Lessons from America that must be learned
One of the most-maligned politicians in the global COVID-19 crisis is Donald Trump. But truth is that many of his key mistakes are typical in the conventional political system. In other words, he is among those who rely on self-advertisement to progress or survive, and many of them would have done more or less the same things.
The first mistake is that as an elected politician in power, he mistook his political victory as unquestionable acceptance of his “ability”. He refused to admit that everyone has his limits and that a country cannot go on without other sections of society like the science community, whose repeated warnings about an impending public health disaster fell on deaf ears.
As of now (Wednesday, April 8, 2020), the United States’ death toll has surged past 12,850, behind only Italy (over 17,120) and Spain (over 14,000). The trend shows Trump’s country will take the unenviable top spot within days. Infection cases in America have numbered more than 400,500, already the highest on the table, and seem to be rising alarmingly exponentially.
Just about a month ago, a group of epidemiologists at Imperial College London gave the White House coronavirus taskforce a heads-up about the terrifying projections for the disease they were about to publish relating to Trump’s America. According to The Guardian, the experts’ findings “would have induced paralytic fear in all but the most nonchalant American.” Unfortunately, the epidemiologists were talking to the one group of people who can be the most nonchalant, and who like to spin, or downplay, or distort bad news if it suits their agendas.
On March 6, Trump said on the record: “Everyone who wants a test, gets a test.” Reality, according to CNN, is that he was saying so around the time there was a well-documented shortage of test and a shortage of key testing supplies. Just shortly after Trump said so, “anecdotes abounded of people unable to get a test, including even some sick people whose doctors wanted them tested.”
A few days before the epidemiologists’ warning, or February 26 to be exact, Trump said cases of the coronavirus in the US “could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time.” He even predicted that the current cases would come down to near zero. “Within a couple of days [they’re] going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” he was quoted saying.
His Mistake Number Two is the relentless devotion to blame game. Everyone more or less hates to be branded “You are responsible”, but politicians are top of the lot. The American administration blamed external factors, anything but itself, and spent a lot of time working out who it should point fingers at instead of concentrating on necessary, even if unpopular, measures. His most astonishing act in this regard came this week, when he lambasted the World Health Organisation and literally said he had been right and the WHO had been wrong.
His Mistake Number Three is apparent nepotism. Good leaders are supposed to surround themselves with people who can cancel their weak points. Divisive politics always prevents that from happening, and Trump’s administration turns out to be ill-prepared for the crisis because he only wanted to work among the “agreeable” no matter how wrong he was or may have been.
His Mistake Number Four is his failure to accept that there are things that transcend politics, diplomacy or even ideology. The rivalry with China has obsessed Trump’s America from start until now and from top to bottom of his administration. It badly affects measures, international cooperation, outside assistance and crucial researches.
Relying heavily on political hunches can be disastrous, and that is Trump’s Mistake Number Five. First, he said the US situation was “under control”, and seemed to really believe so. When his hunches failed, many bad things ensued. He flip-flopped. He tried to cover mistakes, and in the process made more mistakes. He blamed others, discouraging potential whistle-blowers and turning those initially willing to cooperate or help against him.
The biggest lesson from Donald Trump is that if leaders are egoistic, paranoid, careless, highly partisan or simply too much political, they can see important things crumble under their noses. If this sounds like a simple thing to be taught, COVID-19 makes sure that it is learned the hardest possible way, and produces an unforgettable cautionary tale out of a spectacular man.
By Tulsathit Taptim