by Gallagher & Schleicher
Never have we been more grateful to hear bad news. Why? Because at last it was the unvarnished truth: Depending on how perfectly we adhere to social-distancing measures, the number of American fatalities attributed in some way to the novel coronavirus sweeping the nation and globe may reach a quarter-million fellow Americans. This Tuesday acknowledgement from the White House came as prevention measures continued to be loosely imposed or not at all by some governors, including in neighboring Oklahoma.
We take no joy in Trump’s dissembling or failure to earlier admit to the gravity of the situation, or at his only now having fully accepted the word of the scientific experts about how very poorly things may go. Looking back to a July 2017 Waco Trib column, we asked if Trump had rewritten the rules of leadership. We suggested he had not, and that the eternal laws still applied. Among those: “If bad news is coming, get out in front of it”; “When you have greatly erred, admit it publicly and outline steps to prevent future occurrences”; and “Humility helps prevent disastrous decision-making.”
In case anyone is still in doubt, Trump is the president — for all of us — for at least the next nine months. There is no impeachment, no coup by Vice President Pence and no 25th Amendment action that will change that. We are all in the same boat with the same captain — love him or loathe him — who will remain at the helm regardless of how many of us grow ill, no matter how off-course he may go. Our nation, leading the world in the number of cases, is past the point of pursuing the “best course of action.” We now face making decisions based on which is the least bad among horrible options: Keep the economy in a coma or risk increasing COVID-19 deaths? Provide ventilators to those dying from coronavirus or those dying from cancer? Go a month without seeing an aging parent in person or risk him dying alone in an isolation ward?
Nationally, we hope there will be a coordinated federal approach to lockdowns, testing and distribution of equipment and supplies. We also need to discuss the development of treatments and vaccines with data, not rumors or wishful thinking. And it would be helpful to work in partnership with our fellow humans in other parts of the world rather than in opposition. In Texas, messages and priorities have been mixed; this has made a dangerous situation worse.
Closer to home, listen to what expert sources say about the virus and how to avoid it, not social-media memes or a guy your cousin knows. In short, (1) assume you could have COVID19, even if you have no symptoms. Treat others with the caution you would if you knew proximity to them could put them in the hospital; (2) for friends and family who are elderly or have underlying health conditions, check in often; (3) discourage online conspiracy theories — these can be as deadly as the virus itself; (4) stay home, if you can, and if you cannot, be careful like your life or a stranger’s depends on it.
For any leaders who are reading, now is the time to lead. By example and with conviction. We know the awful truth now and have only one choice — to meet it full on, with compassion, discipline and perseverance. Testing must be available and physical distancing imposed, both nationwide. The situation has been and will remain disastrous, but opportunities remain to narrow the scope of the calamity.
David Gallagher is a transplanted Texan, living and working in London and tweeting at @TBoneGallagher. David Schleicher is an attorney splitting his time between Waco and D.C., blogging at ContranymTimes.com. This piece originally appeared in the April 5, 2020 Waco Tribune-Herald, where the Davids are on the Board of Contributors.