Robert F. Jakubowicz: Trump is not up to the task
PITTSFIELD — America, until now, has been fortunate to have been served by presidents who have successfully dealt with great national, life and death perils. But now unfortunately we have President Donald Trump who is stumbling in dealing with the menace of coronavirus
The past presidential successes are reflected in memorable quotes from those national leaders. Abraham Lincoln ( " A house divided cannot stand" ) kept the country together after the Civil War to divide it, Franklin Delano Roosevelt ("The only thing we have to fear is fear itself") successfully led America and its allies in WWII to defend themselves against the Axis foes. Harry S. Truman had a sign on his desk that read " The Buck Stops Here" to reflect his accountable leadership style. Hnderstood that as FDR's successor he had to end WW II and he did it. Ronald Reagan ("Tear down that wall") successfully challenged the Russia leader to take down the Berlin WalL to calm the fears of the cold war being turned into WW III.
But now we have Trump who recently has made a number of television appearances to offer self-promotion quips about the "great" and "incredible" job he, his administration and federal government agencies have done in dealing with the coronavirus. Unlike those past presidents and their famous quotes, Trump may well be remembered simply by those two words and for talking a good game rather than playing one.
The president at first tried to downplay the health threat to Americans. This response led conspiracy theorists like Rush Limbaugh to tell his supporters that this virus was no more dangerous than the common cold. The president also claimed that two drugs used for malaria could offer relief from the virus. This claim has been refuted by Dr. Anthony Fauci , the government expert on these matters. References were also made to the virus as the "Chinese" virus, implying a foreign menace rather than being a natural disaster to humans that has invaded America.
Trump now says he is a wartime president, but he is still stumbling in handling this national crises. For example, he recently invoked the Defense Protection Act to presumably compel private sector manufacturers to produce badly needed protection masks for medical personnel and ventilators for virus infected Americans, but he has stopped short in making the manufacturers to do this. He reasoning being political, namely, this country is not based on nationalizing private business.
Trump's initial inept response to deal with this menace and his self-praise for a job that is not well done has led to a number of confrontations with journalists at his press conferences. Yamiche Alcindor asked an obvious question at one conference, namely, whether he took responsibility for dismantling an office two years ago in his National Security Council that was charged with watching for and preparing responses to threats of pandemics? Trump answered no, implied he did not do this, and he called it a "nasty question." He then added that "We're doing a great job.' Since then there has been a claim that the office was not really dismantled and survived in another setting. This has caused confusion about our national preparedness or these situations. Why, in view of past, recent pandemics like Ebola, was the government not on guard against future pandemics as it had been? And is there now an office specifically for this purpose.
It was inevitable that a journalist would ask the next obvious question. Peter Alexander, an NBC correspondent asked Trump "What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now and are scared?" Trump's response, "I'd say you're a terrible reporter."
This is one of those critical times in our history, faced by presidents. This president so far has not risen to the occasion to deal with it in a manner to alleviate the fear of Americans and put this nation on a path to overcoming the virus. But the nation is stuck with him for the rest of the year. I fervently hope, but I am not yet sanguine, that he still can rise to what we have come to expect from our presidents in extraordinary times like this.
Robert "Frank" Jakubowicz is a regular contributor to the Eagle.
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