Donald Trump Is Not A Wartime President
It took more than three years for the President to face a crisis that was not of his own making, and it has become self-evident that he was always woefully unfit for the office he holds.
By David Todd McCarty | Tuesday, March 31, 2020
For the first three years of his Presidency, Donald Trump enjoyed the relative calm of peace and prosperity without having to deal with any significant crisis, despite his own worst impulses and incomprehensible policies. He has alienated once stalwart allies and cozied up to criminals and despots, and surrounded himself with sycophants, conmen and grifters. He started a trade war with China that has cost American companies and the economy billions, and with no foreseeable upside. He has laid bare entire federal government institutions by installing Department heads who oppose the very concept of the departments they purport to run.
And now the time has run out on the President and he must finally face the music. With the novel coronavirus pandemic, Trump faces a crisis he cannot spin, with a death toll he cannot dismiss, and an economy he cannot influence. For possibly the first time in his presidency, Trump is unable to control the narrative surrounding the evening news. His daily briefings have been lambasted and ridiculed for their rally-like atmosphere designed solely to stroke his fragile ego, and have increasingly done more harm than good in misleading the public concerning the dangers of the public health crisis. Trump argues with reporters and lashes out an anyone who dares to question him, even though he has consistently put out false or misleading information on a daily basis, only to have others in his administration walk back his remarks.
As a leader Trump is incapable of admitting wrongdoing, let alone taking credit for anything less than a stellar response. No world leader could be expected to handle a massive global crisis such as this without difficulty, but that is precisely what Trump wants you to believe. When asked to rate himself, Trump has given his administration a 10 out of 10 in his response to the pandemic.
Among his other responses throughout the crisis:
“We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” Jan 22
– US had just confirmed it’s first case.
“It will all work out well.” Jan 24
– US confirms second case.
“Johnson & Johnson to create coronavirus vaccine.” Jan 28
– Retweeting a debunked OAN article
“We have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five. And those people are all recuperating successfully.” Jan 30
“Well, we pretty much shut it down coming in from China. We have a tremendous relationship with China, which is a very positive thing. Getting along with China, getting along with Russia, getting along with these countries.” Jan 31
“By April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” Feb 10
– US confirms 12 cases
“I think the numbers are going to get progressively better as we go along.” Feb 19
– US confirms 15 cases
“The Coronavirus very much under control in the USA. … Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” Feb. 24
– Stock markets fall sharply
“We’re going down, not up. We’re going very substantially down, not up.” Feb 26
“It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” Feb 28
– US confirms 59 cases and the start community spreading
“Some people will have this at a very light level and won’t even go to a doctor or hospital, and they’ll get better. There are many people like that.” March 4
– California declares state of emergency. US confirms 153 cases and 11 deaths.
“We’re going very substantially down, not up. . . . We have it so well under control. I mean, we really have done a very good job. As of right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test [can have one], that’s the thing, and the tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect—the transcription was perfect.” March 6
“It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” March 6
“The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power … to inflame the CoronaVirus situation.” March 9
– US confirms 278 cases and 14 deaths. Stock market plummets.
“We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.” March 10
– WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic. US confirms 605 cases and 22 deaths.
“We’re using the full power of the federal government to defeat the virus, and that’s what we’ve been doing.” March 14
– Trump declares a national emergency. US confirms 2,726 cases and 54 deaths
“I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” March 17
– US Confirms 4,632 cases and over 100 deaths
“I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the ‘borders’ from China – against the wishes of almost all.” March 18
– Stock markets close at lowest point since Trump took office.
“America will again, and soon, be open for business — very soon — a lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. … We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” March 23
– Dow Jones at 18,592 down from 28,869. US confirms 43,667 cases and 552 deaths
“I’d love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” March 24
“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes they’ll have two ventilators, and now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’” March 26
– US confirms 83,836 cases and 1,209 deaths
“WE WILL WIN THIS WAR. When we achieve this victory, we will emerge stronger and more united than ever before!” March 28
– The day after Trump signed a $2 trillion emergency spending bill. US confirms 101,657 cases and 1,581 deaths
“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.” March 29
– US tops the world in number of cases with 140,886 and 2,467 deaths.
The remarkable thing is, Trump didn’t just claim that he’d done a good job, or even a great job in light of the circumstances, he claimed everything he’d done was perfect. His bombastic attitude of trying to be larger than life might have worked when he was selling condos to Russian oligarchs, but when you are dealing with life and death scenarios involving a dangerous and an out of control pandemic, it’s a recipe for disaster.
In addition to trying to paint a rosy picture of the situation in order to keep the financial markets soaring, and casting himself in the most flattering, possible light, Trump has long had a penchant for trusting his gut over facts, figures, math, science or any outside expertise in general. He thinks of himself as having a natural affinity for things. A knack. A gift. What he lacks is the introspection to understand that he has none of those things.
