December 6, 2023

dangerous demagogue

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Our dangerous demagogue
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON – If Donald Trump were president in 1941, we would have lost World War II. This is a statement rooted in the historical knowledge of what it took for FDR to ramp up the country’s industrial base to produce the necessary weaponry, and how he rallied the American people for  a war that was thrust upon them when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
          President Roosevelt took charge. He led. He did not leave fighting a war to the states. He brought the full force of the federal government to the task, and he spoke directly and truthfully about what America was up against.
          He is remembered these many years later for the gravitas and comfort he brought the American people with his fireside chats.
          Conversely, President Trump will be remembered for his infamous coronavirus task force campaign-style briefings. He will be remembered for the lies and disinformation he conveyed to a frightened population. He will be remembered for incredibly, dangerously, and irresponsibly suggesting at his April 24 briefing: “I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that, uh, by injection inside or, or almost a cleaning because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lung and it would be interesting to check that.”
          History will record his absence of leadership in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak when he was insisting it was a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats to damage his presidency. Then he proceeded to deflect blame on the World Health Organization (WHO) for failing to challenge China for covering up what Chinese doctors realized early on was a deadly virus that could sweep the planet.
          Then Trump moved to shift blame for the pandemic to the governors, claiming without any rational basis, that they should take the lead in testing their populations to figure out where the virus is most virulent and where it might be hiding in people showing no symptoms.
          This is a misplacement of states’ rights. A pandemic by any standard is a federal crisis. Governors do not have the resources to handle a highly infectious disease without federal guidance and resources. By off-loading responsibility to the states, Trump is forcing the governors to compete with each other in a frantic competition for life-saving supplies.
          Maryland Governor Hogan, a Republican, sought testing supplies from South Korea where he and his wife, an American citizen born in South Korea, leaned on personal relationships and government contacts in Seoul to secure scarce testing kits.
          Trump belittled him, saying he does not know what is going on. Hogan, who chairs the National Governors Association, is asking the federal government for $500 billion to help states get through the pandemic.
          The lack of leadership is not all Trump’s fault. Senate leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., facilitates the presidential misbehavior. When governors and mayors appealed to the federal government for help to fight the pandemic, McConnell turned down their pleas, saying in a radio interview that the states should file for bankruptcy rather than count on a federal bailout.
          McConnell is the Darth Vader of Capitol Hill, a moniker he happily attaches to himself. He does not lose any sleep turning down what he privately calls “blue state bailouts.”
          In some places, including Kentucky, McConnell’s home state, people are protesting stay-at-home orders, an activity Trump has encouraged. Everybody wants to get back to work, but this is not a matter of states’ rights or First Amendment individual rights. In a global health emergency, people have no right to infect other people.
          This virus will stalk us until we get a vaccine. In the meantime, there is a presidential election, and there is no telling what Trump will do between now and then – or after November 3rd. In 1941 he would have posed a danger to the nation; in 2020, his words, actions, and inactions pose a danger to the nation.
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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