Trump Is Failing The Basic Test Of Leadership

 

by Tony Wyman


 

Donald J. Trump   Basic Test Of Leadership  …………………………….. (F)

 

On Saturday, while millions of Americans took a break from panic-buying food and toilet paper to watch the daily coronavirus briefing from the White House, Pres. Trump, after being asked by reporters about chronic shortages of protective equipment still plaguing hospitals months after the outbreak, stunned the experts assembled with him by wondering aloud why health care workers don’t simply clean and reuse the contaminated masks protecting them from becoming infected by the patients they are treating.

“I have to tell you, the throwing away of the masks, being in private business, the throwing away of the mask right away, they’re throwing it away,” the president ad libbed.  “We have very good liquids for doing this, sanitizing the masks, and that that’s something they’re starting to do more and more. They’re sanitizing the masks.”

He then asked if any of the people standing on the stage with him wanted to “weigh in on this,” as if washing masks was a topic someone with a real grasp of the seriousness of the crisis facing America should spend energy discussing, especially at a time when we don’t even have enough tests available to know how many people are already infected and how serious the problem is in our country.

Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and as a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Obviously, no one seemed eager to “weigh in.”  The stoic and sober Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stepped up to the microphone and, using remarkable diplomatic skill, redirected the briefing back to a subject about which the  American people actually cared: are they going to die and is the federal government doing anything to give them a better shot at staying alive?

“There are CDC guidance’s about how you can minimize the use of masks by different things that you could do with testing and when you have masks, how you might reuse them, which ones you can reuse,” Dr. Fauci said, as social media erupted with angry remarks from health care professionals outraged at the president’s comments.

“I went crazy,” commented Benny Lewis, “when he talked about sanitizing disposable masks.. I’m an operating room nurse. It’s not a thing. They are disposable for a reason. JFC. Next we’ll be using sterile gloves on multiple patients.”

“We do not send troops to war with a gun to share between 20 individuals and when bullets run out, say ‘Well, you need to figure it out,’” a nurse not authorized to talk to the media by her hospital angrily told Vox on condition of anonymity  “We need PPE now and for months to come, and we should not be reusing supplies. It is against everything we have ever been trained as precautionary and scientifically proven as far as containment per diagnosis.”

Beyond showing how little Mr. Trump understands the medical crisis before him, it was simply a weird comment to make. 

Is the president so untroubled by the crisis that will disrupt the lives of all Americans and wipe out trillions of dollars of our nation’s wealth that he is obsessing over why nurses fighting to save the lives of their patients don’t take time away from caring for critically ill human beings to wash and dry their masks in violation of most FDA and CDC guidelines?

Is the cost of “throwing away the mask right away” of greater concern to the president than the cost to the economy of suddenly idling tens of millions of wage earners or of potentially losing as many as 1.7 million American lives

Is he so detached from the human element of this crisis, of the impact this is having on his fellow countrymen, that his attention is diverted by the political embarrassment he’s facing for having failed to respond quickly enough to this crisis to provide enough masks for our nation’s health care workers that he’s trying to blame nurses and doctors for the shortages because they are throwing out soiled and dangerously contaminated masks and gloves?

Whatever motivated Mr. Trump to make his bizarre comment, it made one thing clear, Mr. Trump is fundamentally incapable of leading the nation out of this disaster. 

While men like Dr. Fauci are focused on the crisis at hand, while they are working tirelessly to come up with solutions to the greatest challenge facing America since World War II, the president is deflecting responsibility for our nation being unprepared to the doctors and nurses saving American lives.

Fundamental Failure to Lead

This should come as no surprise, of course, to anyone who has paid any attention to Mr. Trump’s act over the years he’s occupied the Oval Office.  I chose the word “act” on purpose, not to insult the president, but to more accurately describe what his time in office has been.

He hasn’t led, by any stretch of the imagination.  He hasn’t become absorbed in the day-to-day complexities of running a government as massive as ours.  Nor has he invested time in building relationships with key members of the opposition to suss out ways to negotiate with the Democrats to move the country forward together. 

He hasn’t become an expert in policy to the point where he can speak authoritatively on the topics of greatest interest to the American people.

Instead, he speaks in broad generalities, using bombastic claims that don’t pass the sniff test, growing testy with reporters who sense how vulnerable he is on policy knowledge, striking out at those who insist on specific and verifiable answers to questions.  Nothing during his years in office could be termed as true leadership. 

Instead, Mr. Trump has simply extended his campaign act, used his rhetorical ability to divide Americans into competing camps,  and propped up his support from his base with direct communication to them through rallies and tweets, while others in his administration have actually run the government.

He hasn’t so much governed as he has spun that he’s governed during his time in office.  This, as well as his innate narcissism, explains why every speech given by the president sounds more like a campaign rally than it does a serious policy approach designed to inspire the country to move forward in a particular direction.

And, as long as things have gone well in the country, Mr. Trump’s approach has worked reasonably well for him.  His supporters were willing to overlook how uncomfortable their man is when pinned down on specifics because, frankly, those who voted for Mr. Trump and continue to support him really were less concerned about abstract policy issues than they were about the message that was buried in all his speeches and rallies: I will protect your way of life from liberals, foreigners, non-Christians and minorities.

The problem the president faces now is that things aren’t going well, at all.  In fact, the nation is on the brink of an unprecedented collapse that is likely to be felt intimately and painfully by every American, including the minority who voted him into office in 2015.  And no amount of spin or blame-shifting is going to change that.

What Mr. Trump needs now is the ability to appear competent, resourceful, able to unite people for the common good of the nation, and capable of making decisions that benefit the country first, rather than himself and those loyal to him.  In other words, the exact opposite of everything the previous years of his presidency have shown us.

And that is going to be a very difficult act to pull off considering Mr. Trump’s spin on the virus has been repeatedly proved false.

I Always Knew

From the start of the global coronavirus crisis, Mr. Trump misled the American people to the dangers we face as a nation.  He sold it as a minor illness, little more than a manageable sickness his government would easily best. Much like it could easily win a trade war with China, it would easily overcome a virus outbreak from the country, too.   Passionate supporters of the president’s, people like Rush Limbaugh, got on board and went as far as calling it “a common cold.”

Graph of Trump's comments
Mr. Trump downplayed the seriousness of the Novel coronavirus outbreak for months, but, when the number of infected Americans rose dramatically, he claimed he “always’ knew the virus was a threat, despite having made numerous comments earlier the situation was under control.

“It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump,” Mr. Limbaugh famously said Feb. 24 on his nationally syndicated radio broadcast. “Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus … I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”

A month before that, Mr. Trump told CNBC “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control,” he said about a Seattle man returning to the U.S. infected with the virus. “It’s going to be just fine.”

Eight days late, on January 30th, the president said, “We think we have it very well under control,” Trump said. “We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five — and those people are all recuperating successfully. But we’re working very close

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