A major crisis is always a severe test of the leadership of the person in charge. Right now, Pres. Trump is being scrutinized and judged on his leadership during the coronavirus pandemic. It will certainly have ramifications for his re-election.
While I believe Trump personally has given some mixed signals and his messaging hasn’t always been crisp, I believe his administration’s overall performance so far in this crisis has been very good. Not perfect, but very good.
I believe the American people can trust the administration and have confidence that they are providing the right leadership and doing everything possible to stem the spread of the virus.
Top government leaders are often criticized because a major crisis overwhelms the capacity of government to instantly respond. It takes time to gear up, and detractors decry the suffering, loss of life and inconvenience.
But the reality is that, as a society, we have concluded we will be prepared for the “average” crisis, but not for the very infrequent colossal destruction or deadly disease outbreak.
Even in everyday life, we’re willing to accept a certain level of misery, death and destruction, even though we could prevent most of it if we were willing to spend enough money and accept enough restrictions.
For example, we could eliminate almost all of the 37,000 annual tragic automobile deaths if we really wanted to. We could establish a strict speed limit at 20 miles per hour and build vehicles like Army tanks.
But we’ve decided that the cost to society to eliminate all traffic deaths is too high, so we tolerate 37,000 deaths a year.
We could eliminate almost all death and destruction from fires, flooding, tornadoes and earthquakes by banning all building in flood zones, or close to the ocean, and by setting building standards so high as to withstand fire, ground shaking and enormous winds.
By spending enough money and applying strict restraints, we could be ready for almost anything.
But we’ve decided that’s not practical. We’re willing to allow a certain level of death and destruction to make life easier and more enjoyable most of the time. We’re usually prepared for 20-year floods -- but not 100-year floods. We’re ready for a small hurricane, but not a tsunami. Our vehicles will withstand a fender-bender, but not a head-on collision at freeway speeds.
And we have hospital beds for a normal amount of sickness, but not for a widespread epidemic. And we don’t have millions of respirators or testing kits sitting around. We have to manufacture them.
We will almost never be totally prepared for the infrequent epic disaster or crisis for two reasons: First, because we aren’t willing to spend the money and relinquish our freedom and ordinary lifestyles; and, second, because we can’t reliably predict what those disasters might be and when they might occur.
Thus, it’s no surprise that there have been shortages of certain supplies in the coronavirus pandemic, and we could yet see the health care industry strained well beyond its capacity. It’s no surprise that it took a few weeks to evaluate the seriousness of the calamity and determine an unambiguous way forward.
Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric and his tendency to think he knows everything has muddled his personal communications on coronavirus – but not to the point it’s a big problem. The people backing him up are very impressive, very experienced, and are excellent communicators. They are providing the confidence the country needs.
As on many issues, Trump mangles things a bit, but he ends up making the right decisions. He isn’t afraid to take tough action, as has been shown with his travel restrictions on China and Europe.
Personally, I have confidence that this administration will provide the right leadership to make this crisis as short and manageable as possible.