Donald Trump’s Unprecedented Leadership in Unparalleled Times

I have little patience for armchair quarterbacking. Being a critic is cheap. A crisis like we are seeing with COVID-19 will test all of our leadership skills. Looking for blame will do little to help the situation. Donald Trump and other government leaders are not responsible for this virus. I think we all have to be patient as we work to manage this crisis. No matter how much planning and preparation we do there will always be missteps, miscalculations and mistakes. 

One of the hallmarks of leadership is how one responds under pressure and how one owns the problem. During World War II, President Harry Truman kept a sign in the Oval Office that read “The Buck Stops Here.” Good leaders don’t blame others for problems, they go to work to find solutions. A companion principle is accountability. Leaders are eager to know how and what went wrong so they can fix it. The coronavirus is an unparalleled crisis in our time. It has required unprecedented leadership. 

Mr. Trump has provided unprecedented leadership, but, sadly, it has been unprecedentedly poor leadership. He not only refuses to take any responsibility for the handling of the crisis, he looks for every opportunity to blame others. Instead of “the Buck Stops Here,”  we see a passing of the buck. Blaming and abusing the media, gaslighting the World Health Organization, as well as projecting his own failures on governors and others. He has refused to acknowledge where mistakes have been made and shows a disdain for facts. His press events are more like campaign rallies, filled with lies and scapegoating. His dismissal of the crisis early on, and the lack of tests, health care equipment etc., could be chalked up to understandable mismanagement, if it wasn’t for the constant lies, blaming and shaming (for a thorough time line of Mr. Trumps reactions to the virus check out this three part series from Steven Harper).

Some of you will read this and think I am making a partisan attack. However, a crisis like this cuts through party lines.  Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican in liberal Massachusetts, has had wide bipartisan support during the crisis. So has Andy Beshear, a Democrat in deep red Kentucky, and Larry Hogan, a Republican in liberal Maryland. All of these governors have approval ratings in the 70s or 80s. Republican Governor Herbert of Utah, and Governor DeWine of Ohio have received national bipartisan praise, as have Democratic Governors Cuomo and Newsom of New York and California. Why? Because they have exhibited the kind of leadership that we need in a moment of crisis. 

No doubt there will be a congressional panel that it will look into the national mismanagement of this crisis. Historians and other academics will expose in great detail why our response was so inferior compared to places like Germany, Iceland, Ireland, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and others. We will not need to wait for those reports to confirm what we see everyday coming from the White House: a void of leadership looking to absolve itself of any responsibility or accountability for this crisis.

A letter from Mother Earth to Republicans

Dear Republicans,

I just wanted to take a minute and thank you for all the help over the years. For starters, Mr. Lincoln (your first President) clearly understood the need for the study of science. As you well know he understood that  the public financing of science education was crucial to a prosperous healthy union:

He knew learning about how the earth works was the best way to preserve it for us and our future generations.

Another republican hero of mine was Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy was the best! His commitment to conservation was pioneering! If you really want people to be environmentally responsible (and, of course, I do) there is no better way than to allow people to have responsible access to my greatest creations.

Now, my next shout out may surprise some of you but it’s legit: Richard Nixon. You say, what! I say, you know that’s right! He was flawed (to be sure) yet through him we got the EPA!

Let’s admit it, nobody wants to have polluted air and rivers. Am I right?

You see friends, your party has a philosophical belief in conservation. Conservative, conservation (see what I did there?) Any way, thanks!

Now, not to seem ungrateful, I would like to mention a few recent short comings and offer a political approach for you my long-time friends. To be blunt, I’m dying and you’re killing me. For real! Here’s the problem: climate change. I know what you’re thinking, “Blah blah blah I can’t hear you.” But listen I think I can help you out with this.

First, I’m actually on your side. Liberals scream about the environment and have some good ideas (like saving my life) but they go about it all the wrong way. They have good intentions but have created a narrative of scarcity that shames progress. Look at how they talk about fossil fuels. “Oil is going to kill us, oil is ruining the planet, stop using fossil fuels or we’ll all die!” Sure, that’s true, but it makes us feel like innovation was the problem when, of course, it wasn’t. It’s the solution. And what brought about that innovation? Market forces, duh.

So, here’s where I need help from you my conservative friends. I need you to change the narrative and save my ice caps at the same time. Try this on for size. What if you said, “Look how amazing we are, we figured out how to use fossil fuels, we’re geniuses! We created more wealth and comfort for the planet than anyone could’ve ever imagined! Everybody give a big warm hug to fossil fuels and capitalism! We are so innovative and smart, good job us!”

Then you go on to say something like this, “Ok team our innovations with fossil fuels was amazing but it’s time for a new idea (that one has run its course). What we need now is new market ideas like green energy, and smart technology that can’t be outsourced to other nations. We need cap and trade so we can make money on being more environmentally responsible. Let’s create tens of millions of new jobs with a new energy economy. Let’s invest in technology and infrastructure like Lincoln and protect the environment like Roosevelt all while growing the economy one solar panel and high-efficiency electrical vehicle at a time!”  See how good that sounds!

I actually think you and my liberal friends could come together on helping to save my life. Of course, you would not agree on everything, that’s cool. But you could agree that innovation, conservation and economic growth are core bipartisan values–that working together we can move responsibly to a new stronger green economy. Plus, we could save Miami and Manhattan form rising tides at the same time. Not too shabby right? This will require bold moves. But I have faith you’re up for it. Thanks for taking the time to read this letter. And thanks in advance for saving my life.

Sincerely,

Mother Earth

With Malice Toward None, With Charity For All

img_2164

I was in Paris with my wife, daughter and son in law the morning of the election. These words came to me by inspiration. Even a short thought like this takes me an hour or two and a few rewrites. I wrote this is four minutes.

 

Democracy is not how we vote it’s about the right to vote. Yesterday was not the test of our democracy today is. Now we move forward victor and vanquished together, or we fail together divided and filled with malice towards our fellow citizens. Either way we walk together.

Our republic is more than one election it is more than one person. The questions I have today are not how or why–my questions today are: what can I do to help build the nation my grandchildren will inherit? What can I do to better understand my fellow traveler?

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” AL 1865

I still am trying to identify what to do next. What I know for sure is I am not willing to quit trying.