Sitting in their homes, waiting for the Coronavirus to pass over, much like the Biblical account of the Israelites in Exodus, Americans can’t help but wonder if our country’s leadership is up to the job of dealing with a paralyzed and fearful nation. Donald J. Trump is no Moses, but as Liberty Nation recently reported, he may be just the man for such a time as this. As the one person who wields the most powerful offensive weapon in politics – the bully pulpit – the question arises as to whether the president can use this crisis to swing undecided voters his way.
In a lengthy and wide-ranging telephone interview on Fox & Friends, the president made clear his reasons for extending social-distancing guidelines across America until April 30. A businessman at heart, Trump had declared his desire to get the country up and rolling again on or around April 12. But that Easter deadline, as LN‘s Graham Noble wrote, “[was] perhaps, a bridge too far.”
Despite his disappointment over the circumstances, the president sounded upbeat and encouraging about America’s war against the virus. He seemed to strike just the right tone – conversational, knowledgeable, and compassionate. “If we didn’t do anything, 2.2 million people could have died,” Trump said to the Fox & Friends triumvirate. Then he openly admitted, “The worst thing we can do is declare victory … and then not have victory.”
Point taken, Mr. President.
Trump ruminated about what to expect in the coming weeks, his chat with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and the economic pressures that have resulted from the spread of COVID-19. He sounded friendly and parental, managing to hit just the right tone. Americans watching the broadcast weren’t hearing alarm bells from the president as he worked to assure the populace that the situation is well in hand. It appeared to be a bravo moment for him.
And Then …
Unfortunately, the Fox threesome then sallied on down the road to politics. And that’s where Trump made a left turn. Instead of putting the topic quickly to rest, he took the bait. As the commander in chief during what has been termed “a war,” Trump could have easily sidestepped the opportunity to trash his political opponents. “This is not the time for partisan politics,” Trump could have asserted. Or perhaps he could have proffered, “This is a unique period in our history when we all must pull together.”
In other words, he could have been above it all.
Unfortunately, he took the occasion presented him and doubled down. When asked about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) most recent critical comments, he let it rip: “She’s a sick puppy,” he countered. Then there was talk of “Sleepy Joe,” the Green New Deal, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). “She’s controlled by the radical left,” he chided. As he continued scolding the Democrats, citing their many nefarious comments about his handling of the COVID-19 crisis, he took that precious airtime to deliver a left hook to his political opponents.
Now, this is nothing new for the New York businessman turned politician. He will be the first to say that his style is to hit his opponents where it hurts. However, a good leader has a nose for timing. And perhaps this is not the moment to beat your political opponents to a bloody pulp.
Some may counter that this is just Trump being Trump. While there is truth to that statement, this is an unprecedented era, and he could have seized the moment to take the high ground. In doing that, the president might have earned the respect of those voters who are sitting on the fence.
“Timing,” as myriad people have written and said, “is everything.” As such, the president may have missed a golden opportunity to unite a fearful nation and left many to wonder why politicians are going on with business as usual when there is nothing conventional about this moment. Trump has the bully pulpit at his beck and call and might do well to recognize this as a perfect time to use it wisely.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.
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