Kill the Messenger

There he goes again, dodging the question by questioning the source and insulting the questioner.

At an April 6 White House briefing ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked President Trump to comment on Health and Human Services Deputy Inspector General Christi Grimm’s report that 323 hospitals experience supply shortages and testing delays in responding to the COVID 19 pandemic. Questioning the report’s validity and attacking the journalist, Trump’s response is a textbook example of the “If you don’t like the message kill the messenger” fallacy.

Seeming to imply the report is a hatchet job and, as always, without citing evidence, Trump called the report “just wrong.”

A twenty-year HHS executive under Republican and Democrat administrations, the report’s Principle Deputy Inspector General, Ms Grimm receives across-the-board accolades from supervisors and Awards for Excellence. Given the work of collecting and complexity of compiling the data and the multiple eyes and minds involved proofing, correcting, revising and publishing the report, to imply that Ms Grimm or someone skewed the findings to hurt Trump is patently absurd!

After implying the report is bogus, President Trump lit into the questioner, calling Jonathan Karl a “third-rate reporter” who “will never make it” (i.e., not on Fox?). In a March 27 exchange, Karl asked the President if every American who needed a ventilator would get one. Trump’s cryptic and unfathomable response, “Look, don’t’ be a cutie pie. OK?”

According to Wikipedia Jonathan Karl has covered “the White House, Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, and the state Department, and has reported from more than 30 countries” covering U.S politics, foreign policy, the military and has been ABC’s White House Correspondent since 2012. Over thirty years in journalism Karl has been received the Joan Shorenstein Barone Award, the Walter Cronkite Award, an Emmy Award, and the National Press Foundation’s Everett McKinley Dirksen Award.

A “third rate reporter (who’ll) never make it” Mr. President? Unlike you Jonathan Karl has!

Comfort

Three days after tying up at Manhattan’s Pier 90 with1000 beds and 1200 medical personnel USNS Comfort had received 20 patients. On learning this, an FDR or Harry Truman would dial up the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of the Navy, and Governor Cuomo, “Gentlemen, in twenty-four hours I expect to see a column of ambulances delivering patients to that ship. When I visit in seventy-two hours, I expect to see every bed occupied. If anyone frustrates you in this effort send them to me. The buck stops here!

Impossible? Hell no! Damn the red tape and regulations! In times of crisis Presidents make things happen! It’s what they do.

Fear

When in danger or in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout!
Anon.

March 4, 1933, at the heart of the Great Depression President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his first inaugural address. Almost nine decades down the road, the prescience of his admonitions is stunning,

“I am certain that my fellow Americans expect . . . I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured will revive and will prosper. So, first of all let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days . . .

Our common difficulties . . . concern, thank God, only material things.

Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.”

(My emphasis.)

March 20, 2020, as America’s numbers of OCVID 19 infections and deaths ramped up, NBC’s Peter Alexander asked President Donald Trump, “What do you say to Americans right now who are scared?” Our leader responded,

“I say you are a terrible reporter. That‘s what I say, and I say that it’s a very bad signal you are putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope.”

Right Mr. President, answers and hope, not insult and bluster! You were handed a gilt-framed opportunity and you blew it, Big-Time!

In 1933 Americans’ fear focused on loss of jobs and income, of sleeping on the sidewalk, of standing in soup and welfare lines. Today’s fear revolves around suffering and death from a physical disease. Whether from of loss of income or pain and death, President Roosevelt articulated a crucial fact: our emotional reaction to fear can paralyze our capacity for rational corrective action. Never surrender to “fear itself!” Amid England’s “darkest hour,” Roosevelt’s ally Winston Churchill admonished, “Never, never, never give up!”

Failing to act on COVID 19 warnings in January and ignoring the virus through February, in March President Trump predicted it would vanish by “magic,” attacked a “terrible reporter” for raising the specter of fear, anticipated packed April Easter services
and, the latest, hatched a moronic notion to assess the risk of contagion by county.

Thankfully, as diagnosed COVID 19 cases rocket past one hundred thousand, Americans may rely on state Governors to value their constituents’ health over economics. In March, to mitigate spread of disease Governors asked citizens to stay home and maintain public physical separation, businesses elected or were compelled to close their doors, sporting events large and small have been postponed or cancelled. Even birthday parties, memorial services and funerals are curtailed.

