September 29, 2023

love tough words and tough rules

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Tough love, tough words, and tough rules
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON — Anti-maskers in Florida burned masks in a show of solidarity with their governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, whose presidential ambitions could hinge on how he handles a new wave of Covid infections brought on by the highly transmissible Delta variant. He is not handling it well. His state is suffering while he downplays the threat and says mask mandates violate our constitutional rights.
          It makes for a good sound bite but it’s bunk, pure and simple bunk. The idea that being required to wear a mask in a pandemic undermines our constitutional rights is nonsense. Freedom is not limitless. To put it graphically, freedom extends only as far as my fist can go before reaching your nose.
          In other words, when my freedom means your harm, freedom is curtailed. We know enough about this virus to know how deadly it is, and we have a vaccine that is effective in repelling it and saving lives. Millions have taken the vaccine without significant side effects, and to achieve the level of immunity required for society’s safety, millions more need to roll up their sleeves.
          Children cannot enter school without a host of vaccines to protect them and others from smallpox, the measles, mumps, whooping cough, and diphtheria. This has been routine and non-controversial for decades. It has to do with living in a community, Island America if you will, where living together means protecting each other.
          Take seatbelts, for example. There was an outcry when they were made mandatory in 1986. “You can’t force me to protect myself!” people cried. If not you, what about your passengers, your family, your children. Seat belts save lives.
          Vaccines save lives, and just as seat belts were universally accepted, the Covid vaccine will win acceptance, both legally and in the court of public opinion.
          President Biden is making the vaccine mandatory for all federal employees with certain exceptions, and even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is using his campaign war chest to bankroll a six-figure advertising campaign in his home state to encourage his constituents to get vaccinated.
          In Arkansas, former Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is running for governor and encouraging voters to take the “Trump vaccine,” a bit of branding she hopes will get the former president’s supporters to drop their hesitancy and get the shot.
          Some Fox news hosts have also seen the light, prompting speculation that maybe these Trump stalwarts have figured out they are compromising the health of their biggest fans by downplaying the severity of the virus and making vaccine defiance sound like a cool thing to do.
          Emergency physicians say some sick patients are coming to the hospital and begging for the vaccine, only to be told it’s too late. Others vow never to take the vaccine no matter how sick they get. Some people are persuadable, others immovable.
          Inducements to get the vaccine range from a free doughnut at Krispy Kreme to free drinks at local pubs and lottery tickets. When that didn’t work well enough, private business, hospitals and the government are trying tough love.  New York Mayor De Blasio made the vaccine a requirement for all health workers. Those who choose not to get vaccinated will have to be tested every week, a hassle that should help close the gap.
          We are the only country in the world with more vaccine than people who want it. Eight states have banned mask mandates. Yet, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on advice from the congressional physician, called for vaccinated and unvaccinated members and staff to return to wearing masks, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., falsely claimed the new mask mandate fails to follow science. Pelosi called him a moron.
          So, here we are: tough love, tough words, and tough rules to combat a terribly tough disease.
          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
          © 2021 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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