Nor basing his response to one of the biggest disasters ever on dreams and wishes…
Doing both those things, as Trump still is at least partly, is the surest signal he’s still not sufficiently anticipating nor preparing for what might come next. Nor is he solidifying a measured, strong, cohesive reaction to what’s happening right now. Instead, he keeps jumping ahead to beautiful scenarios where everything bad just goes away. Maybe by shining a “very powerful light” on a patient. Maybe with an “injection inside” with some type of disinfectant.
Now the President says he was speaking “sarcastically” about that. He was not. Click on the photo below to watch the original clip and decide for yourself:
At least in most of our lifetimes, with the exception of multiple decade wars in the Mideast, disasters tend to be quick. And then people come in and control them and fix them. A hurricane. A flood. Even the horrible forest fires in Australia last year that looked like the end of the world.
We measure the success of our leaders by how smartly and quickly they’re able to intervene, and help take peoples’ pain away. That success (or failure) is grounded in their ability to anticipate and prepare. Even if that preparation is unseen and under-appreciated. Because any government in a wealthy, developed country should be ready when a highly foreseeable disaster hits.
For instance, several years ago, Japan did a poor job protecting people from the impact of a tidal wave. And communicating with the public when it turned into a nuclear disaster afterwards. But the wave itself did not last long.
Hurricane Sandy in New York and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans came and went. It wasn’t like there was a new tidal wave or hurricane every night
But COVID-19 is different. It’s not lasting minutes. Or a couple of days. In fact, we have no idea how long it will last. Most likely until there’s a vaccine. And we don’t know how long that will be.
So for now, this tidal wave washes over us daily—for many each day, fatally—and as much as we’d like to will it to go away, or grab it and wrestle it to the ground, we can’t.
And this is where we come back to Trump and what he said about figuring out a disinfectant “cleaning” for the human body that would rid us of COVID-19.
Most of the commentary we’ve seen since then has been ridiculing the President and asking whether he’s what?—An idiot? A maniac? Delusional? Vacant? Valid questions. But it goes beyond that.
A few days ago we wrote about what then were some of the President’s more “out there” musings on COVID-19, and asked is Trump grasping at straws? Or seeing some path to re-election? Or just agitated because he can’t go out and play golf?
And while we do thoroughly expect him to play golf soon even if it makes him look bad, we’re more convinced after his recent performances that the simplest answer is the correct one. He’s trying to grab onto something—anything—and can’t.
And therefore is going down rabbit holes. “DRINK ME”.
To some extent, we all are.
But is the frustration Trump is showing that similar to the frustration a lot of us are feeling every day as we go out into this new world of utter uncertainty?
A lot of time Trump just seems angry at the Coronavirus’ unwillingness to sit there like a potted plant and allow him to bully it.
And while Trump’s only watching one disaster, we’re watching two: the danger caused by the virus, and the danger caused by Trump.
And Trump diverges in truly dangerous ways is in what appears to be the endgame he has in mind, which has very little to do with the peril currently facing Americans and the empathy he might consider showing, and more with making himself look good, or at least giving him some cover for the fact that he’s totally out of his depth.
He seems particularly hung up on a couple of things:
- Proving other countries handled the pandemic a lot worse than he did, which is hard to do if you’ve got the most death in the world.
- Proving that U.S. death totals, even if they are the worst in the world, are far less than initially predicted by various modeling.
And “proving” either or both those things implies–maybe even requires–a bias against testing and contact tracing. Because testing and contact tracing pretty much ensure the discovery of more cases. So the President has not been eager to fully support either of late. And most of the more robust contact tracing efforts are being designed and built by charities, not the government. While Trump is putting his attention on long shot therapies or potential cures or whatever his cronies are whispering into his ears. The President should be focused on big ideas, of course. But better assessment and timely intervention are also big ideas. Maybe the biggest if you’re pushing to get the country reopened without a vaccine or effective treatment.
Did betting his Presidency on hydroxychloroquine backfire? No way of really knowing until more studies come out. (Although the FDA yesterday cautioned that it not be used outside hospitals because of heart complications.) And really not until Election Day in November.
But remember at the very beginning of March, when Trump said he didn’t want to let a cruise ship dock in the U.S. because: “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault“? There were 21 confirmed cases at that time on the ship. Now the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. is approaching a million. That means 1 out of every 300 people. And close to 50,000 people have died.
Look, the disaster is still unfolding. No one is going to have a full grip on the situation. That in itself is frustrating because we expect, after all, we’re humans: we can figure anything out.
But other than by wearing masks and staying at home, we really haven’t figured out too much of anything yet. And that’s mitigation, which is not what we’ve come to believe we’re best at: fixing things. And that goes against all our expectations and what we’ve come to believe about the genius of the human race and our infinite capacity to respond and problem-solve. Which will (or should) happen with focus and time.
Speaking of time, when we hear Trump brag about how good the U.S. economy was just a short time ago, before the virus, we think of the TV show, the Sopranos, and something Tony says on that show:
“‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.”