Rather than appreciate the wisdom in these actions, characteristically, President Trump predicted out-of-work, out-of-paycheck Americans would give up in mass suicide. This slap-on-the-face and “terrible” assessment of Americans’ mettle, reveals the values of a man conceived and raised amid the bare-knuckled, back-alley brawling over New York City Real Estate, of business, where return-on-investment, profit-and-loss and stock portfolios measure all things.

No doubt the Great Depression drove a few to the ultimate act of despair. From our President’s perspective, it may be instructive that suicides making 1929’s “News” were men in three-piece-suits leaping from Wall Street windows.

Fear seems to paralyze and incapacitate our President’s capacity for rational, constructive action. Rather than manage the crisis—the job we hired and pay him for—Donald Trump predicts miracles and hopes COVID 19 will go away by “magic.”

Captain Queeg comes to mind. Alone in his wheelhouse, a run amok skipper steers hard to port, then starboard. On and below deck his crew scrambles, shifts cargo and ballast to keep the vessel from turning keel-up.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” “A terrible reporter.” The difference in focus, personality, articulation, emotion and thinking is stunning! One based in ignorance and fear, the other in wisdom and courage.

Two Months With Trump

Jan. 22: “We have (Corona virus) totally under control.” (Just ask Kellyanne.)

Feb. 25: “We’re very close to a vaccine.” (May be a year.)

Feb. 26?: U.S. is the ”most prepared country in the world.” (After proposing budget cuts to the CDC and National Institutes of Health.)

Feb. 28: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” (Twenty days later the U.S. has nearly 13,000 cases and 176 deaths.)

March 4: Flu is worse than corona virus. (It’s not!)

March 6: “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it . Every one of these doctors say, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for President.” (Maybe a brain surgeon?)

March 7: “Anyone who wants a test can get one.” (Not even close!)

March 17: Knew it was “a pandemic, long before it was called a pandemic.” (Feb. 28: “it will disappear.”)

March 18: I’m a “wartime president” in the Corona virus fight. (What?)

Air

Canceling and postponing events to avoid spreading the Corona virus got me thinking about air. In high school chemistry, Mr. Tuft taught us pure air is a mix of gases. Mostly Oxygen, right? Wrong! As memory serves, pure air is around seventy percent Nitrogen and twenty percent Oxygen. Hydrogen, Helium and other inert gasses make up the rest.

Most animals can’t live without Oxygen, without air. But everyday air carries a host of freeloaders: water vapor, methane, CO2, scents, dust, fungi, bacteria, viruses, God-knows-what else? For our biological wellbeing this excess baggage can become a Really Big Deal!

Back to public events. Portland’s Moda Center seats 19,393. At a fully-packed Trailblazer game, 19,392 others—the jerk in the sweaty T-shirt two rows down, the squealing teenager behind me—are sucking in and blowing out the very same air I’m sucking in and blowing out. The same Nitrogen and Oxygen—our lungs capture only a small percent—the same vapors, gasses, dust, pollen, fungi, germs, viruses, not to mention farts. I’m told farts are flammable methane. In a three hour basketball game how many lungs suck in and blown out the very same air my lungs suck in and blow out!

Just our little Moda Center. How about swapping air with thousands at a rock concert, tens-of-thousands at a World Series or Super Bowl game, two million circling the Kaaba at Mecca? Think about it—or maybe better not.

It’s disturbing.

2020

Fearing that our Ship of State had listed dangerously to port, a cabal of passengers and crew hired a new captain. Grasping the wheel, trimming the sheets, sailing into the wind, the new skipper employs all means at his command—some he doesn’t—to reverse course to safe, familiar water.

More than half those aboard are alarmed by this abrupt list to starboard, this frenzied struggle to change course. Since turning back is never an option, we search for a stable-minded captain. Before turning keel-up or hitting an iceberg, we need someone to chart a forward course, adjust the rudder and balance the cargo. Most important, we need a skipper to muster all of us amid ship, pass out the grog and lead in an ol’ sea chantey. With storm-tossed water ahead we need a commander who can deliver us and the cargo to distant, uncharted shore.

Abraham Lincoln knew, “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present.” It’s a challenge to cross Captain Ahab’s eyes.