Opinion | For Coronavirus, Trump Is Not the Wartime President We Need

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Most shockingly, to condition the electorate for unfathomable, if unnecessary losses, Mr. Trump proclaimed that his “goal” (a “very good job”) is to limit America’s human toll to 100,000 to 240,000 dead — more than the combined U.S. battlefield deaths of every war since 1945.

When facing a mortal enemy, above all, we need our commander in chief to unite the nation in collective purpose and shared sacrifice. To defeat the common adversary, we must set aside our differences. President Trump prefers to attack governors, reporters and anyone he deems insufficiently “appreciative” of his anemic efforts.

Rather than order the whole nation to stay at home, appoint a senior federal supply czar, fully invoke the Defense Production Act to recruit medical personnel and procure and distribute ventilators and masks to where they are needed most, Mr. Trump has created a Hobbesian jungle where it’s every man for himself. States are forced to compete for desperately needed supplies at jacked-up prices.

Deeming the federal government merely a “backup” to the states, Mr. Trump has created what Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington called a “ludicrous” situation: “Can you imagine if Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, ‘I’ll be right behind you, Connecticut. Good luck building those battleships.’” By pitting states against one another, Mr. Trump pours salt in our political divisions and cripples our ability to defeat the virus.

Finally, when at war, America traditionally relies on allied support. In turn, we commit our forces to liberate occupied territory. In the Covid-19 battle, Mr. Trump has undermined our allies — trying to buy up their technology and hijack their supply chains. He should lead a coordinated international response that prevents the virus from returning once it has been suppressed and prompts a global economic recovery.

Instead, the administration has paralyzed the United Nations and Group of 7 with its shameful insistence on branding Covid the “Wuhan virus,” abdicated leadership internationally and largely ignored the world’s poorest nations in their fight against the pandemic.

Many thousands more Americans will die unnecessarily because of the incompetence and perfidy of our “wartime president.” It’s in our common interest that Mr. Trump stop trash-talking and start leading with the decency and resolve that we deserve. But let’s not kid ourselves: Until America changes command, we are condemned to fight with the leader we have.

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By Susan E. Rice

2020-04-07 18:39:21

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