Friday, April 17, 2020

Profile in Leadership

So Donald Trump finally recognized that he does not, in fact, have "absolute" authority (or anything like it) to reopen the American economy and is leaving that decision up to the governors of the various states.  Good on him for letting that reality seep into his brain.  The governors--Democrats and Republicans--have performed reasonably well in managing the Covid-19 crisis in their states iin the absence of consistent, fact-based guidance from the federal government. The emergence of regional efforts to figure out when will be the appropriate time to ease up on on the restrictions needed to control the virus offers some hope that the states will be able to figure out how best to balance public health with economic health.  The Trump administration even established guidelines for determining how to measure that balance.

All well and good but a couple key items are missing.  One is leadership.  If Donald Trump is telling governors that the decision is up to them, it would be very helpful if he would support them in their decision-making.  But he is not providing that support.  In fact, he is encouraging his base in resisting the governors' decisions.  So on the one hand Trump is recognizing the key role the states play in dealing with this crisis while on the other hand he is making it increasingly difficult for governors to implement policies regarded as essential for controlling the virus.  Two-faced "leadership".  Very similar to his "fine people on both sides" characterization of the Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

The second missing item is testing to determine identify and isolate individuals who are positive for Covid-19.  Federal officials are still getting requests from private laboratories for help obtaining the necessary reagents to conduct tests and the American Hospital Association has raised concerns with the administration about a lack of testing supplies. There also is no single administration official working on testing.  Without a strong testing protocol states are flying blind in making  crucial decisions.  If Covid 19 was a shooting war of comparable magniture, the federal government would damn well make sure American industry churned out the bullets, guns and other needed materials.  But in this "war" with no visible enemy, the Trump administration won't exercise the authority it does have to compel production of the tests at a scale needed to inform effective decision-making.

Continuing with the war analogy, its as if each major division operates on its own without any coordinated leadership, with no supreme commander to oversee all theaters of operation.  Generals don't actually engage in combat but good ones make it possible for the grunts who do fight to do so effectively and with the weapons they need.

Leadership does make a difference.  America could use a leader right now.  Instead we have Donald Trump.



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