“We’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.”– The Simpsons
The quote above is one of my all-time favorites from the Simpson’s. It is the one episode where we meet Ned Flanders’ parents. The quote above described their approach to discipline. For us, it might as well describe the administration’s approach to the pandemic.
Beyond the numbers, the style points are going to matter next Tuesday. Early voting has already set a record nationwide and we still have five days left of early voting. The referendum is out on this presidency and the latest appearance from Mark Meadows (White House Chief of Staff) on CNN pretty much seals the deal in terms of optics.
Meadows was admittedly all over the place in the interview. He was coming up with every excuse in the book and finally seemed to rest on, “we’ll beat it because this is ‘Murica.” However, the one line that stood out was where he admitted they weren’t going to try to prevent it. They were going to continue to treat it.
It might have seemed like the prudent thing to say at the time. Jake Tapper was grilling him about Mike Pence and the fact that five of his aides had tested positive. Maybe the vice president should be quarantining instead of campaigning. After all, it was a public event that caused the White House super spreader experience a couple of weeks ago. Nope, we aren’t trying to stop it anymore.
It dovetails into the president’s quote from the debate that we are learning to live with the virus. So, the plan seems to be that there is no plan. You just carry on like you always have and maybe wear a mask if you feel like it. If you catch the virus, 99 percent of you will live. Maybe that number is higher if you are young and healthy.
Whether you believe 225,000+ deaths are too big or just right, this whole situation is a referendum on leadership. Essentially, if you broke down this whole situation into a few sentence summary you would say that it began with Trump declaring a national emergency early on and then doing absolutely nothing to mitigate that emergency. He left it up to the states and local governments. He let them bid against each other on PPE and medical supplies. He let them sweat the bed shortages in hospitals. He let them sweat testing. Make no mistake, he takes credit now. We test more than anyone. We provide supplies for other countries. We haven’t seen the death rate we did in the spring. All of this is true. Ask yourself what he did to bring that about.
We know the winter will bring another spike. We are beginning to see it in the numbers. Yet, the administration isn’t going to try to prevent it. A vaccine is coming. Doctors are figuring out treatments. Americans are slowly learning to avoid doing stupid things. In other words, someone else gets to do the heavy lifting. That’s what get passed off as leadership these days.
Some of that might be unfair. No one ever handles any crisis alone. Even the best leaders need the help of selfless people that do great things and take no credit. Good leaders let them do their work, but they lead from in front. They craft a coherent message and deliver it consistently. That should have been to avoid large gatherings, socially distance yourself when possible, and always wear a mask in public. You not only tell people that, but you demonstrate that through your actions. The administration failed to do this.
When you declare a national emergency it means you are in charge. You take charge of distributing supplies to states and localities. You take charge of producing those supplies. You take charge of messaging and determining when it is safe to reopen. You can easily phase that in based on local trends with the virus, but you are still in charge. The administration said it was an emergency and then dropped the ball and told everyone “good luck, we’re all counting on you.” Nothing says you are a failed leader like leaving decisions to someone else and then criticizing them for the decision they made. That’s been the administration’s mantra all along.
If this is the kind of leadership you are comfortable with then go ahead and vote for it again. You will get what you vote for. If you think we can do better and must do better then it is time to take back the presidency and put it in the hands of someone that knows what they are doing. Trying nothing and having no ideas is not good enough and never should have been.