In a press conference on March 27 Trump said, “This—whatever they want to call it. You call it a germ, you can call it a flu, you can call it a virus. You know, you can call it many different names. I’m not sure anybody even knows what it is.”
This is how Trump responds to a great many things that he doesn’t understand. If he doesn’t understand it, maybe nobody does, he believes. Or when he learns something new, he presumes that one else knew it either.
“People don’t realize the Korean War has not ended,” Trump said once, after learning this simple fact that most people who completed the eight grade know. “It’s going on right now.”
In 2017, Trump tried to explain to a group of top Republican donors that Lincoln was a Republican, “Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican, right?” Trump said. “Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know that.”
When Trump says, “Most people don’t know…” what he means is he didn’t know. It’s beyond his comprehension that the world is full of, and aware of, strange and wondrous facts that he has yet to digest, internalize or commit to memory.
Trump is literally too ignorant of the world around him and so woefully incapable of understanding the complexity of a job he is so clearly ill-suited for, that he finds solace in what he believes is his ability to understand things by how he feels about them.
Donald Trump is a showman at best, a conman at worst and nothing short of a clueless rube when it comes to intellectual prowess. He is playing a part in a realty television show that he has convinced himself is crucial to his success. The part of a successful, confident businessman. The shrewd negotiator. The strong leader. The crafty strategist. Except when the lights go down and cameras shut off, it’s all a big lie. He is, in fact, a terrible negotiator. A weak leader who flies by the seat of his pants with no plan and no idea what will happen next. He has succeeded this long, if you can call it that, because he cheats.
Possibly the most astounding thing about the life of Donald Trump is that he’s lasted this long and gained this level of attention at all. If he hadn’t won the Presidency by appealing to the worst of the Republican Party’s cynical attempt to defraud the public through racism, misinformation and greed, he’d still be calling into Howard Stern and bedding hookers, while bankrupting yet another round of businesses. Instead he’s happily destroying America piece by piece, enriching himself and his family from the government coffers, all the while convinced that he is winning bigly.
It’s no secret that Trump is completely intimidated by his predecessor, and grows furious when he thinks he’s been bested by a man he never even competed against. But if Obama was a president of cold steel resolve and grace under pressure, Trump is certainly his opposite. An unhinged lunatic with thin skin, a brittle ego, and a psychotic need for adulation. A toddler with a penchant for chaos and an attention span built for television. Add to that a nearly unprecedented lack of cognitive function in a head of state and it’s no wonder that the current crisis is being run by state governors, doing the best they can without the help of the federal government.
We have not yet reached the peak of this crisis and there is no telling how bad it might get, or in what ways the ill-suited temperament and wonton disregard for expert opinion from this President will effect how we fare moving forward, but one thing is for certain, Donald Trump is a liability for the health and well-being of this country. We are long past hoping that Trump might pivot to becoming a magnanimous leader of a once-great country. All we are praying for at this point, is that he would simply sit down, shut up, and let someone who knows what they’re doing take over. He can’t help us any longer, but he definitely has the power to destroy us.
When fighting a war, there is nothing more dangerous—nothing more deadly—than overestimating your own strength or position. You can feign strength or weakness to confuse or dissuade your opponent but you cannot allow yourself to believe your own hype.
Strategic thinking involves a calculated approach to problem solving that is complex and many faceted. It is the opposite of flying by the seat of your pants. On a battlefield, as in a courtroom, you must know the answer before you ask the question. There is no room for gut instinct when you have data on the table in front of you. No reason to fly blind when someone is giving you valuable intelligence on the movements of the enemy. No sense in trying to invent a new strategy when you have no experience in fighting a war. You simply cannot gamble with other people’s lives because, as Trump said recently in regards to trying experimental drugs on the pandemic, “What do we have to lose?”
The war metaphor is not an apt one for this challenge. This isn’t a war. It’s a public health crisis. This is not a battle you win or lose. It is only a matter minimizing the rate of attrition. The virus doesn’t succeed or fail. It just is. The best we can do is manage the situation.
We need sober, thoughtful, compassionate leadership from someone who can think in abstract concepts and who can put aside emotion and deal with logic. We need a leader more interested in succeeding, than in getting credit for doing so. We don’t need a commander in chief, we need a scientist.
That is certainly not the leader we have today, but unquestionably it is the leader we need.
We will one day, look back on this time with wonder and amazement that we could have ever allowed ourselves to get to this place. Future generations will wonder what we were thinking, and ask why didn’t someone put a stop to it?
We will have to answer for that.
Follow David Todd McCarty on Twitter @davidtmccarty and The Standard @capemaystandard