Donald Trump’s “Opening Up The Country” Sales Pitch
For most of the month and even to an extent, last month, Trump has been attempting to sell one of the many junkers on his used car lot of bad ideas.
This one, in particular, deals with his notion of “opening the country back up”. You’ll recall his comments to Fox News on March 24th, “I would love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter.” Further testing what he can gain traction with, Trump said on March 26, “People want to go back to work. I’m hearing it from everybody.”
As is ever the case, we don’t know who “everybody” is, they are never identified – but we know who it isn’t. We know it isn’t the 81 percent of Americans surveyed by Reuters / Ipsos, who favor the continuance of stay at home / essential workers only orders put in place by a majority of state governors, until a credible assessment based on science reveals it is safe to resume normal activities.
On April 5th, Trump continued to attempt shoving the proverbial square peg into a round hole. “We have to open our country again. We don’t want to be doing this for months, and months and months.”
This was followed, five days later, with, “There’s something good going to happen. I really believe that. There’s something very good going to happen. We have to get back.”, said Trump on April 10. In this instance, he injects a little classic televangelism rhetoric, the kind they resort to during the build up to a request for money. Trump’s prophetic sense here, is wishful thinking.
He is, as he never ceases doing, invoking the Tinkerbell effect. It’s not based on any foundation of science, in this case, epidemiology – but instead, on group psychology.
You won’t be safe, based on Trump’s gut based prognostication, but you will feel good about the risk you are embracing. This dovetails with Trump’s argument that a president should not be a realist, but a “cheerleader”.
Trump went on to assume authority the office he holds, does not possess – under our Constitutional system, anyway. “I’m going to have to make a decision, and I only hope to God that it’s the right decision. But I would say, without question, it’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make,” he said.
There are a few glaring problems here. “Hoping to God” is not evidence based leadership. Arguably, God doesn’t even want “hoping” to be the operational principal in a public health crisis.
Without digressing too deeply into theological matters – but since Trump invoked the Supreme Deity here, it is worth examining the blueprint for leadership referenced in the scriptures. An example is found in Proverbs 28:26, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” and again, among dozens like it, “By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom”. (Proverbs 13:10).
To contextualize this to the dilemma we’re facing with this pandemic, “wisdom” is to be properly derived not from Trump’s opportunistic hunches, but from accredited scientists and public health experts. “Hoping” to anyone, including the Almighty, has nothing to do with it.
Question: What metrics will you use to make that decision?
Trump while pointing to his head: The metrics right here. That’s my metrics. pic.twitter.com/SIbO5N6Bqx
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) April 10, 2020
On similar lines and even less inspiring in terms of confidence that Trump will inform himself on the facts before bulling forward, Trump was asked three days ago by a reporter at Friday’s press briefing about what metrics Trump would rely on in making a decision regarding the suspension of public health directives. Trump’s response – pointing to his head, “The metrics right here. That’s my metrics. That’s all I can do.”
Secondly, Trump has no authority to contravene state government health directives, even though he asserts that he does.
“For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect,” Trump claimed on Twitter.
For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 13, 2020
This is consistent with Trump’s previously advanced claim that, “I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”
Some Republican governors may willingly yield to Trump, as it appears Texas and Florida have already done and a number of other rural states will do – but states that are using scientific benchmarks as their metrics, are not subject to Trump’s imperial edicts, despite his erroneous conclusions about “an Article 2”.
Constitutional law experts firmly dispute Trump’s pronouncement. Trump’s order would be dead on arrival in virtually any federal district court or court of appeals. Trump displays no functional understanding of the separation of powers enshrined in our system of laws.
University of Texas law professor Bobby Chesney states, “No currently existing statute plausibly can be read to confer such an authority on the president.”
William A. Galston, Ezra K. Zilkha Chair and Senior Fellow – Governance Studies at the Brookings Institute, further explains:
If Trump thinks he can move to center stage by ending the crisis before the science says he should, he will find it difficult to do so. No federal statute gives the president the authority to override state decisions. Nor does he possess this inherent authority under Article II of the Constitution. Nor do any other provisions of the Constitution (such as the interstate commerce clause) confer this power on him. If governors choose to disregard his call to reopen their states, their decisions will be final, and President Trump will have to live with them.
The reason you haven’t heard anything from Attorney General William Barr on this, is because even he realizes there’s no viable argument or foundation for Trump’s notion.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who is actively managing the crisis response in one of the three hardest hit states, and whose office is embattled by “dangerously low levels of the medications required to safely place patients on ventilators” announced additional restrictions on non-essential activity.
Whitmer told Michigan residents that, “Now is not the time to pull back at all. We are in control of our fate here and it depends on every one of us doing our part … When we all take this seriously we will save lives here in Michigan.” That doesn’t sound indicative of a willingness to allow Donald Trump to dictate the terms of an all clear signal.
Other governors are keeping Trump’s entreaties at bay. Among them Virginia Governor Ralph Northam:
“There is nobody out there that wants us to get back to our life as normal more than me, but we also have to deal with reality. I’m a doctor, as you know. I understand the importance of keeping people healthy. So I’m looking at the data …. My job as your governor is to keep Virginians safe.”
The legal experts have weighed in and run Trump’s decree into the shredder. Now it is the turn for scientists to evaluate the premise of an arbitrary decision to bring nation wide activity back on line.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, said Thursday that reopening the country would require a “substantial expansion of public health fieldworkers” to help monitor Americans who have come into contact with those who are infected.
There exists no such army of fieldworkers. On the contrary, healthcare centers in the most impacted areas are experiencing dire staffing issues, just to continue attending to those experiencing the most severe of COVID-19 trauma.
A panel of health officials from several states, together with scientists from Johns Hopkins University, compiled a detailed plan Friday, which recommended a “robust and comprehensive system to identify all Covid-19 cases and trace all close contacts of each identified case”, prior to any move, as Trump would describe it, to “open up the economy”.
They state that significant gains in testing must be achieved before any economic reopening and a national deployment of some 100,000 workers and volunteers (significantly more than the Trump administration has mobilized). Additionally, they have identified the need for $3.6 billion in funding.
Lifting social-distancing restrictions too soon “could lead to a deadly resurgence” of the disease, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned Friday in Geneva. “The way down could be as deadly as the way up if not managed correctly.”
Despite all this, don’t expect Trump to let up on the drumbeat for a precipitous halt to local and state protective orders implemented to put the brakes on the acceleration of this pandemic. His calculus does not include those whose lives he considers expendable.
Social Darwinists follow observable and consistent patterns. Trump is not about to break them, even with tens of thousands or more lives in the balance.