Polls show Trump isn't the president America wants. But spiking coronavirus rates show he is the president we deserve

Americans on all points of the political spectrum seem to harbor a warped sense of 'independence' right now

John T. Bennett
Washington DC
Thursday 02 July 2020 19:59
Donald Trump still thinks that coronavirus will 'disappear'

Dear America, you have lost the ability to do big things.

I know this because you are unwilling to do relatively easy things – then you vilify one another, rather than seek common ground and common-sense solutions.

Speaking of easy things, it would be simple to sit down behind this laptop and hammer out 800 words on how this atrophy of the country’s do-big-and-easy-things muscles “begins in Washington.”

But that would be rubbish. Let’s avoid rubbish.

To be sure, however, Washington is a part of the reason why the good ol' U-S-A is so divided on everything from race to wearing a mask to whether the coronavirus is even all that serious to the definition of treason. (I really thought we had settled that one long ago, based on my high school civics and government teacher. I was wrong.)

In order to solve problems, we have to first acknowledge one exists while also trusting the motives of our reluctant partners – and, at least until the United States breaks up into four or six or 26 autonomous nations, Republicans and Democrats are stuck with one another. Right now, the other guy belongs to a different tribe and, therefore, deserves skepticism and scorn.

The Republican president is indifferent to me getting sick even as he has legitimate worries about the economy. And the Democratic governor is enacting tyranny upon me if he or she wants to prevent folks from getting sick.

We’ve not just forgotten that most things, even small ones, are riddled with a metric ton of nuance. Forget the red, white and blue. We are a country that thinks solely in black and white.

Two moments from this week really drove home, to this correspondent, the failing health of America’s get-things-done spirit.

The first happened about as far away from Washington as one can get in the contiguous United States.

A CNN reporter was interviewing two men sitting on a restaurant patio in California. They were asked about Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision to roll back his own re-opening plan, and how they felt about beaches being closed over the Independence Day weekend.

“I want to go to the beach,” said one of the men, who both looked to be either in their late 20s or early 30s. The other said government officials shouldn't be allowed to “tell us what we can’t do.”

Staying home for a few months is annoying, but it’s not hard. Covering your face for 15 minutes while you run into a drug store or 40 while you grocery shop is annoying, but it’s not hard.

Americans on all points of the political spectrum seem to harbor a warped sense of independence. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how many here, as soon as they could, packed bars and beaches and restaurants – oftentimes with no regard to the science and data behind social distancing and mask-wearing.

Independence does not mean life here is a free-for-all.

Full disclosure: This correspondent has been to a favorite watering hole twice in the last month, sitting outside and as far away from others as possible, while also providing my contact information to assist with tracing efforts. A mask was worn during bathroom breaks and such. Again, that scratchy thing against my face is annoying; but wearing it isn’t hard. My liberty and freedom remains intact.

Those bar visits were necessary in recent weeks after covering Donald Trump so closely day-in-and-day-out. We are watching a president unravel with every uttered word and every angrily typed tweet.

It was Trump who provided the second example of our eroding hopes of doing big things with his latest refusal to listen to his own experts.

There was his reaction to a New York Times article about US intelligence reports that Russia put paid bounties on the heads of US forces in Afghanistan. Taliban forces and Taliban-linked militias, the newspaper reported, received payments from the Russian GRU, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, if they killed American forces.

Trump initially stayed quiet, with White House staff saying very little as they waited for the boss to show them the way. He eventually did, calling the entire matter “a hoax” conjured up by the media and Democrats to make him and other Republicans “look bad.”

That’s not how intelligence works, Mr President – especially not when officers on the ground and analysts at Langley have reason to believe a major adversary is paying a proxy force to take out American soldiers and Marines.

This is serious business with serious potential geopolitical consequences. Trump’s reaction should have been easy: Order a briefing ASAP on the intelligence reports, then send Moscow a clear message to knock off its shenanigans inside Afghanistan – because some very experienced US intel officials believed evidence showed the reports to be true.

The bounty reports should have been treated much more seriously by the commander-in-chief, especially one who claims to care about American forces more than any other American president. Apparently not, however, when they are the subject of a New York Times article.

How can a country do big things when its duly elected leader insists on eviscerating anything published by a newspaper just because he disagrees with its editorial page and has been dogged by the professional reporting on its front page? Or rejects his intel experts because they bring him reports that offend his worldview or political hopes? How can a country even do easy things when its president knows only how to be its contrarian-in-chief rather than its commander-in-chief?

How can a country tackle big problems when it cannot agree on the color of an orange, or cannot stay home with more creature comforts to hand than at any other time in human existence?

So far, all evidence indicates, this one can’t. Coronavirus cases are spiking in over 20 states and Russia has received nary the faintest public warning from Washington to stand down.

Poll after poll shows Trump may no longer be the president the United States wants. But the resurgence of the coronavirus their own boredom spawned shows, once again, that he remains the one the country deserves.

He is America. His contrarian, go-it-alone spirit is the new American spirit.

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