COVID Day 75: The Politics of Wisdom

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There have been eleven presidents during my lifetime, none of whom I particularly admire but each having some redeeming quality. For example, John Kennedy was inspirational, even though he managed the presidency like a cathouse. Richard Nixon commanded respect from world leaders, even though he was petty and kept an enemies list. Bill Clinton is morally flawed, but he governed well and got a lot of legislation passed. George Bush II isn’t all that bright, but he has a calm dignity about him that’s reassuring. Barack Obama is divisive, but believes passionately in his agenda and you have to respect that. Donald Trump is brash and at times uncouth, but remarkably right an awful lot, which drives the media and his rivals completely insane.

Through this long list of positive and negative attributes the presidents in my lifetime possess, the one adjective I’d never assign them, is wise; until recently. I’ve been thinking lately about all the decisions President Trump made during the COVID crisis. He was the first world leader to ban travel to and from foreign countries. While Democrats and their complicit media called him a racist for doing it, in retrospect we understand that action saved countless lives and slowed the initial spread of the virus.

Donald Trump acted quickly to enact the War Powers Act to compel industries to make respirators, PPE, and to bring vaccine production back to the U.S., while Democrats and the media accused him of abusing his powers. If we’re being honest, one of the things that worried us most early on was the fear of respirator shortages.

The President moved aggressively to deploy naval hospital ships to New York City and Los Angels while ordering the army to set up field hospitals in every state. Even though these capabilities were never utilized, his ability to strategically manage resources was so appreciated even the media and Democrats were hard pressed to criticize.

While all these examples demonstrate a level of shrewdness and savvy even his rivals admit has long been the President’s wheel house, they were not what’s impressed me most, that would be the way President Trump deferred responsibility for managing the COVID crisis to individual states.

Consider the longstanding and ironic divide between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of state’s rights. Democrats who claim Thomas Jefferson as their founder believe in a federalist approach to government even though Jefferson fervently believed in states rights. Meanwhile Republicans who claim Alexander Hamilton has their founder believe in limited federal government even though Hamilton was an ardent federalist.

By deferring management of the COVID crisis to the states, not only did President Trump appease his base, he demonstrably demonstrated how poorly prepared Democratic led states were and how overwhelmed Democratic governors held up as the crisis evolved. The actions individual governors took, provided independent voters a clear contrast to policy and management philosophies while quietly answering the rhetorical question, “which party would you rather have lead this country in crisis?”

Imagine how quickly impeachment proceedings would have been initiated if President Trump ordered a nationwide lockdown? Demonstrations would have erupted across the nation, but not in free states, they would have quietly complied. The demonstrations would have been in Boston, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, LA, and Seattle, in other words, in Democratic controlled states.

Imagine the demands for justice that would have filled every newspaper and every news show nonstop for months had the President doomed 10,000 vulnerable elders to death by intentionally infecting their care facilities. Yet that is what New York Governor Cuomo did without so much a peep from the media. Imagine President Trump holding a press conference where he admits he would never send his Mom to an elderly care facility because its too dangerous (because of him), and get away with it, yet that was yesterday’s confession from Governor Cuomo.

Imagine the Alice-In-Wonderland world we’d be in right now if Trump had not deferred crisis management to the states. If he ordered us into lockdown there would be no lockdown in Democratic states. If he ordered us to wear masks in public, half the country would not be wearing masks. If he implored us to practice social distancing, bars and restaurants would have never closed.

I am convinced the wisest thing the President’s done since this crisis started, was deferring management to individual states. In fact I’m so convinced I can easily say it’s the wisest political decision of my lifetime.