With this election coming fast, Bob Woodward’s recording of the president’s admission that he had been briefed on the danger presented by the COVID-19 virus and decided to in his words “downplay the virus” leaves me incredulous. The president went on to explain in an ABC News Townhall that he was the nation’s “cheerleader,” in a manner not unlike that of Winston Churchill during the Second World War. Fearful he would panic us, he lied to us about the approaching danger and we have suffered for the deceit.
Donald Trump fundamentally fails to understand leadership. When France fell to the Germans in June 1940, Churchill refused to compromise when Hitler extended peace feelers. Instead, Churchill promised both Hitler and the British people: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!” Then Churchill, the military leadership, and a bipartisan coalition in Parliament constructed a strategy to defend their nation. Neither the rain of Luftwaffe bombs nor the U-boat war to starve Britain into submission buckled the will of the British people.
Leadership is about vision and the courage to lead people to do things that require collective sacrifice. Prior to the coming of the pandemic, Trump had already disbanded the National Security Council directorate charged with preparing for just such an event. When the virus emerged, his initial reaction was to cover up the threat, then to label it a “Democratic hoax.” Soon came a promise it would soon disappear with the coming of April. He “hoped” (as if hope was a plan) that we would be filling the churches come Easter. With no plan to speak of, we limped on while thousands of us died needlessly.
Recently he quipped that regarding the death-toll, “is what it is” as if those words could somehow comfort. Some 70,000 British civilians lost their lives in the Second World War compared to 200,000 Americans to COVID as of this writing. Donald Trump, history knew Winston Churchill well, and you sir, are no Winston Churchill, (to paraphrase Sen. Lloyd Benson.)
Joseph R. Fischer
LTC, US Army retired