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There seems to be a new scandal every few days. I certainly understand the frustration of conservatives on social media. Many are asking why it seems that Joe Biden never gets asked a tough question. Sure, I get that. It’s hard to deny the truth of this question. Of course, the answer might not be as convenient. It isn’s as simple as saying “Fake news” or simply writing off the mainstream media as liberal shills.
There’s really a simple explanation for it. Donald Trump is the incumbent. As the incumbent, a majority of the questions are going to be about his record. They are going to be about his administration. That’s what made life rough for Walter Mondale, Bob Dole, John Kerry, and Mitt Romney to a lesser extent. It made life rough for George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter. When things are going well you’re the focal point. When things aren’t going well you’re the focal point. It’s the double edged sword of being the guy in the oval office.
So, the latest scandal is that Trump did an audio interview for Bob Woodward’s new book. In other words, it’s on tape. Trump is heard in early February acknowledging how dangerous the virus is. He acknowledged it was deadlier than the flu and he acknowledged downplaying the dangers on purpose. He said that he didn’t want to cause a panic. He even acknowledged that he would likely continue to downplay it. Of course, he obviously has continued to do that.
So, obviously the outrage machine is running in full gear. It will run for another 48 to 72 hours. Some have called for him to be impeached again and others have even talked about charging him with murder. Normally, I’m fully on board with the outrage machine, but this time around I’m going to allow the train to leave the station without getting on.
How likely was it that no one briefed the president before February and told him how dangerous the virus was? How likely was it that he didn’t grasp the obvious? From there, it’s all about calculation. We see the same thing happen down here with hurricanes. If Galveston and Houston called for a mandatory evacuation every time a hurricane was in the Gulf of Mexico we would spend half our summers evacuating.
Presidents, governors, and mayors get briefed daily on dangerous situations. They rarely tell us about them. If presidents told us every time they were briefed on a dangerous situation we wouldn’t be able to function. We would live in constant fear of foreign attacks, terroristic plots, and health crises. If we weren’t paranoid before, we sure would be then.
So, did the president lie to the American people? Did he know in February that hundreds of thousands of people would die? I seriously doubt it. I’m sure he thought it would go away when the weather got warmer. We have to remember that when the statements were made, it was early February. We have to consider what he knew at the time. It is easy to take these particular facts and attach them to what we know now. That paints a very dark picture, but it is not the picture he was looking at in February.
This isn’t about criminality. It isn’t about scandal necessarily. It’s about incompetence. Local, state, and national executives have to take a warning about various crises and decide which ones need immediately attention. He made a huge miscalculation. He hoped not sounding the alarms would keep Americans working and the economy humming. He was wrong.
What is probably worse is the fact that his strategy never changed. When a coach continues to run the ball when he’s gaining zero yards you don’t throw him in jail. You fire him. When a president continues to downplay a virus after it is clear it is much worse you fire him. When he still doesn’t ramp up federal support for testing (even decreasing support) you fire him. So, his subsequent decisions are all examples of incompetence. You could call them gross incompetence. You really shouldn’t call them criminal.
Of course, this doesn’t exonerate Trump of any of the other crimes he may have committed. It’s okay to get angry at this new revelation. It’s certainly okay to include this in the list of reasons why you might vote for Joe Biden. Calling for his impeachment is all well and good, but it shouldn’t be for this. This is something all presidents have done on a nearly daily basis. You just don’t hear about it because the crisis never materializes into something that impacts our daily lives. This one did. Is that his fault? Maybe. Was it criminal? No.