gets him re-elected. The president should do his job, not pass it off to the states. We are governed by the Constitution, not the Articles of Confederation. And 100,000-200,000 American deaths is not “a very good job.”•

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3 thoughts on “Sid Mishkin: In a time of crisis, where is our leader?

    1. He would have handled it better. Not perfect. But under Trump, this was yet another example of an issue (life or death, in this case) in which Trump’s egotistical, dishonest-self was able to rear it’s ugly head and show, once again, that true leadership is never found in one who behaves with such disregard for values so important to our country’s history, our society and our world. The man, duly elected or not, does not deserve to retain this office for his own egotistical needs.