Apparently President Trump Lives in a TV Reality
Wishful thinking and self-delusion can get you killed. I learned that important life lesson as a young Army officer in the rice paddies of Vietnam. Much later in life, I am learning another lesson. When wishful thinking and self-delusion drive decision making at the very pinnacle of our government, a lot of people can die.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t my knee jerk reaction as a crazed liberal. For most of my 73 years I’ve voted Republican and would have continued to do so if my party hadn’t drunk too deeply of the Reality TV Kool-Aid. With the clear understanding that today’s TV, Internet, and print news are entertainment and that few human communications are totally objective, I deliberately watch and read a wide variety of sources, including the President’s own statements at his daily COVID-19 press briefings. Sadly, those briefings display a leadership style that violates every leadership principle I learned as a military officer.
We are in the midst of a global COVID-19 pandemic that has, to date, killed a quarter of a million people. Now, more than ever, we need thoughtful, reasoned leadership based upon the best facts, medicine, and science available. Instead we are getting the wishful thinking of a real estate promoter who is guided by his uninformed “gut feelings” and the effect the economy might have on his re-election. Here are some examples of his wishful thinking and self delusion:
- When asked if he accepts responsibility for any sub par result of any of his administration’s pandemic responses, he says no, and deflects responsibility to someone or something else. A serious violation of a fundamental leadership principle. He obviously does not subscribe to Harry Truman’s “The buck stops here!”.
- His fragile ego compels him to pretend that he’s the most knowledgeable and intelligent person in the room — frequently demonstrating the inaccuracy of that assertion. With two of the nation’s most accomplished pandemic experts on the podium with him, he demonstrated an abysmal ignorance of biology and medicine and put American lives at risk with his offhand suggestion that injecting or ingesting disinfectants might be a viable treatment for COVID-19. What kind of responsible leader would do that?
- When questioned about important pandemic fighting issues such as the status of testing and respirators, he exhibits ignorance of, or lies about, the facts, and usually launches into an attack on the questioner as an agent of the “fake news”. He typically ends the interchange with the often false assertion that “We lead the world in …” — exploiting jingoism to cover his ignorance or failure.
- No one can reasonably expect a President to come into office an expert in pandemics or infectious diseases. However, we should be able to expect him, under the current circumstances, to display diligence in understanding the facts and the issues. This president’s need to assert his superior knowledge, and his obviously short attention span, prevents him from learning from legitimate experts — leaving him ill-equipped to lead effectively.
- Wishful thinking, driven by his re-election-motivated desire to restart economic activity, is leading him to encourage an end to the actions that are just beginning to blunt the spread of the virus. For many reasons, this is a poor choice: 1) Without adequate testing, we have no idea how many symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers are at large in the general population. 2) Medical personnel, hospitals, and necessary equipment are already stretched too thin to cope with a surge in infections. 3) The majority of medical and public health experts agree that it’s too soon to relax social distancing and it will result in a resurgence in infections. 4) A surge in infections will halt any short-term economic recovery and will guarantee a serious delay of a real recovery.
None of this would matter if all this were a Reality TV show. The producers and writers would deliver the desired results. Unfortunately, this is a real-world pandemic and dealing with it requires operating within this reality. I fear that this President abandoned our reality long ago, which leaves him poorly equipped to lead us through these trials.