A couple of months into this crisis and we are understandably and inevitably still on the battlefield, feeling our way along, learning more about the enemy and how to deal with it, but at least finally moving in small steps around the country to determine where we go from here in terms of our postwar way of life. And it’s still too early to form a lot of conclusions. This will be a long and difficult process.
Here are some random thoughts and observations from the battlefield:
- First, let’s get this out of the way–how is President Trump doing in leading the crisis response? As with all such ratings for this President, there must be two parts to the grading–substance and style. On substance, the slightly more important of the two, I give him a B+. He botched the first week or ten days with a lot of ignorant assertions that “it’s under control” and “testing is no problem”, etc., but once he got serious by appointing the crisis task force and issuing the travel ban from China, things began moving rapidly in the right direction, and I think most would agree that he has been very responsive in delivering the federal assets to the needs of the state governors while listening to his professional advisors. On style, however, he gets a D. The overly lengthy daily press conferences/updates have been a huge distraction, and very quickly turned into petty infighting with his media critics. He and the country would have been better served if he had completely delegated these daily updates to the Vice President and the health professionals, as he has more recently done to good effect.
- A recent newspaper headline read “Patchwork of State Rules Reveal Little Consensus on Reopening”, followed by the comment that the reopening of America’s economy is happening with little consensus on how it should proceed. What should we expect, a recovery czar? Absolutely not. This country is a federal republic and federalism is the organizing principle. Every state has its own culture, economic character, strengths, weaknesses, and priorities, so it is consistent with federalism that each will have its own rules and timing for recovery, a system which also happens to be consistent with the concept of subsidiarity, in which decisions should be made at the lowest level of governance that is accountable to the people. To even attempt “one size fits all” in this recovery would be a huge fiasco and, in spite of his earlier mistaken comment that he has “total authority” in this regard, President Trump understands this.
- Lately, this crisis has introduced me to the concept of triage, which has applicability to the choices we make in dealing with allocation of resources. The dictionary definition of triage is “a system designed to produce the greatest benefit from limited treatment facilities for battlefield casualties by giving full treatment to those who may survive and not to those who have no chance of survival and those who will survive without it”. In other words, rationing, and it seems to have relevance to our question of when we begin to end the economic shutdown in view of the severe damage it has dealt to our future, from both an economic and health standpoint. Let me suggest that this is not a binary choice, that we can “walk down the street and chew gum at the same time”, and that these difficult choices should be informed, not wholly determined, by science, but rather by accountable political leadership.
- One brief comment about the shutdown that continues to linger in many parts of the country: it represents a looming civil liberties battle that we don’t need and the threat of a greatly enhanced leviathan in the form of more government at every level, which will be difficult to unwind. As Kevin Williamson has well noted, “today the federal government is faced with a genuine emergency, but eventually it will be the emergency”.
- Clearly, China has much to answer for in its corruption, duplicity and lack of transparency involving the outbreak of this pandemic and we should very soon get on with what should be demands from the world community that China be investigated and held accountable for its treachery. As for the U. S. relationship with China, it should be clear–no more “Mr. Xi is my friend”, no more appeasement in order to get a trade deal completed, a goal that is probably already rendered moot by current world conditions, and no more patience with a 25-year con job that has been perpetrated by a totalitarian regime that is every bit as evil as the Soviet Union in the depths of the Cold War. And while we’re at it, we need a hard introspective look at our own complicity in selling out part of our collective soul, not to mention our long-term security, toward the advancement of our relationship with this regime in the interest of profitable supply chain management for the Fortune 500 and U. S Chamber of Commerce. Make no mistake–after the country gets back to work, dealing with the transgressions and threat that China represents in all of its manifestations should be the number one policy and political priority of the Trump administration.
- Finally, I was impressed by the words of Queen Elizabeth II to her people in a televised public statement: “I hope in the years to come everyone will take pride in how they have responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say that the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humored resolve, and of fellow-feeling still characterize this country”. Well said.
More later. Stay safe, but be active.